06 March, 2024

The Hon. J.S. LEE (Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (15:50): I am excited to rise today to speak about Aboriginal tourism and more specifically to highlight an award-winning local tourism business, Kool Tours.

As Shadow Minister for Tourism and Hospitality, it is such a privilege to work with so many outstanding tourism operators offering unique and wonderful experiences to our local and overseas tourists. They are making wonderful contributions to our tourism industry and our local economy.

Aboriginal tourism is a growing industry and contributor to the South Australian economy. In the five-year period up to December 2019, there was an average annual growth rate of up to 5 per cent in expenditure in Aboriginal tourism year on year, and a 168 per cent increase in domestic overnight trips that included an Aboriginal tourism experience.

According to a 2021 report from the SA Tourism Commission for the year ending September 2020, $195 million was spent by visitors into Australia on Aboriginal experiences. The pre-COVID peak on Aboriginal tourism spent by visitors was $275 million, which shows that more can be done and there is a significant growth potential for this sector.

Today, I want to shine a spotlight on one of those Aboriginal tourism businesses. The business is called Kool Tours. I am sure Honourable Members will agree with me that it is pretty cool to have a business called Kool Tours, which is an adaptation of the surname of the business owner, Mark Koolmatrie.

Kool Tours was recognised as a back-to-back winner of the Tourism Industry Council SA Tourism Award for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Experiences category in 2022 and 2023. Mark was also awarded the KPMG Indigenous Land Management Award at the South Australian Landcare Awards. Through these awards, Mark and Kool Tours have been recognised for demonstrating authenticity and cultivating a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island culture, history and tradition.

I still remember the day I first met Mark. It was at one of the tourism awards events. I recall I was sitting on the same bench with Mark and his lovely wife. With Mark's rich cultural background, infectious smile, friendly personality and passionate attitude about his family business, I instantly became a fan.

Over the years, I have had the privilege to get to know Mark and meet many members of his wonderful family. Mark Koolmatrie is an original tribal man of southern South Australia, also referred to as Munkanboli, a clever person and a man of wisdom and knowledge.

Mark's origin is from the Kukabrak tribes of southern South Australia, now referred to as Ngarrindjeri. As the owner of Kool Tours, Mark and his team offer intimate group, coastal, scenic and cultural experiences on Ngarrindjeri country in the Fleurieu Peninsula of South Australia. Mark has used his profound knowledge based on his ancestors over thousands of years and also his spiritual connection to land and water to preserve the strength of his rich culture.

Mark also has a long-term association with the Conservation and Hunting Alliance of South Australia (CHASA). As a proud Ngarrindjeri leader, Mark is passionate about engaging Indigenous people and landholders in the process of relearning Indigenous values and land management practices and preserving a more resilient landscape for the future. Mark is dedicated to looking after Country and operating the old ways in the new world.

It was through the CHASA wild food fundraising dinner last year that Mark generously donated a prize, which consisted of a Coorong tour with him. With the enthusiastic bid of the Hon. David Speirs, the Leader of the Opposition, at that dinner, we were able recently to travel the Coorong with many Honourable Members from this House, and other Members as well.

I would like to take this opportunity to once again congratulate Mark Koolmatrie and Kool Tours for their contributions to South Australia and wish them all the best for a very bright future ahead.