If you’ve visited Ayers Rock Resort or travelled to Uluru, you’ve probably had an opportunity to engage with local Anangu communities. Voyages is committed to supporting these communities through the Anangu Communities Foundation (ACF). The Foundation funds initiatives such as cultural and community projects, education programs for youth and health care initiatives. 

The team sat down with Grant Hunt A.M. Hunt, former Voyages CEO and founder of the ACF, to learn more about the Foundation’s history, its ongoing work, and how you can show your support.

 

History of the Anangu Communities Foundation

Originally called the Mutitjulu Foundation, the ACF was officially formed in 2003 as a charitable trust. Established by Voyages Hotels and Resorts, operators of Ayers Rock Resort at that time, the goal of the Foundation was to support the nearest Aboriginal community to the Resort.

“Voyages management and board recognised that while the Resort seemingly had everything, Mutitjulu was impoverished,” says Grant. “It was over-crowded, had limited housing, health, and educational facilities.” 

As an organisation that has benefited from close proximity to the Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park and involvement with cultural tourism, the operator of Ayers Rock Resort felt a sense of responsibility to support Mutitjulu in tangible ways. The Foundation has also engaged guests of the Resort and helped to increase education about Aboriginal communities.

The Foundation originally decided to specifically focus on Mutitjulu to enable them to make a meaningful impact in the closest communities without spreading resources too thin. As the Foundation has grown and resources have increased, the ACF has been able to expand the beneficiaries to include surrounding Anangu communities and lands.

 

An Australian Aboriginal woman
Man looking at Uluru during sunset

How Does the Anangu Communities Foundation Work?

Rather than Voyages choosing which projects will be tackled, the ACF has the view that the Aboriginal community should decide what’s most important and what needs to be prioritised, and therefore the Board responds to submissions from Community Organisations and Not for Profit Organisations for assistance.

“We fund everything from school holiday programs for children, health related programs, educational resources, cultural field trips and ceremonies, and start-up tourism ventures designed to provide sustainable forms of employment and income for community members,” Grant explains. ACF’s first project was a hospice within the community. Originally designed to provide a sanctuary for patients in dialysis and other regular treatment programs.

“I am very proud of that project but overall, I think our greatest accomplishment is that we have been able to maintain a sustained and substantial contribution to improving quality of life in remote communities over a period which now stretches over 18 years,” says Grant.

“During this time, we have gone from a very closed ‘them and us’ system to one that is now very much more co-operative. The Foundation has also helped community members focus on improvement now that there is a pathway to achieving outcomes.”

For the Foundation, finding ways to raise more funds through effective engagement of staff and guests – as well as expanding their reach to the corporate sector – is an ongoing priority.

 

How Can Guests and Friends Help?

Guests are offered the opportunity to voluntarily make a $2 contribution at the conclusion of their stay. Regular newsletters provide a direct link for anyone wishing to stay in touch with the activities of the Foundation. Staff have the option of putting in place a regular payroll deduction and staff and residents can get involved on the ground with regular fundraising events like our annual progressive dinner.

In addition to monetary donations, word of mouth is also key when it comes to sharing the important work and mission of the Foundation. “While our projects can only be achieved with funds, we encourage past guests, trade and industry partners and our staff to follow our progress and help celebrate our achievements,” Grant says. 

“Strong participation in any initiatives which involve the development of enterprise is the best way to support the Foundation’s work.” 

Guests of Ayers Rock Resort are encouraged to take advantage of the Indigenous programming and activities that are available – a great introduction to local culture and history. This is intentional, meant to educate and expand understanding and as a way of making guests feel more comfortable in dealing with cultural issues, whether it be in the Resort or back at home.   

One example of an important cultural pillar at Ayers Rock Resort is the recently opened Gallery of Central Australian Art (GOCA). Designed to showcase art from the Central Desert Region, the Gallery also gives back, with sales benefiting artists from local Aboriginal communities. 

It’s important for all visitors to take the time to make connections by listening to Aboriginal people and learning about their culture. Spend the time to talk with community members, buy a piece of Indigenous art and undertake a cultural tour. Respect their history as the original history of our country and take the time to understand and connect with Indigenous culture, food and traditions as that is the real reason to come to the spiritual heart of Australia,” Grant says.

Learn more about the Anangu Communities Foundation or make a donation today.