Abstract: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander involvement in tourism has developed to become an important, although small, part of the tourism sector in Australia. Engagement in tourism is an avenue for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in remote regions to build independent and sustainable economic opportunities on country. This thesis examines the networking activities that underpin the facilitation and development of Aboriginal tourism in remote regions of Australia at the level of the enterprise. The research draws on the expertise and knowledge of two Aboriginal tourism enterprises, investigating the nature of business networks for Aboriginal tourism enterprises in remote Australia. The research explores the kinds of networks used by small remote Aboriginal tourism enterprises, and in what ways the networks contribute to the resilience of the enterprises. The study draws from business networking theory and organisational resilience theory, arguing that networking is key to organisational resilience and worthy of investigation. A qualitative case study approach was adopted, consistent with a shift towards interpretive approaches within tourism scholarship. This was informed by the selection of a constructivist epistemology, that acknowledges the subjectivity of the social reality of the human world. The research design was also informed by the Indigenist research paradigm by explicitly privileging Indigenous voices, acknowledging the non-Indigenous worldview of the researcher, and following protocols advocated by Indigenous scholars. Two case studies were undertaken, with Iga Warta in the northern Flinders Ranges and with Kelly’s Ranch in Tennant Creek. Both enterprises offer cultural tourism products in addition to other non-tourism business activity, yet these case studies operate dissimilar business models in distinct remote locales. Therefore, the case studies were not comparable as they represent the experiences of two enterprises in different circumstances. The findings of the research reveal that these two enterprises maintain networks at a local, state, national and international level, within three distinct systems G the tourism system, the wider business system and the cultural system. In addition, networks vary in strength and bring different combinations of resources to the enterprise that include monetary benefit, information and social support. The enterprises often select business relationships that are supported by a shared understanding predicated on a wide range of shared interests and experiences. In addition, the enterprises maintain networks by adopting multiple ‘hats’ and ‘identities’, navigating various systems simultaneously. This offers further evidence to support previous research that suggests that Aboriginal business people are more inclusive than competitive, and that networking is a process embedded in Aboriginal culture. Networks contribute to the resilience of the enterprises by enhancing the longevity and adaptability of the enterprises through connection to learning opportunities, information, new visitor channels, and professional development. Yet, withdrawal or absence of networks can challenge enterprises to seek out new networks to access these resources. Various forms of capital also emerge as sources of resilience for the enterprises, including social capital, identity capital and cultural capital. The prevalence of business networking activity that exists within the cultural system of these case studies indicates that the cultural capital inherent in these relationships supports a range of productive business activity, anathema to previous research that cultural capital may not support commercial enterprise. The implications stemming from this research for small remote Aboriginal tourism enterprises are that there are a diverse range of tourism and non-tourism networking options can be a source of resilience, particularly when enterprises are adaptive and take risks. Furthermore, when available, local networks and connections with other Aboriginal tourism enterprises can offer unique benefits. Future research and support mechanisms can facilitate the networking and resilience of remote Aboriginal tourism enterprises by recognising culture and cooperative networking as a strength and source of resilience.
Research Notes: Tourism