Haydyn Bromley Interview - First Nations Cultural Tours at Adelaide Fringe

Wed, Feb 7 2024
As we gear up for the Adelaide Fringe 2024, an event celebrated for its vibrancy and diversity, we are thrilled to spotlight an extraordinary component that promises to enrich the experience of attendees ahead of Fringe, the First Nations Cultural Tours. Spearheaded by Haydyn Bromley, Co-Executive Director of Bookabee Australia and a seasoned educator with a profound commitment to Aboriginal Cultural Awareness and Respect, these tours are an invitation to journey through the heart of Australia's First Peoples' heritage. Check out our interview with Haydyn about his involvement with the Adelaide Fringe First Nations Cultural Tours.
Haydyn Bromely stands on the right with his hand in the air. He stands in front of pink background.
2022 Adelaide Fringe Awards Ceremony. Photo: Daniel Marks, Adelaide Fringe 2022
Haydyn, can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
As the Co-Executive Director of Bookabee Australia, I bring to the role a background as a qualified teacher with almost 40 years of experience in the field of education. Together with my partner, Lele Sanderson who is also a former teacher, we founded Bookabee Australia two decades ago with the aim of offering Aboriginal Cultural Tourism Experiences and delivering top-notch services in Aboriginal Cultural Awareness and Respect. Whilst our focus has been South Australia, we offer these services nationwide. At Bookabee, we cater to a diverse clientele, providing highly sought-after Aboriginal Cultural immersion experiences.

What can participants expect from the First Nations cultural tours at Adelaide Botanic Garden ahead of Fringe 2024?

Participants will enjoy a 45-minute Aboriginal Cultural Experience, during which they will be guided through the Adelaide Botanic Garden. Highly experienced Aboriginal Tour Guides will share insightful knowledge about the native plants found throughout the garden at various designated sites.

As a guide, how do you prepare to share the rich spiritual and cultural heritage of First Nations people with the participants of the tour?

Preparation for engaging in Aboriginal Cultural Immersion Experiences has been informed by a lifetime of living and engaging across the Aboriginal Community. We have shared cultural experiences as a regular part of life with our children and we ensure that they are equipped with the skills and knowledge to share Aboriginal Culture with all the respect it is due. As we have extensive lived experience, preparation comes naturally and engaging with participants who appreciate Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge make the tour even more rewarding.

Drawing from a lifetime of living and actively participating within the Aboriginal community, our readiness for immersive Aboriginal Cultural Experiences is deeply rooted. Integrating cultural exchanges into our daily lives, we have instilled in our children the essential skills and knowledge to convey Aboriginal Culture with utmost respect. Our extensive lived experience makes preparation second nature, and interacting with participants who value Aboriginal Cultural Knowledge enhances the gratification of the tour.

Could you explain the importance of the Welcome or Acknowledgement of Country that begins each tour, and what it symbolises for both the participants and the First Nations community?

This is an involved and complex question, and it is difficult to answer it briefly. It is a common misconception that Welcome to/Acknowledgement of Country Ceremonies started sometime in the 1980s. This is incorrect and negates 10s’ of 1000s’ of years engagement of practice of cultural protocols on our Traditional Custodial Land’s. As part of our day-to-day life, Custodians would regularly greet travellers from other regions with hospitality. Traditional protocol deemed that when people came to country (our traditional custodial lands), they were greeted and through ceremony, made aware of the rules and expectations of the land. This is not unlike many other First Nations Peoples around the world.

Traditional Custodians deliver “Welcome to Country” ceremonies, whilst visitors reciprocate with “Acknowledgement of Country”. With the passing of time, and the onset of colonisation, many traditional practices have been discouraged, lost, and destroyed. In the absence of cultural traditions, today we’ve seen an evolution in cultural practice, and this has resulted in the delivery of Acknowledgement of Country at the commencement of many events and gatherings, including the start of our tours.

During the tour, you'll be exploring native plants and bush tucker. How do these elements reflect the relationship between First Nations people and the land?

First Nations Peoples’ have long enjoyed a unique and intimate relationship with the land. For millennia, we have engaged with, and read and interpreted the land like the backs of our hands. We understand the seasons, movement of animals, ripening of seasonal plants and foods, and where and how to find all manner of resources. Understanding the land as we did enable Aboriginal People to assert that we are the longest continuously lying cultures on Earth, a title that no other culture can assert. The relationship is enhanced by our thorough knowledge of the world around us hence giving us access to a multitude of resources the like of which are beyond comprehension today.

The tour includes an exploration of the social history of Australia's First Peoples. Can you share something with us now that gives some insight into what attendees to the cultural tours can expect?

As the First Nations of this land, we have endured, survived, and thrived in the face of adversary. For millennia, we enjoyed a utopian culture and societies that were governed by strict adherence to Traditions and Cultural Protocol. These related to many things, including but not limited to kinship and marriage, lore and custom, community and society, and traditional business and trade. Understanding ones’ position within a community is important to demonstrate cultural respect. Since occupation, First Nations peoples have suffered a detrimental impact from colonisation. It has frustrated our ability to build capacity and stand on an equal footing with others in community. This and more are often shared during our Bookabee Tours.

Are there interactive elements or hands-on experiences included in the tour? How do these help in engaging the participants more deeply with Aboriginal culture?

Our Aboriginal tour guides are experienced at catering for diverse audiences and participants. They ensure all people are welcomed warmly and make every effort to ensure that the route taken suits the mobility and accessibility needs of the participant group. This includes redirecting routes to cater for inclement weather conditions.

Is there a particular aspect of the tour that you find most impactful or meaningful, either personally or culturally?

The aspect I enjoy the most is watching participants warm to the information being shared and through the discussion, seeing them shift in their perspective to accommodate this new information that they are processing. Knowing we are developing allis as assisting them with knowledge is reward in itself.

What do you hope participants will take away from these tours? Is there a particular message or understanding you aim to impart?

The simplest message that I would like participants to take away is that we are not the menace to society that the establishment has portrayed us as. We have endured many hardships and despite this, we are still looking for the positives and still hoping for the best. I hope participants leave with a sense of confidence in knowing that they can break the silence and allies with us in support of a more equitable and just future.

What are some of the challenges in accurately and respectfully representing Aboriginal culture in a short tour format, and how do you address these challenges?

The biggest challenge is overcoming participants' pre-conceived notions of Aboriginal people. Sometimes a short tour format doesn’t give enough scope to establish a rapport with participants that is strong enough to enable the participant to feel safe to ask the awkward question. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to assist them to open-up.

What advice would you give to someone attending the Aboriginal cultural tour for the first time to ensure they have a meaningful experience?
  • Be mindful of the sensitivities of the Tour Guide and others in the group;
  • Be prepared to ask questions, but be thoughtful when asking them;
  • Avoid using deficit terminology that may offend the Tour Guide or other participants: NO Aboriginal person warms to the term Aborigine for example.
  • Be polite and attentive.
  • Be aware that there are over 600 distinctly unique groups of Aboriginal Peoples who occupied this land before colonisation. For this reason, there may be multiple ways that information may be shared and what you have heard from one Aboriginal person may be different to what you may hear from another. Neither is right or wrong, they are just culturally different.
  • If it turns out to be ‘not your cup of tea’ don’t spoil it for others, dismiss yourself without making a scene and move away quietly.