Lonely Planet Writer

'Empowerment tourism' company launches Indigenous culture tours in North Queensland

Empowerment tourism’ company Hands on Journeys have introduced a new immersive Cairns and Port Douglas tour that combines sightseeing with Indigenous culture among North Queensland’s ancient landscapes.

Hands on Journeys launch cultural tours of North Queensland
Simla Sooboodoo, Hands on Journeys founder. Photo courtesy of Hands on Journeys

Established in 2015, Hands on Journeys currently runs empowerment tourism tours to Cambodia, Vietnam and India, but founder Simla Sooboodoo said integrating regions of Australia was always on the cards for the group. “Launching the empowerment tourism concept in Australia was a natural progression for Hands on Journeys,” Sooboodoo said.

Empowerment tourism differs from ‘voluntourism’. Travellers in developing countries are often faced with the reality of people living in poverty and lacking the kinds of opportunity most travellers take for granted. Most can’t help feeling sorry, but don’t know what they can do personally to help.

Hands on Journeys will soon launch tours of Port Douglas
Port Douglas will feature in the new tours. Photo courtesy of Hands on Journeys

Hands on Journeys founder Simla Sooboodoo, explains “as outsiders, it’s not up to us to tell these communities what they need. Our privilege tells us otherwise, but that’s the reality. Therefore, we ask questions, we open a dialogue, and we listen,” she said. “Empowerment is about handing on skills, knowledge and tools. The end focus has to be how these communities and people survive and grow without help. Whether that is through job creation, a helping hand or ongoing support over a pre-planned set of time – the end result must be the same.”

The latest offering in regional Australia intends to both celebrate and work with Indigenous communities bringing something unique and special to market. The tour, which will span five days and four nights will focus on empowering local Indigenous communities whilst learning about the local history and culture in world-class tourism sites, including the Great Barrier Reef and Mossman Gorge.

Tours of Mossman Gorge will begin in November
Mossman Gorge. Photo courtesy of Hands on Journeys

The Indigenous immersion is predominantly through spending time with local communities, learning to cook traditional fare, and learning about the culture. Simla has personally met each and every individual from these communities and been granted permission by the Elders to bring tours to their lands. Everything is carried out with respect and gratitude in mind. “I’m extremely proud that this tour not only showcases the natural beauty of the region, but also introduces people to our magnificent Indigenous culture,” she said.

The first Australian tour launches on Saturday 18 November.