Senator for Victoria

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PORTLAND OBSERVER: Nationals Senators dazzled by Budj Bim visit

Friday, 2 August 2013

THE senator who will become Aboriginal Affairs Minister if a coalition wins the impending federal  election  has   praised the   Gunditjmara  Budj    Bim heritage site,  describing it as "fantastic and wonderful."

Senator  Nigel   Scullion, visiting the southwest  from the Northern    Territory   alongside Victorian    National   Party Senator     Bridget  McKenzie, toured  the site near Tyrendarra with    prominent    Gunditjmara community    leaders   including Eileen   Alberts    and    Damein Bell.
"Aboriginal  people   all   over Australia  want  economic independence,"   he    told    the community leaders."They want to make their own decisions." He said Budj Bim could be"...a place of fascination  to overseas visitors, and certainly should be a focus for Australians, too." But he was less definite on the subject   of  a  proposed   World Heritage   nomination    for   the area,  noting  that  while  WHA status  carries  obvious  tourism and   funding   benefits,   in  his view it led to outside-imposed restrictions and he preferred the decision-making to be entirely local.
He  vowed  that  if a coalition won the upcomingelection there would be a new relationship between government and Aboriginal  people, "...based on trust and acceptance of equality. We will  respond  to what  local indigenous people want. We'll also    build    stepping     stones to make this area part of a network of Aboriginal tourism products."
He predicted  that if Budj Bim became  part  of  a  network  of well-marketed  indigenous touring  sites, six  to  I 0 people could  be employed  fulltime  at the site, where visitors could eat local delicacies and buy books and art.
A   former    bush    guide   and tourism  operator  himself, Senator Scullion said overseas visitors spent nearly all their money   visiting   physical   sites like Ayres Rock  and the Great Barrier Reef, but often left Australia feeling they have missed  out  on  Aboriginal cultural experiences  - one of the reasons  they came  here  in the first place.
"Government    needs    to    be respectful   and   to  get  out  of the road and encourage an experience like you have here, which is second to none. School children   especially   should come   here  on  excursions   to learn about  the first  people  of our country."
His        colleague         Senator  McKenzie is a former Bendigo schoolteacher and she agreed Victorians needed to know more about Gunditimara  engineering exploits.
"There's   so    much    cultural practice   and   historical    facts to be learned here," she said. "Student  teachers  should  be aware  of   this  place,   so   that when  they  are  planning  their activities or curricula, that the south-west is first and foremost in their minds."
Before   her   election   to   the Senate,  Sen.  McKenzie  spent a year with her children in Canada  and  said  Australia could learn a lot from that vast Commonwealth country.
"They  do things so well there and there's a great involvement by the tourism industry in their own indigenous culture." Before  walking  the  site,  the two senators feasted on smoked eels trapped in the traditional way and barbecued kangaroo meat. Their visit was part of a larger tour of sites of Aboriginal significance.

© Senator Bridget McKenzie 2014 | Authorised by Senator Bridget McKenzie, National Party of Australia, Wodonga Victoria 3690
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