YHA Australia spotlights First Nations culture with tours and cultural experiences

YHA Australia spotlights First Nations culture with tours and cultural experiences
Edited by Travel Weekly


    YHA Australia will spotlight Indigenous cultural learning with a growing offering of free in-house experiences for guests as part of this year’s NAIDOC week celebrations.

    The organisation has committed to ensuring each property across its Australian network includes a First Nations experience to allow authentic engagement for international and domestic travellers. This also aligns with YHA Australia’s commitment to their Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).

    “YHA Australia is dedicated to fostering understanding and reconciliation with Australia’s First Nations peoples,” YHA Australia CEO, Paul McGrath, said.

    “We believe strongly in the power of shared experiences to bridge cultural divides, not only for those travelling domestically but also those visiting from abroad. Last year we were proud to host 33 cultural activities across our network with almost 900 guests attending in 2023.

    “By inviting all guests to take the opportunity to engage with Indigenous-owned local operators, these in-house experiences form part of a network-wide initiative that has begun with an initial roll out at select YHA properties. By offering these in-house experiences free of charge we hope to remove any financial roadblocks that might prevent travellers from booking an experience, and truly incentivise our guests to learn from, and experience, First Nations-led initiatives.”

    The first properties to include supported Indigenous cultural learning opportunities are:

    • YHA Adelaide Central: Kumarninthi Cultural Education provides immersive Botanic Garden Native Plant Trail walking tours of the botanical gardens that are open to guests to book free of charge once every month.
    • YHA Cairns Central: A handful of First Nations experiences are offered to YHA Cairns Central guests including monthly in-house cultural nights and art class hosted by aboriginal tour guide, artist and dancer Louis Enoch.
    • YHA Brisbane City: This NAIDOC week guests will be treated to two indigenous experiences. A boomerang painting class and cultural talk with Glen “Walangiiny” Lindh and guests will also be invited to join Aunty Catherine Fisher and Ben Barker for a traditional smoking ceremony, digeridoo experience and cultural talk on-property. This experience is hosted alongside an in-house monthly Indigenous cultural experience.
    • YHA Pittwater Eco: Sydney also host an immersive cultural Connect to Country retreat in partnership with Bush to Bowl. The two-night retreat is an opportunity to connect with land, waters and wildlife on Garigal Country within the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

    As part of YHA’s commitment to the first phase of their RAP, the Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Co-Operative x YHA Australia partnership is now in its third year and embeds cultural learning throughout the YHA Australia network through a series of Artists in Residence programs or initiatives.

    The partnership began with emerging artist and Bundjalung woman, Rubyrose Bancroft at YHA Sydney Harbour. During her stay on-property Ruby created art inspired by the location and shared her process with travellers and the YHA team. The most recent iteration of the partnership saw Dunghutti Birpi woman Wanita Lowe enjoy a residency at YHA Byron Bay in November 2023.

    “I believe that it is important for YHA’s young visitors, who travel from abroad, to participate in a cultural experience that will change their views or expectations of First Nations people,” YHA Byron Bay Artist in Residence, Wanita Lowe said.

    “The YHA residency is a fantastic opportunity for First Nations artists to share culture through art and storytelling using signs and symbols that are respectful and meaningful, and understanding the significance of them and the stories behind the art. “The visitors had the chance to tell their own story of the Country they came from and their own identity using Aboriginal signs and symbols to create their own painting. They also got the chance to have an experience weaving baskets and bangles using traditional methods.”

    These educational opportunities are also extended across the YHA Australia workforce, specifically the network’s property managers as the organisation’s identified key leaders when it comes to sharing cultural competency with guests and team alike.

    During Reconciliation Week YHA’s senior management team and property managers from across the country visited Sydney for a leadership forum. As part of this forum all executives and property managers experienced the Bush to Bowl workshop learning about bush tucker and native ingredients and discussing cultural dreamtime stories from Gadigal land.

    Feature image: Dunghutti Birpi woman Wanita Lowe during her residency at YHA Byron Bay.

    YHA Adelaide Central Cultural Walk.

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