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Aboriginal park rangers Bernie McLeod and Bonny Brown leading a tour of the Booderee NP botanic gardens, NSW (Booderee NP).

Booderee National Park wins global award

  • BY Aaron Smith |
  • November 16, 2010

An Aboriginal-managed national park has won a major responsible tourism award.

THE ABORIGINAL-MANAGED BOODEREE National Park in Jervis Bay, NSW, has been recognised internationally, winning a global responsible tourism award in London last week.

The park is "proof that a partnership between government and a marginalised community can work to protect cultural heritage through long-term conservation goals," said the judges of the awards.

Booderee, which means 'bay of plenty' or 'plenty of fish' in the local Dhurga language, won the Best Conservation of Cultural Heritage category at the Responsible Tourism Awards 2010.

The park was competing against tourism organisations from across the globe, which were nominated by members of the public for 13 categories. These were then shortlisted on the basis of their responsible tourism practices by The International Centre for Responsible Tourism at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Seeing through Aboriginal eyes

With more than 200 species of birds, 30 species of mammal and 180 species of fishes, this 6,000 ha coastal park has activities including surfing, diving and bushwalking. Around 430,000 visitors a year help it generate $1.2 million annually; this income supports an indigenous workforce, 80 per cent of whom live within the park.

Reflecting on this award Dr Martin Fortescue, park manager says, "This is an important acknowledgement of the government's relationship with the Aboriginal community, as well as a form of reconciliation. By promoting this kind of tourism it ensures indigenous communities are regionally supported and have the opportunities to form businesses of their own - on their own terms and which are not swamped by inappropriate developments."

Calling the park a superb example of responsible tourism, Tony Burke - the Federal Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities - says that "Booderee offers Aboriginal-led walks looking at traditional use of local plants such as bush tucker and medicines, and school holiday activities that help people see the park's beautiful beaches and bushland through Koori eyes."


Cave Beach, Booderee National Park in New South Wales (Photo: Carolyn Barry)

Oral traditions

The park's botanic garden is the only Aboriginal-owned botanic garden in existence. The Wreck Bay Aboriginal community, the traditional owners of Booderee, are proud to share their knowledge of the land and its stories.

Born and raised in the region, Bernie McLeod, curator of the Booderee Botanic Gardens, was taught about traditional plant use by his family, passed down by word of mouth from his grandfather, uncles and aunts. He is now teaching his own children the knowledge.

"I didn't go to books to learn this and I am the only third-generation person to know this. It's been a six-year effort getting the garden all done and we still have a bit to go. This shows what we have achieved for our community by working hard and we are proud of what it represents of our culture as sustainable people, both in the production of medicinal plants and bush tucker."

One of his favourite medicinal plants, and one which he can reveal to the wider community, is what is known locally as the sarsaparilla vine, found all along the east coast of Australia. A parasitic plant that is difficult to grow, the vine isĀ  "commonly used by my people for everything from thinning the blood, to controlling diabetes," Bernie says. "One leaf, half the size of your finger, has the same vitamin C as seven oranges - it's a great multivitamin and general tonic that has lots of health benefits."

The park rangers offer cultural tours of the botanic gardens, which educates visitors about bush tucker and medicinal use of plants.

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