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The 35th Brolga Awards demonstrated that the Northern Territory's tourism operators are bouncing back from the covid pandemic with gusto.

Twenty five businesses, organisations and individuals were crowned winners – and 20 now go to the Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. 

Two Aboriginal-owned experiences were among the winners. 

Katherine-based Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery won the Business Growth award and Standley Chasm Angkerle Atwatye took out the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism trophy. 

Aboriginal tourism visitors contribute about $218 million to the Territory economy each year and the market is expected to grow as the NT Government strives for a $40 billion economy by 2030. 

Distinctive Aboriginal cultural tourism experience is a priority of the Territory’s Tourism Industry Strategy 2030, which sets the direction of tourism in the NT for the next 10 years. 

The drive to increase Indigenous tourism delights Manuel Pamkal of the Top Didj Cultural Experience and Art Gallery. 

Visitors to the gallery enjoy hearing him talk about Aboriginal life and listen to him play the didgeridoo, known by Yolgnu people in Arnhem Land as the yidaki or mako. 

Manuel says Australians are becoming more interested in Aboriginal culture because they realise that they don’t truly know the country’s history. 

“Now more than ever, tourists are seeking out places where they can learn about the world’s oldest continuous living culture. 

“There are many ways Indigenous people can showcase their culture in a respectful way. 

“Awareness training programs, designed and delivered by Aboriginal people, give participants a brief introduction and understanding of a traditional Aboriginal lifestyle, as well as hands-on learning, which gives tourists a broader understanding of Aboriginal ways of living and cultural practices on their country. 

“Indigenous tourism is a crucial part of improving the outcomes of Indigenous Australians through educating tourists about culture, as well as providing meaningful employment and a sense of purpose for young Indigenous people.