During the 1880’s in North Queensland, Mungalla Station became a safe haven for Indigenous people when confrontation between European settlers and local Nywaigi Aboriginal people was hostile. In the 1920’s Mungalla was declared a sanctuary for the protection of native birds and animals, and now thanks to their popular tourism ventures, the Nywaigi Aboriginal Land Corporation is combining astute cultural, social and business knowledge to improve economic outcomes for their people.
Spanning over 880 hectares in the Hinchinbrook Shire, Mungalla Station encompasses 230 hectares of wetlands that are key to the health of the Great Barrier Reef. The business, which was severely impacted by the lack of international tourists due to COVID-19, is now pivoting after securing $100,000 in federal funding to develop bird watching facilities and horse riding tours.
Managing Director of Mungalla Station and traditional Nywaigi owner, Jacob Cassady says the grant from the Indigenous Tourism Fund will provide assistance to expand on their cultural historical tours and help them penetrate new markets.
“We have over 200 different species of birds here at the station and we’ve been working extremely hard over the years to rehabilitate the wetlands from noxious weeds and other environmental impacts,” explains Jacob.
The grant is also set to provide further social and educational benefits for Aboriginal youth, which Jacob says is the key to providing employment and training pathways for the next generation of Indigenous Australians.
“For us as Aboriginal people, we don’t have a lot of experience running a small business, so it’s important we provide these opportunities for the next generation,” he says.
“We are really working towards empowering and teaching them those business skills and this grant gives us the capacity to provide more training and employment opportunities on the land.”
To combat the growing number of disengaged youth in regional and remote North Queensland, Mungalla Station partnered with the Silving Lining Foundation two years ago to start a secondary school targeting at-risk Indigenous youth from both Townsville and Ingham.
“Lots of these kids don’t fit into the mainstream schooling system, so this school provides a refuge for them where they can have some stability and improve their skills,” says Jacob.
“We offer courses and certificates at Mungalla Station and the students do training across the areas of hospitality, conservation, tourism and land management, with the goal to build up their job skills and create more employment opportunities.
“We are really wanting to build a solution to this problem and give the next generation a hand up.”
By Georgie Desailly.