What Australia means to me
“If you’re looking for space, this is the place,” says Colette Baini, Director of Australia Conferences and Incentives.
When I talk about what I love about being Australian, I think about our indefatigable mateship: wherever you go there’s a warmth, there’s a friendliness. I think it’s forged from living in what can be one of the harshest – but also one of the most beautiful – places on Earth. There’s a seriousness to living here, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. And we’re all in it together in Australia – it’s what mates do for each other.
Visitors to Australia get to experience our mateship too. One of the most fun things for visitors in Australia is encountering Aussies – there’s always someone telling a good “yarn”; always some funny Aussie vernacular that captures a story that’s taken place during the day. All of that pulls the idea of mateship together. We drop our guard with each other, we have a chat with the bloke sitting next to us.
In the events industry, we have a responsibility to present those opportunities for connection to international visitors. We can control their environment to ensure that they get that sense of mateship, camaraderie, belonging and connectedness with Australians. We select the program, we schedule their time and position them in places where a step outside their door is a great encounter, whether it be stepping out into history somewhere like The Rocks in Sydney, or stepping out into the middle of the outback at some spectacular location.
The best operators in Australia are making sure that every opportunity is a chance to connect – with everyone and everything, from the chef to the food, the wine and the landscapes – so there are no boring bus trips, only quintessential Australian experiences at every turn. Alongside that, it’s our Aussie characters, the people we encounter on these journeys and the ones we put forward to tell their stories, who are holding it all together. They give meaning to our landscapes.
We often use Sydney and our major architectural icons and urban centres to attract people to Australia but it’s when we take them outside the cities to experience nature that many of the connections happen. Visitors have an expectation of Sydney Harbour and it always delivers, but taking incentive customers up to Mossman Gorge in the Daintree Rainforest in North Queensland and connecting them with an aboriginal guide in that spiritual place – it’s deep stuff and it has a profound impact.
Tropical North Queensland is just such a big hit of a destination. Visitors come for the Great Barrier Reef but while they’re there, we include that Indigenous experience at Mossman Gorge, and then to totally blow their minds, we take them through the rainforest to a sugarcane farm where a whip-cracker will set alight a sugarcane field and as a beautiful drape of sugar goes up in flames the evening’s dinner table is revealed beyond. You need to have private properties big enough for these kinds of spectacular moments of theatre and North Queensland has that. I’ve never seen it done anywhere else in the world.
COVID-19 is going to change how we do things, but Australia has in spades something that’s so important right now: if you’re looking for space, this is the place.
We already embrace our space. Sharing this philosophy with the rest of the world is our privilege and our responsibility.