Category Archives: Design news

Fisher Design + Architecture awarded for Gleniffer Reserves Interpretive Signage

Bellingen Courier Sun, 24 October 2019

Fisher Design + Architecture has won a national award for interpretive signage at Gleniffer Reserves.

The design excellence award for a project in the $15,000-$50,000 category was presented at the Interpretation Australia National Conference and awards dinner held in Melbourne on October 18.

Installed by Bellingen Council in March 2019, the Gleniffer Reserves Interpretive Signs aim to encourage awareness and appreciation of the precious and rich biodiversity of the Gleniffer Valley. 

Via positive, welcoming and informative messages, the signs offer visitors the chance to discover more about the unique environment, local Gumbaynggirr culture and European settlement history of the Gleniffer Valley.

The judges noted, “The project’s aims and objectives were clear: to share the wonder and beauty of the valley, while simultaneously directing visitors to alternative places to enjoy the region. The use of both video and audio is a fantastic way of taking visitors further into exploring the unique heritage of the place.”

“This is a lovely example of a well-thought out and well-rounded project. Every step was considered. The graphics and choice of recycled timber suit the project so well. The colour is perfect, even the ants that happened to be using one signage post (about fauna) help us see the value of sharing fauna stories.”

Positively presented messages and high quality structures encourage the visitor to be more respectful of, and responsive to, this special place they visit. 

The sign structures, made from local recycled bridge timbers, are designed to complement the colours and materials of the bush surroundings. 

Raw untreated hardwood timbers and rustic steel feature words have been left to weather naturally, and become a harmonious part of the Gleniffer Valley’s natural landscape.


New Interpretive Signage for Gleniffer Reserves

Bellingen Courier Sun, 3 April 2019

Bellingen Shire Council has installed new interpretive signage at the four reserves in the Gleniffer Valley, including Broken Bridge, Angel Gabriel Capararo, Arthur Keough and Earl Preston.

The signs aim to educate visitors, remind them to treat the area with the respect it deserves, and give them information about alternative locations.

“Not only do the signs make a beautiful addition to our reserves,” Mayor Dominic King said, “they also play a very important role in educating and dispersing our visitors. They aim to raise awareness on how special the natural environment is, give tips on how to protect the waterways, and emphasise the importance of respecting private property, as well as how to behave appropriately when visiting the valley.”

A key feature of the signs are QR codes which play a range of video content. “This technology enables council to promote other swimming spots across the shire,” added the Mayor. “The videos will aim to help reduce visitor numbers during peak periods by showcasing alternative locations like Dangar Falls in Dorrigo or our beautiful beaches at Urunga.”

Bellingen Shire Council’s investment in the signage project was supported by the NSW Government’s tourism and major events agency, Destination NSW, via the 2018 Regional Tourism Fund.

Each sign provides different information across a range of themes from Indigenous culture and European history to native flora and fauna.

They also highlight the important conservation work that the Never Never Catchment Group and the local community has completed over the last 20 years to improve the natural environment and riparian zone.

The signs were developed and designed by local firm, Fisher Design and Architecture.

The Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan aims to provide a vision for the reserves and reflect our community’s creative spirit and environmental values. It aims to preserve and protect the natural environment while retaining a sense of place through the implementation of ideas and design solutions. The key strategies employed focus on: education, information, infrastructure and regulation.

Bellingen Council’s Gleniffer Interpretive Signage Launch

Gleniffer Interpretive Signage Launch- Wednesday 20th March

The official launch of the Regional Tourism Product Development Project- the Gleniffer Reserves Signage, was conducted at the Earl Preston Reserve, with attendees including Bellingen Mayor Dominic Knight, General Manager Liz Jeremy, Manager of Economic & Business Development
 Michael Grieve, Councillors and the Executive Committee.

Designed by Anna Fisher from Fisher Design and Architecture, and engineered by Chris Wood, structural engineer, the signs were constructed by the Bellingen Council building works team. Designed to withstand the flood prone environment, the signs aim to educate visitors, remind them to treat the area with the respect it deserves, and give them information about alternative locations.

Preserving Gleniffer for future generations

Bellingen Shire Courier Sun – December 7, 2018

Visitors to Gleniffer will soon be able to discover more about the unique environment and history of the Gleniffer Valley while learning how to preserve the natural beauty so that future generations can also enjoy this wonderful place.

The interpretive signage, to be installed at Earl Preston, Arthur Keough, Angel Gabriel Capararo and Broken Bridge Reserves before Christmas, has been developed by Bellingen Council in line with the recommendations of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan to inform, educate and positively influence visitor behaviour.

“Addressing the impacts of visitor behaviour at these highly-valued locations is a key part of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan,” said Mayor Dominic King.

“Adopting a ‘National Parks & Wildlife’ approach of positive, welcoming and informative messages, the interpretive signage is a step toward educating Bellingen Shire locals and visitors alike about the precious environment they are in, and encouraging respect for the surroundings and for the Gleniffer residents.”

A QR code on the sign panels will direct users to further online information about the reserves’ natural, cultural and community values. Videos featuring engaging animated characters and graphics reinforce these messages in a friendly and constructive manner.

One video offers suggestions for alternative swimming locations in Bellingen Shire, whilst a ‘top 5 tips’ video gives people brief guidelines for sustainable and responsible behaviour in and around the reserves.

Indigenous culture and language feature prominently on the information panels and video content, including highlights from a vibrant painting by Gumbaynggirr artist Keene Ballangarry and partner Natalie Bateman. Uncle Garry Williams, CEO of Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Culture Co-operative, provided extensive consultation and valuable feedback on the content for the signs.

Acknowledgement of the significant community input from the Never Never Catchment Group outlines their outstanding contributions to environmental conservation in the Gleniffer Valley over many decades.

Local historians John Lean and Colin Sutton, along with the Bellinger Valley Historical Society provided fascinating stories and images of the early white settlement of the Gleniffer Valley.

The sign structures, made from local recycled bridge timbers, were designed by Fisher Design & Architecture to complement the natural bush surroundings. The raw, untreated hardwood timbers will be left to weather naturally.

The interpretive signage was made possible by a grant from the NSW government through its Regional Tourism Fund, managed by Destination NSW.

Key tourist site’s plan

The long awaited Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan was adopted by council at last week’s monthly meeting with councillor Steve Klipin stating the document was “the gold standard in stewardship”.

The sign-off signalled the end of a lengthy engagement period that saw many community groups, particularly the Gleniffer Community Association (GCA), and individuals offer feedback and thoughts.

The final hurdle for the plan came from Cr David Scott, which delayed the report from January until March, looking at key points not clearly addressed pre- viously.

These were:

– The toilet facilities and car parking at Earl Preston Reserve

The council identified that it would be pertinent to utilise the existing toilet facilities at Gleniffer Hall rather than build a new toilet block (due to the impact on the aesthetics of Earl Preston Reserve and the cost impost in terms of both construction and maintenance).

In response to council’s enquiry around the possibility of re-opening the Gleniffer Hall toilets, the GCA identified issues that need to be discussed and considered by council, but can be dealt with in consultation with the community when the Earl Preston Plan of Management is undertaken.

While car parking infrastructure at Earl Preston Reserve has been proposed by the Master Plan, drainage infrastructure needs to be a key consideration.

– Car parking (including the cattle grid) at Arthur Keogh Reserve

The plan’s consultants have outlined that a pedestrian grid can be installed in place of the cattle grid. This solution provides safe access for pedestrians and alleviates the need for drainage infrastructure.

Council’s inspection of this reserve also identified the potential risk to the public of the electric fence on the northern boundary of this reserve.

The Plan of Management for Arthur Keough Reserve will investigate options to mitigate risks to the public by way of, for example, improved signage.

– Picnic facilities at Angel Gabriel Caparero Reserve

The plan was adjusted to remove picnic tables from this Reserve. Consultants have now proposed that some public seating be installed within the arboretum – which is at a greater distance from the river.

This solution reduces the impact of flood damage yet still provides some public amenity.

The provision of refuse bins throughout the area covered by the Master Plan

The Master Plan now recommends no provision for refuse bins.

Instead, there will be educative prompts for visitors around the responsible management and removal of rubbish from the reserves.

In reviewing, council said, “it is important to note that the Gleniffer Master Plan is an overarching document that primarily provides a vision for the reserves.

“The plan will serve as a guide and reference to ensure there is
continuity and consistency in the way each reserve is managed and developed. While the plan looks at constraints and priorities, it does not aim to establish detailed strategies.

“Specific Plans of Management will need to be prepared for each reserve to ensure appropriate planning and environmental factors are considered.”

In total the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan will cost council $257,052.

It was devised after the tourist destination’s popularity increased via word of mouth, social media promotion and advertising by local businesses, attracting an increasing number of visitors to the area.

The council report notes:

“The Gleniffer Reserves represent an area of high environmental, social and cultural value.

“The area adjoins Dorrigo National Park, which has World Heritage status. This increasing rate of visitation is having a negative impact on the environment. The plan addresses ways to protect the environment and reduce the impacts from increasing visitation.

“It identifies the need to determine the carrying capacity of each reserve prior to any further mass media promotion of the area.

“The plan outlines ways to influence behaviour of visitors through a range of strategies.”

Alice Burnet | The Bellingen Courier Sun | 30th March 2016

Gleniffer Master Plan delayed while council talks amenities

It’s a tourist hot-spot, and if this summer’s anything to go by, it’s only going to get busier, yet the vexed problem of how to cater for the masses at Gleniffer is proving challenging for Bellingen Shire Council.

A crew from Coffs Harbour enjoy Gleniffer’s rivers. The area is gaining in popularity and council is uncertain as to how to best cater for the masses.

The issue is not a new one and it was hoped the long-awaited, nearly $260,000 Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan would set out a course for sensible management of the area.

However, at last week’s council meeting councillor David Scott threw a slight spanner in the works by moving to delay the Master Plan’s passage through Local Government.

The motion requested five additional points to be addressed by council employees:

– the toilet facilities and car parking at Earl Preston Reserve
– car parking (including the cattle grid) at Arthur Keogh Reserve
– picnic facilities at Angel Gabriel Caparero Reserve
– the provision of refuse bins throughout the area covered by the Master Plan and
– an update of the graphics within the report.

In essence, the councillors’ concerns merely reflect what locals have been highlighting for years, namely excrement and environmental damage, and which are not explicitly addressed in the Master Plan.

This apparent oversight was not just Cr Scott’s beef either – Cr Gordon Manning spoke frankly of his unease regarding the plan.

“I have concerns about people shitting in the river and I do not think these have been answered,” Cr Manning said

“I don’t understand how this has not been addressed … there is just no solution in the report.”

Given the cost of building and maintaining toilets, Cr Desmae Harrison asked, “where is the money going to come from?”.

Cr Manning suggested “trialling port-a-loos during the peak summer period to see if that could be part of the solution”.

Council’s Michael Grieve responded to councillors’ queries by saying the Master Plan focussed on “information and education as the key strategy to addressing people’s toilet habits” and “it was a controversial issue regarding toilets … many for and against”.

He also noted once council “endorses a precinct” it encourages people to a central place and there are “consequences that come with that”.

Another aspect touched upon was Forestry Corporation’s Tuckers Nob State Forest, which surrounds the four council reserves. Though council staff were quick to stress “we have a good relationship with Forestry” the dichotomy of control means even the best practice document relies on State Government cooperation.

At the very least, it flags that people can park and camp free, and amenities are not closely available.

Or to put it another way, rubbish and folk’s faeces can wash down the river or lay by the roadside, thereby negating council’s best endeavours for hygiene.

Concluding the discussion, Mayor Mark Troy said he was “concerned the already lengthy engagement process was being extended further” but conceded it was important to get the document right.

Thus the motion was carried unanimously and an additional report, to be tabled at April’s council meeting, will be prepared to address the councillors’ queries.

The Gleniffer Master Plan acts as an overarching document with focus on five key themes:

1. Visitor numbers, sustainability and cultural heritage

2. Riverine environmental improvement

3. Reserve amenity values – infrastructure and maintenance

4. Managing positive visitor behaviour and

5. Local management amenity impacts.

A key finding of the plan is the recommendation to establish what has been termed as the Gleniffer Stewardship Advisory Group. It is anticipated that this group would guide the implementation of the Gleniffer Reserves Master Plan, provide advice to council and steer ongoing commitment to the protection, preservation and sustainability of the reserves. Implementation of the plan is proposed to be staged and priorities have been set within the plan with probable costings and suggested funding sources (including grants) linked to each.

Alice Burnet | The Bellingen Courier Sun | 15th November 2014

Visitor boom prompts need for Gleniffer Reserves Masterplan

Feedback is sought from the Bellingen Shire community about their thoughts on the Gleniffer Reserves Masterplan.

Residents have until Friday, December 19, to express views.

The four Gleniffer Reserves are adjacent to private properties and next to the World Heritage Area of Dorrigo National Park and Tuckers Nob State Forests and have been enjoyed by the community for generations.

In recent years, promotion tourism organisations and local word of mouth has resulted in the area becoming increasingly popular.

Gleniffer residents have reported a large increase in visitation levels to a point where it is impacting on the natural environment and local amenity.

Local residents have been caring for the reserves for many years by maintaining the amenities and restoring the environment.

However, the level of visitors now using the reserves exceeds the capacity of locals to care for them.

A consultant team led by Fisher Design and Architecture has been engaged by the council to facilitate community consultation and develop the masterplan.

Input should be provided via the Gleniffer Reserves feedback form which is available from the council administrative centre or downloaded from

Coffs Coast Advocate | 15th November 2014

Tourism Campaign Wins 2014 RH Dougherty Award

Kempsey Shire Council’s recent efforts to strengthen the local tourism sector were recognised with a win at the prestigious RH Dougherty Local Government Awards at Parliament House last Thursday night.

The awards are managed by Local Government NSW and recognise greater understanding and communication by councils to their local communities.

The Macleay Valley Coast ‘Discover Something New’ Destination Marketing Campaign was announced the winner of the Excellence in Communication Award (Division A: less than 30,000), with the judging panel describing the campaign as “outstanding”.

The campaign was designed and developed by Council’s Economic Sustainability team in collaboration with Macleay Valley Coast tourism, input from local industry leaders and the financial support of 170 local tourism businesses and Destination NSW.

“The judges thought this was an outstanding, visionary, well-structured piece of communication. It was inclusive, with both measureable and positive outcomes. Kempsey’s use of the ‘Local Legend’ concept brought out personalities within the campaign; it strongly identified the target markets which backed this up with a strong media campaign.”

Fifty-four council communication initiatives were nominated across two communication and reporting categories.

President of Local Government NSW, Cr Keith Rhoades AFSM, said that the standard of entries was exceptional and that the judges had difficulty in picking winners.

“The art of communication and engagement within Local Government has gone from strength to strength.

“The winners tonight have proved that they are experts in the field of communications and reporting to their community in creative and innovative ways. They are also not afraid to use technology and work outside the realms of their legislative boundaries to improve engagement and services to their communities,” said Cr Rhoades.

Kempsey Shire Council General Manager David Rawlings described the campaign as instrumental in developing a destination brand and identity for the Macleay Valley during the crucial post-bypass era, and for generating tangible growth in the tourism sector.

“This campaign was a crucial part of Council’s post-bypass economic strategy to boost the Macleay’s profile and destination appeal,” Mr Rawlings said.

“With an annual turnover of $189M and 554,000 visitors each year, the Visitor Economy is the Macleay Valley Coast’s fourth largest industry sector and it is a win for our community that this sector has now grown 10 per cent during the 12 months to March 2014.

“The objectives of the campaign signify Council’s determined efforts to ensure the bypass is embraced as an opportunity to reinvigorate our Shire’s character and reputation.”

The Dougherty Awards were established in 1981 and are judged by leading experts in the communications field. They are named after former Local Government Association President, Robert Henry (Bob) Dougherty.

Posted by Macleay Valley Coast Tourism: August 14, 2014

Macleay Valley Coast Campaign wins Business Excellence Award and named a Finalist in Regional Tourism Awards

The Macleay Valley Coast’s ‘Discover Something New’ destination marketing campaign walked away a winner at the 2014 Macleay Argus Business Awards held at Kempsey High School on Saturday night.

The local marketing campaign, which brands and promotes the Macleay as a destination that invites ‘discovery’, was named the winner of the ‘Excellence in Business (More than 20 Employees)’ category.

The campaign was also today announced a finalist in the 2014 Regional Tourism Awards being held at Trial Bay Gaol on Saturday, August 16, along with Smoky Cape Lighthouse B&B and Cottages (Unique Accommodation category), SWR Dive Centre (Adventure Tourism), SWR Tourist Park (Tourist & Caravan Park) and the Heritage Guesthouse (Hosted Accommodation).

The campaign was launched in October 2013 and has resulted in the installation of three new highway billboards promoting the Macleay as a holiday destination, as well as a major redesign of the website, a new brochure and other marketing collateral.

In accepting the awards, Council’s Economic Sustainability Manager Susannah Smith acknowledged the 160 businesses who have supported the campaign and encouraged people to log on to the website and subscribe to the campaign’s new ‘Discovery’ e-newsletter.

Posted by Macleay Valley Coast Tourism: August 5, 2014


A Sign of Reconciliation – Oak Hill Aboriginal Reserve

A crowd of nearly 50 people witnessed the start of National Reconciliation Week in Yass with Aboriginal elders Eric Bell, Ruth Bell and Agnes Shae, alongside Mayor Rowena Abbey, unveiling the new Aboriginal interpretive at Oak Hill Aboriginal Place on Saturday 24 May.

The signage and structure, designed by Fisher Design + Architecture, includes photographs of artefacts found at the site, plans and descriptions of the site huts that were used as dwellings at the time, a timeline of major events, and descriptions of the three Aboriginal scarred trees that once grew close to the area.

Yass Valley Council Mayor Rowena Abbey said the Yass Valley Aboriginal Advisory Committee had been working hard on the project and wanted the signs to respectfully acknowledge the past, generate a sense of pride for the history of the location, and also be an education tool for visitors.

“The unveiling of Oak Hill’s signage is a significant event for our area as it is a tangible display where all residents and visitors can come and take the time to reflect and acknowledge the past and also learn about what real life was like for the Aboriginal people here at that time. The project has involved extensive community participation and the signage framework features the actual building material used to construct the homes at Oak Hill,” Mayor Abbey said.

The project was funded by Yass Valley Council and the Commonwealth Government. The Yass Valley Aboriginal Advisory Committee are now working towards developing a Management Plan for Oak Hill Aboriginal Place, identifying how to preserve and enhance the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage of Oak Hill Aboriginal Place.

Yass Valley Council- media release | 26/05/2014

Discover Something New on the Macleay Valley Coast

October 2013 saw the launch of the new Macleay Valley Coast Tourism branding and marketing campaign “Discover Something New”, at the iconic Trial Bay Gaol in South West Rocks.

A collaboration between two Bellingen firms – Fisher Design + Architecture and ThirtyPointFour – the project involved a major redesign of the Macleay Valley’s branding, including a vibrant new website, tourism brochure and an array of marketing and advertising material.

Working closely with Kempsey Shire Council and local industry operators, the campaign sets a new benchmark for the region, and aims to raise awareness of the Macleay Valley Coast’s location and appeal as a visitor destination.

“This is a very strong campaign that delivers a powerful visual image of the Macleay, backed up by a website that is extremely user-friendly and really sells the Macleay’s people and its abundant natural assets,” said Kempsey Shire Council’s Manager for Economic Sustainability, Susannah Smith.

‘Discover Something New’ drives $100,000 Macleay tourism campaign

Kempsey Shire Council and the Macleay Valley Coast Tourism Association (MVCTA) were set to launch a $100,000 campaign yesterday evening.

It is the biggest such promotion the council has embarked upon and aims to raise the Macleay’s profile as a destination.

A slogan “Macleay Valley Coast – Discover Something New” and fresh branding will highlight the campaign.

It has been jointly funded by the council, the Tourism Association and Destination NSW – with $35,000 each.

Trial Bay Gaol was to be the venue for the official launch of a revamped website, with 100 business operators among the guests.

Council’s Economic Sustainability manager Susannah Smith said tourism and agriculture had been identified as the two biggest growth sectors locally.

“The website now paints a fantastic picture of what the community is here,” she said.

“As well as a lot of great new images from around the Macleay, and especially the hinterland, there are 10 ‘Local Legends’ featured.

“Each of them were asked what they love and are proud of most about the Valley and the coast.

“Their testimonials form an interesting part of the new site and paint a vivid picture of the many wonderful aspects there are to life and the community here.

“This campaign sends out a strong signal about how we want to progress.”

MVCTA secretary Danielle Cooney said she was very excited about the campaign and the association’s input, and said the website’s design would entice more people.

“It really highlights what we have to offer and will promote the wonderful assets we have on the coast and in the hinterland,” she said.

Ms Cooney said the build-up of the campaign had prompted renewed interest from the local business community, with MVCTA membership roughly doubling since the end of the 2012-13 financial year.

“It’s not just tourism operators,” she said.

“It’s also other owners, who recognise the positive impact tourism will bring to their businesses.”

Ms Smith announced there would be a new display advertisement to replace existing ones on highway billboards at Clybucca and Telegraph Point, as well as at three new sites at Taree, Grafton and Tamworth.

There are 40,000 ‘hard copy’ brochures, most of which will be displayed at visitor information centres in the Macleay and elsewhere in NSW. Many will be taken to trade shows, such as camping and caravanning shows.

Ms Smith said the campaign also involved the creation and distribution of ‘e-brochures’, which would be sent electronically four times a year to subscribers.

These will highlight seasonal events and attractions.

Thom Klein  |  The Macley Argus | 16th October 2013


Muttonbird project voted NSW best

THE Giidany Miirlarl Education Space at the base of Muttonbird Island has secured another major gong.

It has won the 2012 Premier’s Prize which recognises an architect or project that has contributed to the advancement of architecture in our state.

The project is the work of locally based Fisher Design + Architecture in association with Sydney firm Mackenzie Pronk Architects.

After being short-listed as one of the three finalists by NSW Gov- ernment Architect Peter Poulet, Giidany Miirlarl picked up the biggest number of votes via an online poll.

At the presentation, Minister for Planning and Infrastructure Brad Hazzard said Giidany Miirlarl celebrated local Aboriginal culture and history and represented a healing of the scars from when Muttonbird Island was joined to the mainland in 1924.

“Importantly, the awarding of this project demonstrates our support for all regional communities and in particular Aboriginal communities across NSW,” Mr Hazzard said.

“This modestly scaled building project has made a significant social contribution and has been a truly collaborative effort bringing the community together to tell the story of the island. I commend it as a worthy recipient of the 2012 Premier’s Prize – as selected by the people of NSW.”

Trevor Veale, Coffs Coast Advocate | 04/07/2012

Popular choice – 2012 NSW Architecture Awards Premier Prize

For the first time the vote for the Premier’s Award was in the hands of the public via an online poll, writes KILMENY ADIE.

The state government’s most senior architect says letting the public choose the Premier’s Award has proven a success and that he’d welcome 
a repeat of the system next year.

NSW government architect Peter Poulet had to narrow down
74 candidates for the coveted design award to the three finalists from which the public would choose.

This was the first year the public was able to vote, via an online poll, for their favourite architect-designed building, which turned out to be the Giidany Miirlarl Education Space, performance area at Mutton Bird Island, Coffs Harbour, designed by Fisher Design + Architecture and Mackenzie Pronk Architects.

Poulet says he consulted his heart as well as his head and looked beyond pure aesthetics when choosing the final three for the Premier’s Award category in the Australian Institute of Architects’ 2012 NSW Architecture Awards.

‘‘Good design is not just about how things look, it’s how they work and contribute to people’s wellbeing. It can facilitate community interaction, wellbeing and health, resulting in more resilient, sustainable and liveable places,’’ Poulet says.

‘‘[The finalists] were chosen easily because they displayed a broad understanding of the contribution that design and innovative thinking makes to our social cohesion and our physical environment.’’

Poulet’s other two shortlisted projects were Ropes Crossing Community Centre, in western Sydney, and Common Ground, a 104-unit permanent housing residence targeted at reducing homelessness at Camperdown.

‘‘All three entrants exhibited exceptional design thinking and I was thrilled that a project that celebrates Aboriginal culture and history in a regional setting was awarded,’’ Poulet says. ‘‘It’s pleasing to see young emerging architects producing thoughtful and creative work.

‘‘The public liked that the project brought together Aboriginal and European histories and stories in a spirit of reconciliation.’’

Poulet says opening up the award to the public vote was ‘‘an opportunity for architects to engage with the general public in an immediate and direct way’’.

Sydney Morning Herald, June 30 2012


Coffs Attraction, Nation’s Best

COFFS Harbour’s walk of discovery, highlighting the harbour’s Aboriginal heritage has won acclaim at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards.

The Muttonbird Island attraction, known as Giidayn Miirral, overnight added the national award for indigenous tourism to its state and regional accolades.

The $320,000 harbour-side structure, featuring the artwork of local Aboriginal artist Shane Phillips, stands in tribute to Coffs Harbour’s Gumbaynggirr heritage.

Local elder Aunty Gloria Phillips said the attraction is an important achievement for both the Gumbaynggirr and wider Coffs Harbour communities.

“This is a sacred site and by highlighting its history, it is sharing our stories with the many people who come here,” Aunty Phillips said.

National Parks and Wildlife Service discovery ranger Mark Flanders, has shared Gumbaynggirr culture with thousands of visitors on tours of Muttonbird Island over nine years.

“It’s great to have all the work put in by the local and Aboriginal communities recognised at such a high level,” Mr Flanders said.

NSW outshone the other states at the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards, scoring 11 wins out of 27 categories.

The 27th annual event acknowledges the best travel companies around the nation including tour operators, adventure trips and accommodation.

Winners for NSW included Jenolan Caves with two awards for best tourist attraction and heritage and cultural tourism, Tri State Safaris for tour/transport operators and Newcastle Airport for specialised tourism services.

Queensland won just a single award for Fantasea Adventure Cruising as the top major tour operator.

This was in stark contrast to last year’s wins in seven categories in a what was lauded as a sign of the state’s resilience after the floods and Cyclone Yasi.

Tasmania dominated in the luxury stakes, with the Saffire-Freycinet winning best luxury accommodation and the Old Woolstore Apartment Hotel for deluxe accommodation.

Other winners include the Melbourne Museum as best major tourist attraction and Maria Island Walk for the adventure tourism category.

The award for excellence in sustainable tourism went to Lane Cove River Tourist Park (NSW) – its second consecutive win.

National Tourism Alliance Chairman Col Hughes congratulated all finalists and winners.

“We recognise and applaud the many businesses who continue to demonstrate excellence in servicing the needs and exceeding the expectations of both domestic and international visitors – you are living examples of the finest of quality tourism experiences in Australia,” he said.

Sunshine Coast Daily |  Matt Deans | 4th March 2012

Photo: Trevor Veale



Sacred site wins state award

“GIIDAYN Miirral”, or Muttonbird Island, has long been a sacred site in Gumbaynggirr history.

Honoured with an informative timber shelter this year to preserve the Aboriginal link to Muttonbird Island, it’s now become a place of state significance after Coffs Coast Aboriginal Discovery Tours won a State Tourism Award.

The $320,000 timber structure featuring artwork by local Aboriginal artist Shane Phillips has been a key factor in the Discovery Tours being announced as gold winners for Excellence in Indigenous Tourism.

Standing with the award on site, local Aboriginal elders gathered to pay tribute to all those who have helped to achieve its success.

National Parks and Wildlife Service Discovery ranger Mark Flanders, who has taken the culture of the Gumbaynggirr people to the local community and thousands of visitors over nine years, was humbled by the praise.

“It’s great to have all the work put in by the local and Aboriginal communities recognised at such a high level, it hasn’t just been a few of us, there have been so many people involved in this success, and we aren’t stopping with a state award, national hopefully, and then international, so look out, ” Mark said.

Ann Walton said Mark deserved special recognition for the tours, given he first raised the idea with local elders and got their permission.

“The tours have been contemporary Aboriginal history walks covering all facets from the cultural significance of the island to the breeding cycles of the muttonbirds,” Ms Walton said.

Matt Deans | 2 Dec 2011

Photo: Trevor Veale
NPWS ranger Mark Flanders, Aunty Elaine Turnbull, Aunty Marie Tarplee, Aunty Bea Ballangarry, Shane Phillips, NPWS ranger Ann Walton, Aunty Gloria Phillips and CHCC’s Malcolm McLeod.


Muttonbird Island now a resource

GIIDANY Miirlarl is a name Coffs Coast residents will widely come to know now that a new outdoor interpretive art and education space has been opened at the base of Muttonbird Island.

Taking on the local Gumbaynggirr name given to the area, the project has seen a significant tourist attraction established at the base of the island. National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) ranger Ann Walton said the facility showcases the island and its significance to the local Gumbaynggirr people.

“The new area will also provide an open space for discovery tours, school tours and live performances,” Ms Walton said.

Renowned Aboriginal language teacher Michael Jarrett of the Muurrbay Aboriginal Language and Cultural Co-operative Centre at Nambucca Heads has explained the significance of the site to local Aboriginal people.

“Giidnay Miirlarl, at the base of Muttonbird Island, translates to mean the moon place, and refers to the reef that is seen near the island,” Mr Jarrett said. “It was a special site used for hunting expeditions where muttonbirds were gathered as a food source.”

The new facility is located at the base of Muttonbird Island Nature Reserve on the end of the northern break wall of Coffs Harbour Jetty and is now available to the public.

At an official opening on Thursday night, local elders unveiled the facility.

The $320,000 project has been funded by the Commonwealth Government through the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations’ Jobs Fund program.

The funding was awarded to the Arts Mid North Coast in partnership with the Coffs Harbour City Council, the Department of Environment Climate Change and Water through the Coffs Coast Area, Garlambirla Guyuu Girrwaa (Coffs Harbour Elders) and the Coffs Harbour Local Aboriginal Land Council.

 Coffs Coast Advocate | 4th April 2011