Tourism, cattle tycoons, here’s your chance



The best way towards Closing the Gap is trading oneself out of misery. Start a business. Get into the fast lane.

That, in a nutshell, is the view of Bobby Abbott and partner Mary Tupou (at right). They are already on their way, as the managers of the Ormiston Gorge caravan park and coffee shop, and have recently acquired a business in Alice Springs.

But Mr Abbott says despite the assets his clan can put on the table, via their Taarna Enterprises Aboriginal Corporation, investors are not beating a path to their door: Approaches to two major corporations, one in tourism and one in cattle, have yet to be replied to.

Mr Abbott, member of a prominent Western Arrernte family, and Ms Tupou say the essential by-product of launching into enterprises is creating a self-reliant future for young Aboriginal people.

Pastoralism is a job about which many Indigenous people speak with pride: They or their ancestors, in less than a generation, became some of the world’s best ringers.

So what does the corporation have to offer?

A freehold location, almost 100 hectares, in the magnificent West MacDonnell Ranges national park, a few hundred metres south of the sealed road to Glen Helen resort, which is 20 km to the west. Ormiston Gorge is some 20 km to the north.

A hill, earmarked for a six star hotel (modesty isn’t in Mr Abbott’s vocabulary), offers a view to iconic Mt Sonder.

And most important asset, says Mr Abbott, is a cohort of young people determined to break the dependence on generations-long welfare.

What’s needed, as Mr Abbott sees it, is to replace the hypocritical approach to developing Indigenous commerce: “You call a meeting. You transport people there. You pay meeting fees. You take a photo from behind. You serve lunch. Nothing happens.”

PHOTO at top: It’s a small start but it’s a start: Containers and a row of tents are in place at the site for which Bobby Abbott and partner Mary Tupou have big plans: It all will start with a pottery and ceramics studio with a kiln where Aboriginal artists will work and sell their creations. Below: The view to Mt Sonder.


  1. This sounds like exactly the kind of venture capital opportunity that the NT Aboriginal Investment Corporation was created to support.
    “Our purpose is to work with Aboriginal Territorians to achieve economic, social and cultural impact through innovative approaches to investments.
    “Our Vision: Working together to build sustainable investments, through growing jobs and businesses, strengthening cultural maintenance and progressing self-determination to create wealth for our future generations of Aboriginal people living in the Northern Territory.”
    See here.

  2. This enterprise is the tip of the iceberg. One of the TOs at Kiwirkurra told me long ago that he saw the boom in cross country tourism and wanted to put in a service station to service that market.
    Don’t know what happened to that, if anything.
    Another at Mullan wanted to put in a tourism facility along the same lines. Another at Wallace Rockhole wanted a bush food showpiece, and there are probably more similar stories.
    The cold hard facts are that commercial enterprises like these do not appeal to conventional lenders and seldom see the light of day.
    Yet the Indigenous trust funds seem to be rolling in money which only emerges on pay days. An indigenous Development Bank using these funds and governed by Indigenous people such as happens in other parts of the world seems to have possibilities, rather than shopping centres on crowded urban centres such as he have here.


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