Searching for the authentic desert experience 


Charles Darwin University lecturers and researchers will play a major role in the Desert Knowledge symposium in Alice Springs next month.

Research findings in tourism will be delivered by Associate Professor Pascal Tremblay and researchers Andrew Taylor, Dean Carson and Alicia Boyle.

PhD research student Damien Jacobsen will also take part in a forum session.

Indigenous Research Fellow Josie Douglas will discuss the harvesting of bush food as a business, while lecturer Dr Naomi Rea, from the School of Indigenous Knowledge Systems, will explain Aboriginal participation in resource development and the recognition of their rights and cultural values.

The symposium, hosted by the Desert Knowledge Cooperative Research Centre will bring together speakers from around the world, including the US, Namibia, United Arab Emirates, South Africa and Niger to explore the work being done in desert communities to develop sustainable economies.

An important element of the symposium will be the tourism potential of desert communities, with CDU research being presented to help build a bigger picture of the opportunities, especially in national parks and Indigenous communities.

Associate Professor Tremblay’s paper will deal with the role played by protected areas such as national parks in developing desert tourism economies.

Andrew Taylor and Dean Carson will explore various aspects of the impact of the 4WD motoring market on desert tourism, an increasingly important issue as Baby Boomers retire and head out into the desert for its unique landscape and cultural experiences.

Alicia Boyle will deliver her paper on education entitled Leaving a Legacy in the Desert.

Associate Professor Tremblay says there has been a growth in demand from tourists for the ‘authentic’ Indigenous experience as the 4WD drive-yourself market becomes more adventurous.

“Most tourists will not say that their main reason for going into the desert is to see Indigenous culture, but they do expect it to be there,” he says.

As a result, there was now considerable research being done in the best way to set up entrepreneurial enterprises involving cultural awareness in Indigenous communities.

“But it can be very tricky to achieve,” he says. “It is quite a complex task to set up a tourism venture that offers an authentic experience, yet at the same time offer tourists the levels of comfort, convenience and facilities that they expect.

“But it is necessary not to raise false hopes among tourists as to what they are likely to experience, but it would also be irresponsible not to attempt to set up these ventures because it was thought they were too difficult.”

The Desert Knowledge symposium will run from November 1-3.