Banbai Enterprise Development Aboriginal Corporation (BEDAC) employs a team of Aboriginal rangers to undertake natural resource management (NRM) activities within the properties known as Wattleridge and Tarriwa Kurrukun in Guyra NSW. These properties are approximately 1,848 ha in size and contain botanically diverse bushland and the only recorded Aboriginal axe grinding grooves and art sites in the local area. These cultural significant lands were declared Indigenous Protected Areas (IPA) in 2001 and are managed in accordance with the International Union of Conservation and Nature (IUCN) Category VI – Managed Resource Protected Area. The Working on Country (WoC) and IPA programs established by the Australian Government in partnership with BEDAC have created economic and social prosperity for Aboriginal people through providing employment and training opportunities. As a result, Aboriginal people have gained significant skills in a range of service areas relating to land and cultural heritage management. BEDAC is now ready to tackle the challenges of developing sustainable business enterprises that will allow them to transition from government funded programs to a future of economic independence.
Ecobalance was engaged to identify the critical planning factors for determining an economically viable ecotourism enterprise at the property known as Wattleridge, which could provide training and employment opportunities for BEDAC and its respective members.
The study highlighted that BEDAC is ideally positioned to take advantage of cultural tourism partnerships with their proposed Koori Way ecotourism concept – connecting other Indigenous Protected Areas within the region through a tourism package. Therefore, BEDAC currently has the potential to proceed to the next stages of developing and operating a commercial ecotourism enterprise. Capacity building through appropriate training partnerships and an industry mentoring program should be considered as part of the development of this enterprise. This targeted support will ensure business success through building organisational capacity required for developing and operating a relatively complex commercial ecotourism enterprise.