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Visitors arriving at the Whitsunday Coast Airport will be greeted by a Welcome to Country digital sign recognising the traditional owners, the Gia and Ngaro people.
The Welcome to Country sign is a joint collaboration between Whitsunday Regional Council, Queensland Tourism Industry Council, Proserpine Indigenous Reference Group and the Mackay Whitsunday Isaac Traditional Owners Reference Group (MWI TORG).
Traditional Owner spokesperson Aunty Sue West, said the Whitsunday Coast Airport initiative is an important recognition of Gia and Ngaro culture, reconciliation and a source of personal pride.
“Welcome to Country signage at the airport has long been a dream and the in-kind support for this initiative is seen as a sign of cooperation and acceptance for a future of collaboration,” she said.
“A welcome to country is provided for two reasons.
“First, the traditional custodians of the land provide visitors with spiritual safekeeping as they stay or live on the land.
“Secondly, in modern times as Australians we continue this practice to ensure that a tradition of an ancient living culture is respected in a spirit of reconciliation and harmony,” Aunty Sue said.
Whitsunday Regional Council Mayor Andrew Willcox said the sign was a welcome to Proserpine and the Whitsunday region and acknowledged our ancient history and the cultures of Australia's first people.
“Many visitors to our shores consider Australia to be a young country but we have ancient history pre-British settlement that we should be proud to share with the world.
“The Welcome to Country sign perfectly complements our 24 metre mural across the front façade of the airport which depicts the sacred story of the Juru people of the Birri Gubba Nation.
“These two initiatives are a positive way of involving traditional owners of the land and strengthening our ties with them,” Mayor Willcox said.
The mural, by Nicky Bidju Pryor, told the story of Gubulla Munda (the giant carpet snake) and how it created the land and the islands and the animals in the ocean around the islands and the reef.
It also has a beaches and oceans theme, to show what people will see in the Whitsundays.Marine life such as a turtle, manta ray, whale, barramundi and dolphin, are all depicted, as are palm trees on an island.
Bishopp Airport Advertising spokesman Nick McAlpine said his company is proud to partner with Whitsunday Coast Airport, QTIC, Proserpine Indigenous Reference Group and Traditional Owners to deliver a ‘digital welcome to country’, honouring the traditional owners of the Whitsunday Region.
“We’re pleased to back this initiative as an important acknowledgement at the gateway to one of Australia’s favourite holiday destinations,” he said.
Queensland Tourism Industry Council Chief Executive Daniel Gschwind said welcoming our visitors to the region by highlighting its First Nations culture and history is a great way of making the most of this unique aspect of our destination.
“Visitors come here to experience what is special about the Whitsunday Region and we should all be proud of our history going back tens of thousands of years,” he said.
“QTIC congratulates the Whitsunday Regional Council and all involved in this wonderful acknowledgement of First Nations people.”