Officials are open to suggestions on how criteria for a South Australian-based Aboriginal business tourism award could be improved after questions were raised about the matter.
Chief executive officer of the Tourism Industry Council of South Australia Shaun de Bruyn spoke about the situation when contacted by Australian Community Media, publisher of this newspaper.
"Can the criteria be improved? I am sure it can be," he said.
"We don't believe there are issues, but we are all about improving the criteria."
He said that the council and its national parent body were ready to work with South Australian indigenous leader Mark Koolmatrie and others to develop the qualifications for entry to the award.
The awards now represent businesses that deliver Aboriginal cultural experiences with a substantial amount of Aboriginal input and the criteria was set by the national parent body.
The Australian Tourism Awards are the country's peak tourism industry awards program - recognising and promoting excellence in tourism.
Established by the federal government in 1984, the commendations are owned and managed by the Australian Tourism Industry Council which partners the tourism industry body in each state and territory to deliver the program nationally.
Australian Tourism Awards Chair Daniel Gschwind said that the awards recognised the hard work, determination and innovation of the operators and staff in the industry.
"The awards have evolved over their 35-plus year history, but the focus has always been on supporting improvement of our industry and showcasing quality tourism experiences throughout Australia," he said.
The 2021 South Australian Tourism Awards program mirrors the requirements, criteria and questions of categories 1-25 of the Australian Tourism Awards program. This is consistent across Australia.
Delivered by the Tourism Industry Council South Australia, the South Australian Tourism Awards are the pinnacle of excellence within the South Australian tourism industry. The 2021 Award winners and medalists were announced at a gala dinner at Adelaide oval on November 4.
Mr de Bruyn congratulated award winners and medalists.
"As an industry and as a state we should all be proud of the 2021 South Australian Tourism Award winners and medalists for their hard work, ability to showcase outstanding resilience through hardship and for continuing to deliver memorable visitor experiences," he said.
A statement said the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Tourism category was an important part of the Australian and South Australian Tourism Awards.
This category recognised businesses that showed authenticity and cultivated a greater understanding of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture, history and traditions.
This year, the state winner was Dingo Dreaming - an Indigenous Cultural Centre at Blyth.
Dingo Dreaming is a family-owned and operated business named after the owner's Yankunytjatjara father and is filled with historic Aboriginal artifacts, authentic indigenous products and an unique audio tour.
The silver medalist Australian Native Food Co. is involved and with multiple indigenous communities including through employment, farmers and suppliers of the native ingredients and reinvestment in literacy and numeracy.
The bronze medalist, Tribal Expertise Facility, is owned by Mark Koolmatrie, of Noarlunga, who has links to the Victor Harbor area.
The business allows patrons to experience first-hand knowledge from women, men, youth and elders on topics such as the environment, protection of ancestors estates and the rediscovering of the indigenous people's life through tourism.
"At this stage, the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Tourism category criteria does not stipulate that the business must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander owned to be eligible to enter," the statement said.
"We understand there is a call for the award to only be provided to Aboriginal-owned businesses and would welcome a discussion on how this could be done nationally."
Mr Koolmatrie, who is chairman of the State Aboriginal Heritage Committee, said there was "no doubt" the criteria for the awards should be tightened.
"It would not happen in any other category - a man would not win woman of the year," he said of the distinction between shades of Aboriginal-owned businesses.
"Yet this is acceptable because we are Aboriginal. What is an Aboriginal-owned business, who is an Aboriginal?"