Koomal Dreaming operator Josh Whiteland honoured with Individual Excellence in Aboriginal Tourism Award

Warren HatelyAugusta Margaret River Times
Koomal Dreaming's Josh Whiteland has received another top honour in his 24-year tourism journey.
Camera IconKoomal Dreaming's Josh Whiteland has received another top honour in his 24-year tourism journey. Credit: Supplied/RegionalHUB

Indigenous Yallingup tourism operator Josh Whiteland has scored big at the State’s premier tourism awards.

The Koomal Dreaming owner was named the winner of the Individual Excellence in Aboriginal Tourism Award at a gala event on June 11.

It was part of the Perth Airport WA Tourism Conference dinner in Mandurah, with judges describing Whiteland as an exceptional individual, with an exemplary commitment to preserving and sharing his culture.

Part of that commitment included Mr Whiteland’s work with the Margaret River-Busselton Tourism Association’s Capes Foundation and its Ancient Lands Experience, unveiled last year at Ngilgi Cave as part of a $3.6 million upgrade to the precinct.

But the real recognition was for a tourism journey of 24 years in a difficult industry, Mr Whiteland told the Times.

“I feel honoured and privileged for the contribution to Aboriginal tourism in WA, especially in the South West,” he said.

“When I started there was no one else doing it down here.

“Tourism has always been a bit of a challenge. We’ve seen that with COVID-19. We persevered. We diversified our business in tourism that included other things — art, craft food, and other things.”

Mr Whiteland said his approach was about providing a total experience for visitors.

“We’re quite passionate about that, exposing them to all of the elements and the local culture — the culture we grew up with,” he said.

The Koomal Dreaming experience includes traditional recipes, songs and dance ceremonies Mr Whiteland has maintained as part of his Indigenous heritage.

Along the way his business has integrated with the community and offered support and sponsorship to a range of other groups.

“You’ve really got to drive your tourism business,” he said.

“You can’t look for anyone else to (help you) succeed.”

Mr Whiteland was already recognised in tourism’s Hall of Fame and won the prestigious Sir David Brand Medal in 2005.

WA Indigenous Tourism Operators Council chief executive Robert Taylor said Mr Whiteland beat a strong field of candidates.

“The calibre of some of the people who were interviewed (for the award) was very high,” he said.

“Josh has obviously been around for a very long time and he’s very seasoned. He’s worked hard with the local community and MRBTA to put that in place with the Capes Foundation.

“It’s a world-class product for the Capes region.”

Get the latest news from thewest.com.au in your inbox.

Sign up for our emails