Tourism Central Australia: The watchdog is a lapdog


“Tourism Central Australia are not in the position to make comment on Tourism NT spend.”
Well, blow me down. I thought this exactly what Tourism CA is meant to be doing, as the industry’s watchdog, its lobby, twister of the government’s arm, critic without fear or favour, fighting for what’s good, and battling against what’s bad for this private enterprise lifeblood of The Centre.
The answer came from Tourism CA general manager Jaclyn Thorne (pictured) in response to this question from the Alice Springs News Online: “If it had been the choice of Tourism CA, would it have spent the quarter of a million dollars on operational costs for the concerts at Ayers Rock Resort and Alice Springs, or the Mbantua Festival.”
And she added to her reply: “I can say that we support any financial assistance for events that drive tourism in the region.”
Whatever that may be, clearly. We’ve said it before, the watchdog is a lapdog.
Seasoned operators such as Steve Strike, who’s been involved for decades in the promotion of tourism, are lamenting its decline. At such a time the doormat role of the TCA is inexcusable.
Another long-time campaigner for the industry, who wants to remain anonymous (why?), says TCA is little more than a cocktail circuit fearful of offending Tourism NT lest is chops the massive financial subsidy it pays to TCA annually.
All this is happening as the NT government has spent $250,000 on the Darwin Symphony Orchestra’s tour while the Mbantua Festival still has no reply to its request to cover a shortfall, of exactly the same amount.
There is clearly room for a healthy debate here, but a debate in which the industry needs to be a vigorous and informed participant. However that’s not even on the agenda.
There are symphony orchestras all over the world. According Wikipedia’s “non-exhaustive list” there are 22 in Australia, nine in Turkey, six in New Zealand, five in Singapore, 14 in Japan, 14 in China, 34 in Canada, and so on. Some of the best are a mere hop away from the people we want to become our paying guests.
The test could be: Are Herr und Frau Huber going to get out of bed in Frankfurt and embark on a flight half way around the world to listen to the Darwin Symphony Orchestra?
Or are they more likely to do so in order to see a unique festival celebrating the world’s oldest living culture?
That’s the question the hundreds of members of TCA, who no doubt joined up to have a voice, were not asked. And they should be.
And their message, whatever it may be, should then be given to the government – in no uncertain terms.
PHOTO: Who conducts tourism promotion spending in the Territory? Matthew Wood leads the Darwin Symphony Orchestra at the concert in Alice Springs on Sunday.


  1. Forget this infighting. TCA must gain budget flight links – Darwin to Alice – and tourism will boom.

  2. I’m gob-smacked. Let’s not be too sectarian about who has responsibility for this. It’s a serious issue for the whole Territory and especially for those of us who live in the Centre. Make no mistake. No matter who is in power, the Berrima Line rules!
    Mbantua Festival provided NT Governments (Labor and Liberal) with plenty of time (4 years in fact) to back a genuinely unique Territory event. Instead – despite celebrating a Chief Minister and Minister for Tourism from Alice Springs – the decision-makers in Darwin determined what we should consume: A one-off event within the boundaries of the culture they understand.
    Yes, the DSO makes a big noise when they travel around, and good on them. But nothing can compare with the tradition and freshness on show at the Mbantua Festival 2013 – an event that ties us to this place and has the capacity to attract huge numbers in future years. One-off thinking v sustainable futures. Shame, Territorians, shame.

  3. The Mbantua Festival has great potential to be an iconic biennial event.
    Having witnessed the effort from the fringes (cooking meals for the cast of kids in the Bungalow Song) and the resultant crowds that the festival attracted I can only say this is an event that should be nurtured.
    It is deserving of strong financial support.
    There are economic benefits for Central Australia.
    Finally it is an opportunity to showcase the wealth of talent residing in our young people.


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