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LAUNCH OFF: New tourism venture promotes local culture

SPLASH: Grab your mates and enjoy a day on the water while learning about the Gumbaynggirr culture with WYAT in Coffs Harbour.
SPLASH: Grab your mates and enjoy a day on the water while learning about the Gumbaynggirr culture with WYAT in Coffs Harbour. Rob Cleary / Seen Australia

AN EXCITING new Aboriginal-owned tourism venture has recently been launched on the Coffs Coast that combines a sense of adventure with cultural learning.

Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours (WYAT) was officially launched in January 2017 as a way to promote Gumbaynggirr culture and contribute to the wellbeing of the local community.

The launch of WYAT was six years in the making, and owner-operator Clark Webb ensured extensive research and due diligence was undertaken before the launch.

Although recent research suggests the demand for Aboriginal cultural experiences has been overstated, Mr Webb didn't let this revelation deter him from continuing to build his dream business.

"We just needed to find a 'hook' as a way to get people to participate in our tours and then share culture with them along the way,” he said. That 'hook' is stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking, two of the world's fastest growing watersports.

"Stand-up paddleboarding and kayaking are actually cultural activities and as the oldest continuous cultures in the world, paddleboarding was developed here,” Mr Webb said.

"So people on SUPs and kayaks are doing a cultural activity, most just don't realise it.”

So what makes WYAT unique?

"Participants of our tours get to paddle with the direct descendants of the world's first paddlers, feel a sense of adventure in unspoilt marine park waterways and connect, feel and taste the soul of our country,” Mr Webb said.

Learn about the Gumbaynggirr culture while having a fun day out with friends.
Learn about the Gumbaynggirr culture while having a fun day out with friends. Rob Cleary / Seen Australia

During the six years of research Mr Webb developed a way to build WYAT as a social enterprise.

WYAT reinvests 20% of its profits into Bularri Muurlay Nyanggan Aboriginal Corporation (BMNAC), a not-for-profit Mr Webb established that facilitates after school learning centres, cultural camps and Gumbaynggirr language revitalisation activities.

"Although I am a Gumbaynggirr person I felt uncomfortable with individually profiting from a knowledge and culture that I don't own individually,” he said.

"We therefore reinvest into BMNAC so that we are encouraging our community to be strong in both culture and education and then create an employment pathway as tour guides, language teachers, artists and performers.”

Wajaana Yaam Adventure Tours conduct its activities in three of the Coffs Coast's marine park waterways: Coffs Creek, Moonee and Red Rock.

Participants of WYAT's tours also gain the knowledge that, through their participation, they are directly contributing to the wellbeing of the local Gumbaynggirr community.

"We say 'yilaami!' Come with us and paddle with a purpose,” Mr Webb said.

Get in touch with Wajaana Yaam Gumbaynggirr Adventure Tours on their website www.wyat.com.au, on their Facebook page and on Instagram @WajaanaYaam.


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