This study examines the concepts of authenticity involved in the production and consumption of tourist experiences in the East Kimberley region of northern Australia. It contrasts the notions of authenticity produced in this domain with those produced in the legal context of indigenous land claims made through the Native Title process (Native Title Act 1993) in Australia. Our aim in making this comparison is to develop a deeper understanding of how the place-images of tourism relate to the politics of land use and land tenure in the East Kimberley. Environment and Aboriginal culture are the two unique aspects of northern Australia most commonly commodified by the tourism industry. We concentrate on relationships between the tourism industry and Aboriginal culture in the East Kimberley using the term ‘Aboriginal Cultural tourism’ to denote the packaging of Aboriginal culture for tourist consumption. We describe experiences and expectations of tourists, tourism operators and Aboriginal people from the Miriuwung and Gajerrong groups regarding Aboriginal Cultural tourism. Drawing on a multi-method approach that includes interviews, field observations and survey techniques we examine how ideas of authenticity are formed and promoted and their potential for change. We then compare and contrast ideas of authentic Aboriginal culture produced within the tourism industry with those produced within a Native Title claim. Interrogated in this way, the concept of authenticity is interpreted as a socially constructed value that provides a means to understanding how Aboriginal Cultural tourism and tourism more generally connects with broader spatial politics.
- Native Title
- Spatial politics