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.