House debates

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Constituency Statements

Forde Electorate: Spirits of the Red Sand

10:03 am

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The electorate of Forde is home to the Spirits of the Red Sand, an Indigenous experience that embodies a dream more than 20 years in the making for co-founders, cultural elder Eddie Ruska and creative storyteller Mike Tamaki. Uncle Eddie Ruska, a proud descendant and elder of the Yuggera, Nunukul and Yugambeh people, has spent the last 22 years keeping his cultural alive through arts and entertainment programs for at-risk youth and many who have encountered the juvenile justice system.

Co-founder Mike Tamaki has over 30 years experience in tourism and travel, including the founding and management of a Tamaki Maori Village in New Zealand, delivering a cultural experience to more than 40,000 visitors annually. His knowledge and experience in balancing local community values, cultural integrity and the commercial realities have been widely recognised as a prototype for sustainable Indigenous tourism businesses, garnering awards, including the Supreme Tourism Award and the prestigious Sir Paul Harris Award.

Together they identified that there was a lack of availability of consistent and authentic day and evening Indigenous cultural experiences within the South-East Queensland region and set out to develop Australia's most comprehensive interactive educational Australian and Indigenous heritage cultural venue within the region, with the goal of securing sustainable, Indigenous employment and the empowerment of Indigenous people.

Located in Beenleigh, this three-year-old private and Indigenous owned small business is a trailblazer within the tourism and entertainment industry. Racking up awards left, right and centre, they are most recently the No. 1 must do Queensland experience as voted by the RACQ members, and they won the bronze award at the Queensland Tourism Awards for the best Indigenous experience. They currently offer cultural educational programs for schools and universities, cultural understanding programs for organisations, team-building events and function spaces along with tours that express the diversity of the Indigenous culture, attracting locals and international visitors alike. They are home to the largest variety of bush tucker plants in South-East Queensland. The Spirits of the Red Sand are continually growing and expanding their product offering and are now developing a world-class digital platform combined with augmented and virtual reality experiences, taking the visitor experience to new depths of cultural education and immersion.

Importantly, their story is one driven by the mission of empowering Indigenous people and providing sustainable economic development and employment opportunities for their community. Currently, 96 per cent of their employees are Indigenous, and they have a fully paid trading and hospitality program. (Time expired)