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The ABC of Indigenous travel

By Stephen Hagan - posted Friday, 12 May 2006

How was your Easter long weekend?

To travel or not to travel? For once that question was answered for me as I drove past the BP, Shell and Caltex Service Stations en route to work during the week leading up to the four-day public holiday. A remarkably consistent price of $1.25 per litre for unleaded petrol, ten cents more in southern states, was a far bigger hurdle to ascend for my family than the fear of joining the rat race on the nation’s highways.

Mind you I would loved to have packed up the Commodore and headed west but thought it more prudent to save money by entertaining the family at home, watching new video releases or old classics (Casablanca and Walkabout are still my favourites) after the morning gardening and kicking the footy around, than contribute to the rapidly increasing profits of oil moguls.


As a baby boomer, with a generation X wife and generation Y children, I certainly know the value of budgeting for holidays as well as culturally significant events; funerals and cultural gatherings. Even though my wife and I are both middle income earners, we limit our holiday destinations within the state of Queensland and wouldn’t let our holiday deliberations entertain interstate treks or trips abroad, such is the exorbitant cost of travel.

So what are these generation X and Y categories that I speak of and how do Indigenous Australians stack up against these mainstream identifier tags when discussing travel interests?

Borrowing “generation” lines from the free onboard Qantas magazine, March 2006 edition, I was able to come up with some interesting statistics. Under the title Generation Global; Where we go and how we get there, I read with interest a recent travel survey of the four distinct categories; the seniors, the baby boomers, generation X and generation Y, on whom marketing executives spend millions selling their products.

The seniors (grey nomads), born before 1945, are today’s retirees on a pension or living off their generous, but hard earned, superannuation. Having raised their families, seniors are now out and about touring the country in their 4WD motorhomes, enjoying the sun and intoxicating themselves with high spirit adventures into Australia’s expansive natural wonderland; outdoor cultural iconic star gazing. Many commentators have queried the self indulgent ways of today’s seniors who, it would appear, are spending their savings and not leaving much, in the form of an inheritance, for their children.

As for Indigenous seniors, those who exceed the ABS longevity age limit of 59 years for men and 65 years for women, most are still living in rented accommodation or pensioner quarters and have no superannuation to speak of. The only superannuation many of our elders are likely to see for their backbreaking work as stockmen and domestics in the rural sector, during their work history, is the paltry sum of $4,000: payment by governments (Queensland in particular) for recompense for wages stolen.

Most do not own a vehicle, let alone a $100,000-plus, lavish, self-contained and technologically equipped, 4WD motorhome, to wander from one sunset to another. Instead many Indigenous elders travel sparingly within their state on railway pension passes to spend a couple of weeks with family members who have left their home towns for a better future.


The baby boomers (born 1946-1964) are a generation that strive for personal gratification and see travel as education, indulging particular passions or fulfilling lifelong dreams. They are generally optimistic, self-sufficient travellers, being 20 per cent more likely than other age groups to rent a serviced flat, house or tropical villa. Cashed-up, they are prime drivers of cultural tourism, but at the same time are more likely than other generations to take a holiday purely for rest and relaxation. Bushwalks, wildlife and the beach all feature prominently in their travel plans.

Indigenous baby boomers did not get a head start in life by inheriting their parent’s wealth; there was none, and instead continue to struggle today to make ends meet with liabilities exceeding income. Many Indigenous baby boomers are too preoccupied raising their grandchildren, while their children are away having a good time, to even think of indulging themselves in a vacation away from home.

The best many of them would have expected over Easter was a short trip to the outskirts of town to throw a line in at their favourite fishing hole or a walk to their “local” to enjoy a couple of beers and a flutter on the TAB and pokies. Others less financial may have been happy to throw a lamb chop in the frying pan for a quick snack before settling down in the lounge to watch their favourite footy team compete. Sadly, there are others who sit on their front porch and stare into the far horizon waiting - and waiting - unsuccessfully for family members to visit.

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Article edited by Chris Smith.
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About the Author

Stephen Hagan is Editor of the National Indigenous Times, award winning author, film maker and 2006 NAIDOC Person of the Year.

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