The ancient ways revealed
One of the oldest living cultures in the world, the Yolngu people comprise about 50 clans still living on their ancestral lands in North East Arnhem Land. These remote homelands, mostly located on the shores of the Gulf of Carpentaria, are only accessible by 4WD or light aircraft. Keen to showcase this raw beauty and the culture that took root here an estimated 50,000 years ago, and to develop a tourism economy for the Yolngu people, a group of indigenous leaders established Lirrwi Tourism in 2010. Matt Grooby, manager of the Lirrwi Yolngu Tourism Aboriginal Corporation, says: “It’s important to make the homelands economically viable. This is tourism not for tourism’s sake but with an end goal in mind.”
With its commitment to cultural and environmental preservation, Lirrwi has attracted high-profile corporate partners, including Qantas, which supports regional and indigenous operators through its Sustainable Tourism program (Lirrwi tours can be booked using Qantas frequent flyer points). Ten Yolngu clans are participating in Lirrwi’s venture, and another 15 are queuing for their turn. The clans host travellers on their homelands, offering corporate cultural awareness programs, school and art tours, crossing country experiences and the new, women’s-only Dilly Bag Tour. A yidaki (didjeridu) masterclass is offered under the tutelage of master player, Djalu Gurruwiwi; since Yolngu culture forbids women to play this instrument, the tour is offered exclusively for men.