Visiting Indigenous Protected Areas
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Indigenous Protected Areas welcome visitors who respect the environment, heritage and customs of the country's traditional owners.
Indigenous people have been using their knowledge for thousands of years to care for country. Through Indigenous Protected Areas they continue to care for some of our country's most remote and fragile environments.
The Australian Government asks all tourists to respect the cultural traditions and the environment of each Indigenous Protected Area.
Most Indigenous Protected Areas require tourists to apply for permits to travel through their country. Some have developed interpretive signs and other materials to help tourists understand their connection to country.
In some cases you may not know that you are travelling through an Indigenous Protected Area. It is a mark of respect to find out whose country you are travelling through prior to your journey. If this is not possible, then the following guidelines should always apply when travelling through an Indigenous Protected Area.
Respecting people's privacy
- Many Indigenous communities or lands require permits to enter - this helps ensure people's privacy. You may need to organise permits with land or community councils well in advance.
- If you are visiting an Indigenous community, wait until you are invited to approach homes or groups of people.
- Funerals and cultural ceremonies are times of special privacy - use extra sensitivity in communities at these times.
- There may be places that are closed to visitors because of their cultural significance - heed advice if you are asked not to enter an area.
- In some places it is culturally inappropriate to swim or fish in waterways, waterholes and/or sea country.
- Some places can only be visited by men or women - please respect these protocols where they apply to non-Indigenous people.
- When in doubt about where you can or cannot go, it is good practice to ask first.
- The possession or consumption of alcohol is restricted in some Indigenous communities - these restrictions also apply to visitors.
Talking to Indigenous people
- If you are talking to an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander, recognise that they may communicate differently to non-Indigenous people - English may be a second or third language.
- Access to specific cultural knowledge or stories may not be open to everyone - it is best to avoid direct questions about matters that could be sensitive, unless invited to do so.
- Dress etiquette applies when visiting some Indigenous communities - if in doubt avoid wearing short skirts, short shorts or other revealing clothes.
Taking photographs and filming
- Always ask before filming or taking photos of a person, a group of people or cultural activities.
- Photographing and filming some places and objects is restricted for cultural reasons - please respect this important request from traditional owners.
- If you intend to use your photographs in a publication or for other commercial purposes, you will need to seek copyright permission from the people featured in the photo.
Taking home a memento
- Locally produced Indigenous art and craftworks make an excellent memory of your visit to a place - if possible choose items designed and made by Aboriginal people. Look and ask for items that have a label of cultural authenticity.
- Purchasing items from Indigenous people through respected outlets helps to create economic support for people in communities where there may be limited opportunities for employment.
- Please do not remove rocks or other objects from Indigenous land or waters without the permission of traditional owners. Disturbing cultural sites is also prohibited by Australian law.
For more information on respecting Indigenous culture while travelling in Australia, download the Indigenous Tourism Australia brochure.