$650m plan to showcase indigenous culture
A $650 million development proposed to be built on the Burswood Peninsula promises to solve the fundamental problem with Western Australian tourism by bringing the state’s most unique indigenous experiences and natural attractions to the inner city.
Unveiled to the public this week, the Australian Biome proposal would reduce the need for visitors to travel long distances to experience the state's best attractions.
Drawing inspiration from the Eden Project in Cornwall and Singapore's Gardens by the Bay, the proposal comprises three large dome structures showcasing the unique climates and biodiversity of WA, with each dome connected by gallery walkways and virtual reality theatres which will display Dreamtime creation stories, traditional lifestyles and Aboriginal art.
Media projection and LED lighting will be utilised to simulate the six seasons of the Nyoongar calendar inside the domes, while a 1.3 kilometre elevated walkway will link the project to Optus Stadium, Crown Perth and transport infrastructure.
The proposal also includes an amphitheatre for concerts and performing arts, walk trails and sculpture installations.
Australian Biome chair Terry Dewar, who has been developing the concept for several years, said the project had been embraced by Aboriginal elders across the state.
“In a nutshell, it’s the oldest culture in the world meeting the latest technology,” Mr Dewar told Business News.
“We have been engaged by every Aboriginal group, right across the state, which is really good.
“For 60,000 years, this is the first time they’ve decided to work together.
“They’re excited because the project is about sustainability, it’s about recognition and it’s about sharing of culture.
“Aboriginal people are about sharing culture and sharing what their knowledge is.
“They just haven’t had the platform to be able to do that properly across the board in a sustainable, commercial-type environment.
"This is something that they are really excited about joining in and getting involved with - that’s the beautiful part.”
Mr Dewar said the Australian Biome Project team had been working closely with the state government, with Tourism Minister Paul Papalia recommending the Burswood Peninsula as the ideal place for the project’s development.
He said the biome model would provide international visitors to Perth a unique window into Australian indigenous culture, with all edible plants grown in the biodomes to be utilised in a range of restaurants and food outlets incorporated in the development.
All food products at the Australian Biodome would also engage indigenous businesses throughout the supply chain, Mr Dewar said.
“By creating this biome model, first and foremost it connects the environment with Aboriginal culture,” he said.
“To understand how Aboriginal people have lived and survived for 60,000 years is to understand the culture.
“The connection of environment with Aboriginal culture is key.”
Project spokesperson Adam Barnard, who recently sold his stake in WA's largest tour operator, ADAMS Group, and had intended to retire until presented with the opportunity to be involved with the Australian Biome team, said the project would be a significant boost to WA tourism.
“It’s like nothing we’ve ever seen before, there’s been a lot of talk lately about tourism, and it’s been about 25 years since we’ve had a significant tourism development,” Mr Barnard told Business News.
“There are a lot of smaller things that are getting knocked back continuously, but if we want to really activate the state or diversify the economy, then we’re going to need a large attraction.
“We have problems keeping people entertained for long enough while they are here, because they just can’t get to the regions in the timeframe that they have.
“If you look at an Asian visitor, five days is the most you’re going to get out of them, which is not enough time to get them to disperse, but then there are not enough things for them to do in Perth.
“What we are proposing to create is on a global scale and an attraction that can actually, in its own right, attract people to Perth.
“If we get that, we really are talking potentially tens of thousands of jobs in the supply chain and the associated economic bonanza it would bring the state.”
Mr Barnard said the biome would be funded entirely by the private sector, with the state government helping to facilitate its development and also to provide the Burswood Peninsula land.
“Given the economic return that this would provide for the state, this would be an extraordinary multiplier," Mr Barnard said.
“We need the land to make something like this happen, but the return would be an economic bonanza for the state and really diversify us in the event of a global iron ore shock or something like that.”
Mr Barnard said the Australian Biome team had been in contact with several parties interested in contributing to its development cost.
“We are already in contact with businesses such as Google, Elon Musk, those contacts have already been made,” he said.
“If we build it, every single person in this state will benefit from the jobs that will be created.
“There would be a significant amount of economic activity if we build something that’s world class, everyone in business would benefit from this infrastructure.
“We need help to get this done, but if everybody rallies behind it, we’ll finally get something built here.”