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  • Writer's pictureDianne Dredge

Regenerative Travel on Flinders Island

This latest contribution to Sharp magazine was aimed at getting visitors to think more deeply about how they travel and what values they bring with them when they visit Flinders Island. The community consultation revealed (1) the importance of attracting the right kind of visitors, (2) aligning visitor behavior with Island values, and (3) engaging visitors in making informed choices about what they choose to do and where they spend their money. This contribution to Sharp Airlines magazine responds to this challenge by highlighting some of the businesses and experiences that seek to regenerate community and place.

If you haven't noticed, something big is happening in the world of travel and tiny Flinders island is part of that change. Before the pandemic, busy modern life, ever-growing to-do lists, and the overwhelming flow of information in our daily lives left little downtime. Our relationship to growth was obsessive, whether it was sales, the number of customers, or the number of workouts in a week. More, bigger, and better left little time for stillness, reflection, and personal growth.

Across the globe, Covid-19 made us slow down and take stock of what is really important. The pandemic prompted us to think more deeply about those around us, how we connect with each other, and how our actions affect those around us. In other words, the pandemic gave people the time and opportunity to slow down and access a range of other perspectives aside from their own. We stopped taking for granted the health and well-being of ourselves and our loved ones and started to invest more in our well-being. Alongside this shift, many also started to care more deeply about the world around us. Our relationship to growth - to more, bigger and better - was questioned. We started to think more deeply about what success means, what is enough, and how we want to show up for others.

And here is where Flinders Island fits in.

The rise of regenerative travel

Across the world, there has been a shift towards travel that regenerates the soul, feeds the heart, and fills the lungs. Regenerative travel is an evolution of travel away from mass consumerism towards experiences that offer a closer connection to the places and communities that are visited. Regenerative travel transforms our hearts and minds and connects us more deeply to other people, places, and the planet. It is slow and purposeful and helps to clarify what is important and what really matters.

Flinders Island has always lived and breathed this philosophy. It is a relationship that unfolds when visitors experience the majestic vistas and magnetic power of Stezlecki, encounters with wildlife, magical unspoiled beaches, small conversations, and genuine encounters. If they lean in, connect and respect, visitors can’t help but be transformed, learn something new, and see another way of life. If they arrive with a genuine desire to experience the real Flinders Island, visitors are transformed and regenerated. Inevitably they return, sometimes to visit and sometimes to stay.

And if you are still in any doubt, here are a few places that are purpose-led and re-invest back into the Island:

The Purple Swamphen

The Purple Swamphen is a store that specialises in locally made gifts, arts, and crafts. In its eighth year, it brings together the collective power of over 80 makers on the Island who find curious and clever ways to reuse, recycle, repurpose and upcycle. The store started out as a small idea between two friends who needed a little space to sell some of their wares, but the community soon got behind the initiative and The Purple Swamphen became an Island icon.

The Purple Swamphen demonstrates a regenerative approach on a number of levels. First, Mel Telfer, the store’s owner, personifies community spirit. She encourages local makers in their creativity, no matter what their craft. She not only provides the retail space but also supports the development of their craft and thinking through their designs.

“It’s kind of exciting to see people's skills develop over the years, and give them the confidence to keep creating because I feel like being creative is so much a huge part of being human.”

Photo: Mel Telfer “I really love that I can encourage local people in their creativity, no matter what they're making”

Bowman’s General Store

As the third generation of the Bowman family to own and run the general store, Lois Ireland has a unique perspective on visitors to the Island. She probably meets and greets every single one! Lois likens the power of Flinders island to the call of the Muttonbird. Muttonbirds, or Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), cross the Pacific each year to spend the northern summer in Canada and Alaska, returning to their Bass Strait breeding grounds on almost the same day each year. What makes this extraordinary is that they will make this annual journey for 30 years or more. For Lois, both feathered and featherless visitors t the Island have something in common. “Every year they come back. It's something in the air, there's something in the community and the values of the community. It's a good place to live.”

Bowman’s Store is an institution and an anchor point for both locals and visitors. Located in Whitemark, it is a meeting place, a community hub, and an enduring part of Flinders Island’s business and cultural history. Lois is an advocate for the hosting of visitors who give back, who make the time to connect, and to care for the Islander Way.

“We want people who come with a genuine interest in finding out about how the place ticks. The type of person we're really after is someone who's got an inquiring mind, is interested in how we tick, what happens, or where the water comes from. These are the people that we find interested in us and we find ourselves interested in them. They are more like your family visitor rather than a tourist who just comes and takes the last fish.”

Photo: Lois Ireland, Bowmans General Store. “The mutton birds come back from the Artic to the same burrow with the same mate. The Islands have the same pull… they draw you back.”

Maritime Visitor Experience

Tucked away in Lady Barron is a temporary maritime exhibition making an extraordinary contribution to archiving the cultural history of the Island and the Furneaux Group. The Furneaux Maritime History Association has a temporary space housing a growing collection of photographs, artifacts, stories, and other memorabilia that documents the Island's history.

Flinders Island was the first European settlement south of Sydney and has a long and dark history that is intimately interwoven with its maritime past. While the current space might be small, efforts to collect, record, and archive maritime cultural heritage engage the Island’s intergenerational families and their Tasmanian and mainland connections.

Peter Rhodes, local councillor and a co-founder of the Furneaux Maritime History Association, has a long-held dream – a purpose-built Maritime History Centre. “It involves the whole community to document our history, develop research skills, education and other things”.

Visiting the temporary exhibition (please check opening times) is not just a visitor experience. It also helps to fund efforts to gather, collate, record, and tell the story of the Island’s significant cultural history. Visiting the project, or making a donation, is one way that regenerative travellers can leave good in the local community.

So, if you haven't noticed, something big is happening in the world of travel and tiny Flinders Island is part of this big shift toward regenerative travel. It’s the kind of travel that is slow, meaningful, and gives back to the local community and environment.

“It’s the Islander Way”, Peter points out with just a hint of irony. “Regenerative travel might be new but it is essentially the Aboriginal way. Care for the environment, living off the land, working as a community, and sharing go back into our past. The sealers came here with their maritime knowledge and cohabited with the Aboriginal women. They were the original Straitsmen. They started the Islander way, and it's all there in our history”.

The Islander Way Regenerative Tourism Living Lab is a collaborative project between Council, Flinders Island Business Inc., and the Tasmania government. The aim of the project is to co-design the future of tourism on the Island with and for the community using regenerative tourism principles. We are doing this by helping to build local capacity, experimenting with new visitor experiences, and addressing some of the Island’s most pressing challenges that affect the Island’s ability to host visitors, such as waste and food security.

If you would like to find out more about the project, or if you would like to listen to the stories of Mel, Lois, or Peter, head over to our podcast Latitude 40: Redesigning tourism on a small island or the project website.


ABOUT THE ISLANDER WAY REGENERATIVE TOURISM PROJECT: Regenerative tourism is an approach to tourism management that supports the long-term renewal, flourishing, and prosperity of our social-ecological systems. In a regenerative framework, conscious travellers, host communities, businesses, and governments care, connect and contribute to the regeneration of local communities, places, and nature - the assets on which tourism is based. It places equal weight on prosperous local economies and the health and well-being of people, places and nature. For more information click on the links below:

SHARP AIRLINE MAGAZINE article "Regenerative Travel on Flinders Island" download HERE.



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