Where The Bloody Hell Are We?

Problematic Diversity In Australian Tourism Ads

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Photo by Will Turner on Unsplash

Whether you think we throw our shrimps on barbie just like the Aussies’ very own Paul Hogan did in the tourism Australia TV commercial, the fact is Aussies mostly boil their ‘shrimps’ instead of BBQ them, and no! We don’t call them shrimps but prawns.

It was 1984 when ‘the shrimps on barbie’ tourism campaign first broadcasted for the American target audience, and it was a huge success though — despite the cultural and linguistic inaccuracies. Of course, it all made a sense back then. The year was 1984, and it was only seventeen years after our first nation people included in the Commonwealth Census — and what a relief that in fact, more than 90% voted YES in favour (Source: AEC). Hence, the all-white heroes in the TV commercial.

In 2018, Thirty-four years after the commercial, Australia tourism can’t get over Paul Hogan’s Crocodile Dundee. In Dundee Superbowl ad, Chris Hemsworth played the Aussie outback mate. The American funny man, Danny Mcbride, played Crocodile Dundee wannabe. The commercial still didn’t go far from white masculinity and the white version of outback culture. Though in fact, the oldest living outback culture in the world belongs to the Aboriginal.

Despite 49% of Australians were either born overseas or had at least one parent who was born abroad (source: ABS), Australia tourism still thinks selling the white masculinity of Crocodile Dundee to the American target audience might be even relevant.

With the all-white heroes in a new 2018 Australian tourism ads, It’s evident to me that Australia tourism controls the narrative of the country when it comes to branding and marketing to the International target market. So where the bloody hell are we in the landscape of Australian tourism storytelling? Are the whiteness more appealing and relevant to the American target audience in 2018?

Storytelling begins with the very history of mankind, there has never existed anywhere a people without stories.” (Barthes et al., 1969)

And so it did — almost did! Recently our iconic Aboriginal celebrity Ernie Dingo voiced the new narrative of tourism ad in “There’s Still Nothing Like Australia” aired this year for domestic tourism — because, amid Covid19 mess, we are all locked in. But still, Ernie’s voice stayed in the background, and he didn’t tell stories of his people to the world. He narrates generic stories of Australia. So where is the real history of humankind in tourism storytelling?

The truth is the version of white outback culture isn’t the representation of us as a nation — not anymore, and it is long overdue. The truthfulness of Australian identity should belong to the oldest living culture that this ancient land has given us the opportunity; to drink its water, to eat from its giving soils, and to raise our children. The rest of us are the expansive newcomers in the Australian landscape and continues development. So why do we withdraw our true identity from the world who craved to explore our country? Why are we ashamed of it? Where are the rest of us, the forty-nine per cent, who have been long waiting for their stories out? Why can’t tourism Australia let diversity tell tales of itself?

But not so much hope for the change. With Kylie Minoque’s glossy performance in ‘Matesong’ aired in December 2019, tourism Australia crashlanded a reluctant attempt to let true Australian colours shine. Do we need Kylie to tell our stories and represent us to the world? For tourism Australia, Uluru is just that magnificent rock in the distant horizon. Our culture is all about budgy smugglers from Bondi beach — which predominantly white Australians. Our Aboriginal and Torres Strait islanders heroes are smiling children who ran free on the beach and a silent aboriginal man that showed up only a split second. We, the Aboriginal people and people of colour, are the silent decoration in the landscape. Our portrayals are syncing with predominantly white Australians.

Stories, including myths, legends, and folktales (Reamy, 2002), pass on wisdom, knowledge, and culture for thousands of years (Sole and Wilson, 2002, p.73)

If tourism Australia wants to acknowledge their wisdom, knowledge and culture from the thousands of years culture, then it is time for tourism Australia, as an official government body, to let Aboriginal people and people of colour narrate their own stories to the world.

Let the thousand of years wisdom, knowledge, and culture, come to see the light. Let the world see what we are. What Australia is.


R. Barthes, C. Brémond, L.D.G. Destreri, P. Fabbri L’analisi del racconto V. Bompiani (1969)

T. ReamyImparting knowledge through storytelling. KM World, vol. 11, no. 7 Retrieved from www.kmworld.com (2002), Accessed 2nd Aug 2017

D. Sole, D. WilsonStorytelling in organisations LILA, Harvard, Graduate School of Education (2002), pp. 73–92

Sydneysider & storyteller. Raised a traveller and grown-up spiritual. I story-tell travel, mindfulness, spirituality & anything in between. talesoftraveler.com

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