I hated talking, now I run my own tours. When I finished school, I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. I knew it would be an outdoor job because I always enjoyed the rainforest and the beaches. I also loved the ocean, so I thought I might work on a boat. At one point, I was all set to move away to do an electrical apprenticeship in the mine at Cape Flattery. But just before I left, my grandmother met the owners of a small rainforest resort in the Daintree, and they mentioned to her that they were looking for tour guides. They wanted an Aboriginal guide to share local Kuku Yalanji stories and culture.
The Kuku Yalanji people are the traditional owners of this area – we’ve lived here for tens of thousands of years. Well, my grandmother and my dad didn’t want me to move away, so they pushed me to go for an interview with the manager.
She really liked what I had to show her about the rainforest up there, but said I needed to work on my delivery and talking skills. She was right – I was pretty shy. I hated talking in front of crowds and even found it hard to say hello to people. So I did a four-month hospitality and tourism course.
After taking my first couple of tours, my confidence started to grow. I found that I really enjoyed sharing my peoples’ stories and our culture. I learned so much on that job. I learned about the whole tourism industry. I worked in a variety of positions and even managed the property for 12 months. But after nine years, it was time to move on and do my own thing.
My brothers had started their own business taking people spearing and mud crabbing on Cooya Beach, and I set up Walkabout Adventures, running tours that were an extension of what they were doing. We take people to special places in Kuku Yalanji country, showcasing the different ecosystems from the beaches, mangroves and river systems to the Daintree rainforest and the freshwater swimming holes at Mossman Gorge.
We share our knowledge about different foods and medicines from the forest, sample bush tucker, collect shellfish and get people to try traditional Aboriginal hunting practices. You can have a go at boomerang and spear throwing, and if you’re lucky, catch a mud crab. Each day is different. But it’s always good to see one of the big three up here: crocodile, cassowary, or tree kangaroo.
We also run team-building experiences with hands-on activities such as weaving baskets, collecting pipis and studying bush medicine. You can learn about the Kuku Yalanji way of life, and how this ancient Indigenous knowledge can be adapted and utilised to create a stronger team and a more harmonious workforce.
Aboriginal teamwork structures have survived 60,000 years, so there’s a lot of knowledge there to take back to your workplace! Our people were pretty ingenious and skillful at using what was around them, and those things need to be shared.
What I love most about my job is that it allows me to be in the country. But it’s also rewarding to enlighten people on how resilient and strong Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture is in Australia, and how important it is for people to respect First Nations cultures and knowledge systems.
I’m grateful that there is still enough knowledge and information about the bush that people can still practice and pass on some of the traditional ways of life. There is so much to learn about the country, and how to improve lifestyles and living standards for all Australians. Hopefully, I’m also creating opportunities for other First Nations people to start their own businesses, by showing people that you don’t have to travel away from home to find work.
I have four young kids and I try to give them every opportunity to do what I do. The main thing I want for them is to love their country and be able to use it and respect it. It will be entirely up to them to choose what they want to do, but if they want to take over from me in the future, I’m all for it.”
This article originally appeared on Escape and do not necessarily represent the views of australiaexploring.com