An award-winning Indigenous business that was severely impacted by Covid-19 is primed to penetrate new markets and create employment opportunities in the Hinchinbrook Shire after securing $100,000.00 in federal funding.
Mungalla Aboriginal Tours will develop bird-watching and horse-riding tours around its picturesque property after successfully securing a grant through the Indigenous Tourism Fund, allowing them to capitalise on extensive wetlands rehabilitation works that have seen the return of birdlife and wildlife to the area.
Scott Anderson, chairperson of Mungalla Aboriginal Business Corporation, said the new products were part of their change of focus, particularly regarding tourism products, which was motivated by the loss of cruise ships and international university students after Covid-19 travel restrictions devastated their business.
He said: “This really is a by-product of COVID, adapting and adopting, we’ve had to develop new products for the domestic market … and we’re really trying to create different products that will appeal to different groups of people”.
“The opportunity to open Mungalla Station’s wetlands to birdwatchers is new and existing for us as traditional owners, but it also helps us to continue to have a focus on managing our wetlands and allowing our traditional owners to be engaged in that process” he said
“We know there are literally hundreds of species of birds … we also know that in a very short, two to three-hour walk around our property, you get to see 40 – 50 species of birds which is excellent for birdwatchers.”
“Through restoring the wetlands, bringing birdlife back into the area, it’s not just creating an exciting new product for us as Traditional Owners but also for the entire region.”
Mungalla will be investing in track development, signage and bird hides for its birdwatching experience to create better access and improved comfort for new visitors.
Mr Anderson said that technology would also be integrated into their eco and edu-tourism products with the installation of Livestream webcams at key sites around the wetlands to provide “another way to attract people.”
“You’ll be able to get access through these webcams to a live view of the wetlands – it’s a new way to entice people and attract people but it also helps us maintain and monitor the wetlands”.
“(The footage) will give long term perspectives and keep records of how the wetlands and birdlife respond to what we’re doing … as we restore the natural function of the wetlands and improve the (quality of the) flow into the Great Barrier Reef catchment area we can also grow awareness around what we’re doing.”
Mr Anderson said the grant would also be invested into horse-riding trails that, aside from serving a tourism purpose, will provide social and educational benefits to at-risk aboriginal youth.
Member for Hinchinbrook, Nick Dametto, commended Mungalla on securing the grant which he said would “enable growth and resilience during these unprecedented and challenging times.”
“Mungalla Station shares a rich history from pre-settlement as traditional lands of the Nywaigi people, intriguing stories of the pioneering days under the ownership of James Cassady through to the recent return to traditional owners, ” said Mr Dametto.
“The Federal Government grant funding will provide assistance to innovate, expand on their cultural and historical tours and incorporate digital technologies into Mungalla’s experiences.
“People around the world will be able to encounter the Mungalla story through online live streaming.”
Chamber of Commerce president Rachael Coco said it was no surprise that Mungalla Aboriginal Tours had won runner-up in the Excellence in Innovation category at the recent Hinchinbrook Business Awards and she applauded the “vision and dedication of the team at Mungalla.”
“Mungalla has consistently thought outside the box, focusing on responsible land management while cultivating low-impact, environmentally sensitive products that are immersive, unique and truly remarkable, ” said Ms Coco.
“Chamber is proud to have provided support to Mungalla’s grant application, assisting in working through the logistics of such an ambitious project and obtaining quotes, but really, the credit belongs to Scott, Jacob, the board and the traditional owners who have had the foresight to innovate and meet the market.
“The increased visitation and employment opportunities that this venture will create will undoubtedly benefit the local economy and there will obviously be direct economic stimulus thanks to Mungalla’s use of local suppliers.
“It’s projects like these that catalyse and inspire change while showcasing what Hinchinbrook has to offer.
“I’m so excited to see these new products come together and the long-term rewards that will be reaped.”
Preliminary works are scheduled to commence this year, with the new tours available to the public in time for the 2022 peak tourist season.