World Responsible Tourism Day in Kangaroo Valley

WORLD Responsible Tourism Day in Kangaroo Valley this year involved Crystal Creek Meadows, a holiday accommodation provider, running an Aboriginal education day for local schoolchildren.

"The natural environment is an essential part of tourism's appeal. Its subsequent protection therefore a vital responsibility for both tourism providers and visitors," Crystal Creek Meadows proprietor Christopher Warren said.

"Yet while Australian's appreciate the natural world, as a country we continue to record high levels of Greenhouse Gas pollution and a decline in biodiversity which in time may erode tourism's appeal in rural areas.

This suggests that individuals are not sufficiently closely connected to the environment to motivate them to make less negatively impactful choices," he said.

Children from Kangaroo Valley Public School in Years 3, 4, 5 and 6, spent the day at Crystal Creek Meadows where they were shown Aboriginal cultural belief systems which involve a close bonding with animals and plants.

Dreamtime stories, trees planting and food security activities concluded with a creative project periods where students wrote stories, drew pictures and made habitats.

To prepare for the project, oral history research of Aboriginal belief systems had been conducted and members of the local Aboriginal community were approached to discuss appropriate ways to apply their belief systems to a non-indigenous audience.

Mr Warren and environmental education masters student Jane Gripper measured the impact of the project on the children's connectedness to nature.

A further qualitative stage of the study is now being undertaken. Findings from this exploratory study are expected to show if traditional Aboriginal environmental care can be transferred to school children and successfully build their pro-environmental values through these connections.

"This may indicate strong opportunities for Australian Aboriginal tourism and education tourism," Mr Warren said.

The fun activities involved Julie Freeman, a member of the Wreck Bay Aboriginal Community who is a professional Koori storyteller and painter.

The learning exchange was further enhanced with the participation of Lara Claringbould, a UK university student on work experience who helped manage the project.

World Responsible Tourism Day is a United National World Tourism Organisation supported initiative to encourage and showcase responsible action by those involved in tourism to help make the world a better place.

Crystal Creek Meadow's activity was assessed by the WRTD organisers, having complied with the Cape Town Declaration for Responsible Tourism in destinations and was approved as best practice to become an official supporter.

Research has confirmed that individuals who have pro-environmental values also hold strong connectivity to nature, and are frequently positive thinkers.

What can contribute to pro-environmental values are life experiences within nature and this World Responsible Tourism Day project is being measured to determine if Aboriginal cultural systems are values which can be transferred to children while at the same time be stimulating tourism experiences.

Full findings incorporating the qualitative study will be published in March 2013.

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