Today we are introducing you to Annie, the small business owner of Dabungool Cultural Experiences, which offers guided tours, tag along tours and cultural awareness to locals, tourists and schools in Esperance WA.
Annie and her two daughters first ran cultural tours over their country as a free NAIDOC Week event in 2021 to celebrate Noongar culture. They were overwhelmed by the support and interest in their tours, particularly by locals who had lived in the area for decades. Along with her daughters and a helping hand from her grandchildren, Annie started Dabungool Cultural Experiences to continue sharing her culture and country.
“Shaun, my Many Rivers business coach, has helped us sort out the business plan and get our ideas out of our head and onto paper so that we could see our future mapped out so we can go there. He shows us the responsibilities of owning a business.”
Read more about Annie’s business journey with Dabungool Cultural Experiences.
It’s called the Babunool Cultural Experiences. Bobunool is my grandfather’s name. He is a very important person among the Noongar people, and he worked for the pioneering people. He is our hero, and it is like he paved the way for us. We offer three types of services: guided tours, tag along tours and cultural awareness.
We work with the people who want to come on a tour to decide what time to run the tours. We don’t have set times, whenever it suits them. If they have a vehicle, we tell them where to meet and then there is an hour and a half walk and talk that my daughters take them on. They show them the plants and their uses as medicine and food. We talk about Noongar name and what that means.
As they walk and show them the plants, they tell them the Noongar name and the scientific name. If they have time, they tell a dreamtime story, the European history and my family’s history. We talk about the islands around here too because they are important to our people.
We do activities with the schools whenever they call us in. We even had a couple of schools that came in from Kalgoorlie to go on a tour. At local schools, we bring in some ingredients and make bush medicines with the kids such as hand lotions and oils. They love it! Another time we made little dampers with the kids and got Australian cut out animals.
Starting Dabungool Cultural Experiences
I used to work in a hostel, but I haven’t worked for a while. Both my daughters moved back to Esperance, and we had a chat about how we could do something for NAIDOC Week, and now it’s turned into a business.
My brother and I grew up in the bush and lived off the land. My passion came from what my brother taught me, and I have taught my children and grandchildren. There wasn’t much in Esperance that did tours that acknowledged the culture and land here, so that is what we wanted to do. We have found that there are a lot of people who are getting more and more interested in the Aboriginal culture and the Indigenous way of life.
The business idea came about during NAIDOC Week. The locals have a march with the Shire, and the schools will hold some events. But apart from that, not much else happens to celebrate NAIDOC Week. Last year, we decided to take the locals who were interested in a free tour of our country to celebrate NAIDOC Week. We teamed up with another community group. It was open to everyone in the community who wanted to come along. Whoever wanted to come could just rock up. We saw how successful it was and realised there was an opportunity to turn this experience into a tour.
Last week we a local who had lived here for years, and she asked for a tour, and she was so surprised to find out that a plant she thought was a weed was actually native. It is great to be able to teach more locals about our culture.
Working with Many Rivers
Shaun has helped us sort out the business plan and get our ideas out of our head and onto paper so that we could see our future mapped out so we can go there. He shows us the responsibilities of owning a business. He even helped us to apply for a Many Rivers loan. Starting a business is very daunting. We had the idea there but taking that first step to start creating it is very scary.
Shaun explains things in plain English that makes sense to new business owners.
My two daughters work for me, and three grandkids are in training. We had one grandson who was working with us, but he has another job now too. We work Monday to Sunday, so the kids will help us out on Saturdays with the tours and taking photos. We are very family-focused.
We get a lot of support and locals referring us, which makes this easier now. However, just getting started and knowing whether we are doing the right thing is really challenging. My personal biggest challenge is the arthritis in my hip which is why I am so thankful that my daughters can do the walk.
We got offered an office at the Cannery in Esperance. There are art exhibitions there; people go there to teach cooking, do art. We moved in last week at we have ocean views! They were hearing a lot about what we have done. Last year we reached out to them during NAIDOC Week to see whether they were doing anything. They were not so they asked us what we would like to do. We bought in some boomerangs, and lots of young kids came in to paint them and take them home.
As all families, we can have our disagreements, but we work through that because we started this so that when I am gone, there is something here for my children and the next generation. Because I grew up in the bush, I love being out there and teaching people. My two daughters have nine children between them, so they have also had to learn how to balance the business and home life. We must work around who is available.
Future Goals for Dabungool Cultural Experiences
I would love to have our own 12-seater bus so that we could pick up people who don’t have vehicles to go on tours. We aim to break down barriers and stereotypes and show what non-Indigenous people can do and our culture.
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