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Indigenous tour operator Tess Atie shows tourists the real Northern Territory


Standing at a lush waterhole in the center of Litchfield National Park close to Darwin, Tess Atie factors to the precise spot simply metres away the place her sister was almost killed by a crocodile.

“She was getting a drink of water, and it just came out and grabbed onto her leg,” Ms Atie stated.

Luckily, her husband got here operating to her name.

“He just jumped out of his motorcar, and he jumped on the back of it and wrestled with it and eventually opened its mouth up, and then she was freed,” Ms Atie stated.

“They took her straight to the hospital from here.”

Her sister nonetheless carries an enormous scar on her leg, however the takeaway message, in accordance with Ms Atie, is to “always take Mr Common Sense with you”.

Or, in case you do not totally belief your personal wits, take an Indigenous tour information with the lowdown on secure spots.

Ms Atie factors out the place her sister was nearly killed by a crocodile.(

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Sharing cultural data

Ms Atie, a Marrathiyel girl, runs the solely 100 per cent Indigenous-owned tourism firm in the Litchfield Park space, a park massively common for its spectacular waterfalls and cliffs, and its proximity to Darwin.

She believes intimate data, entry, and connection to this nation give Indigenous tour operators a secret weapon in a crowded house.

“When we used to go hunting out bush, when Mum used to take all of us kids, this is the same knowledge that I take with me to our clients, to teach them about what I was brought up on,” she stated.

A woman in a beige shirt smiles, with a green garden behind her. Ms Atie shares her household’s data of the space.(

ABC: Movin’ To The Country


“When we first started, we felt there wasn’t enough Indigenous tourism, so that’s one of the reasons why I created this business.

“Hopefully I could be like some type of beacon to point out different Aboriginal those who you are able to do it.”

She had the ideal training ground: the vast Uluru Kata Juta National Park, where she worked as a ranger and met her husband, Greg Balding.

She was impressed by an area tour firm. 

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“They had a number of the Aboriginal folks from the communities who already know the nation and the tales for the space, in order that they have been capable of decide the folks that may be on the tour that day,” she said.

“That’s a very glorious system, I believed.”

A private and non secular connection

Ms Atie’s family are literally part of the landscape in Litchfield.

A bright pink flower endemic to the region was named after her grandfather, a botanist who documented much of the local flora and fauna.

Her mother’s family are the traditional owners of the region, and still own a large station surrounding the park.

“This is my level of distinction in the excursions, the place I can inform our shoppers, our guests, that that is the place I grew up,” Ms Atie said.

Mr Balding said his wife’s connection to the area was invaluable.

“There [are] varied branches of Tess’s household concerned with all of this stuff and have been for a lot of a long time,” Mr Balding said.

“There’s outdated tin mines the place aunties and uncles labored again in the 50s and 60s and so forth. Tess’s grandfather really constructed this highway in the late 40s.”

A man and woman, both in khaki shirts, stand by a railing with a waterfall behind them. Mr Balding is pleased with his spouse’s accomplishments.(

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Tourists search the real story

A spiritual history of the landscape seems to be something more and more tourists are chasing, especially with international travel off the table.

Tess’s adopted mother Anne Brooks said people were eager to learn from a local.

“It’s an incredible factor that we have now so many tourists that come that need to go on an Indigenous tour,” Ms Brooks said.

“They need to exit to Lichfield with the conventional proprietor, simply actually discover out about the nation.

“It’s the first time they’ve had a chance to really speak to an Aboriginal person; they come up from Sydney and Melbourne, they only see bad things.

“She’s breaking down these stereotypes.”

Things don’t always go according to plan but according to Ms Atie, when things go pear-shaped, it only adds to the authenticity of life in the bush.

“It needs to be very versatile, the excursions, as a result of every thing all the time adjustments all the time,” she said.

“Sometimes we would get bogged alongside the means, or we would have a flat tire.”

A pristine waterhole in Litchfield. Ms Atie goals to share her data of the space.(

Supplied: NT Government


‘I’m not going to sugarcoat it anymore’

But she doesn’t gloss over the harder aspects of life for Indigenous people in Australia.

“It’s higher for me to only say how it’s,” she said.

“I stated to myself, ‘Well, I’m not going to sugarcoat it anymore’. My household is all the time going into jail; my household’s going into hospital, strolling the streets.

“There’s so much stuff that I can’t keep back. A lot of my clients ask those questions.”

Far from placing folks off, she thinks it provides a depth to her excursions that individuals worth.

“I think the tourists are quite fascinated to find out the real story and find out our genuine experience of living in the Territory because it’s different to everywhere else,” she stated.

“They really appreciate the honesty and the fact that we don’t fluff it up for them.”

She stated it was additionally one among the causes there aren’t many Indigenous tour operators.

Mr Balding stated throughout the previous decade he had seen his spouse battle prejudice whereas constructing her enterprise.

“There was a general distrust amongst the mainstream tourism community about the reliability and ongoing sustainability of the company,” he stated.

“It took us probably 10 years before they actually accepted that we were reliable, we [were] going to turn up when we said we would and that sort of thing.”

A woman wearing a khaki shirt talks and gestures to a man wearing a checked shirt, with a waterfall behind them. It took a very long time earlier than others in the trade took Ms Atie severely.(

ABC: Movin’ To The Country


“You have to work even extra harder to make sure that person has the best quality service that they can have,” Ms Atie stated.

“Just bend backwards for them, make sure that they have a really good day, and give them really good information.”

She plans to beat a few of that stigma by beginning her personal coaching enterprise.

Mr Balding stated he wished to see “an army of Tesses out there running the Aboriginal tourism industry”.

“We want to be able to provide a pathway to employment in these different types of tours, and also in the behind-the-scenes work that’s required for the tours, so that people have real jobs at the end of it and a real ability to get self-esteem,” Ms Atie stated.

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