Where travellers learn from Australia’s traditional teachers
Content submitted by – Lili
Submited Date : 28/06/2018
Brian Lee at Kooljaman

My name is Brian Lee, and this is my story… I was born in Broome, I grew up in Derby, and at the moment I live in the Djarindjin community. Djarindjin is on the tip of the Dampier peninsula. We are about 2000 miles from the nearest capital city. I’ve been out there since about 1992. It’s my grandmother’s country. It’s where my mother was born as well. I’ve gone out there, away from here, to find my roots. As a teenager, going over to Queensland, meeting different people with different attitudes and opinions, and learning how to live out of my comfort zone was an experience for me. It taught me how to live with other people, that it was ok to have a different opinion than others, and to respect opinions of others as well. So coming back to Western Australia, back to Derby, I had a job on a pearl farm on the peninsula. Slowly from there, I moved back to my mother and grandmother’s country, and reconnected with all the family members I had there. I learnt what it was like to be part of a community, and I learned about leadership roles in the community. I have taken that up and become one of the young leaders. Djarindjin has a lighthouse. It was built in about 1911. Local people there manned it at various stages of its lifetime, until about 1986 when the lighthouse became automated. The freehold title was given back to the Bardi people, and the Bardi people made a decision to start up a tourism resort there. It has since evolved into an eco-friendly tourism resort and wilderness camp – Kooljaman. It has been operating as such for the past 15 years. This is a special place. What makes Kooljaman so unique is the surroundings. It’s based on a peninsula so you can wake up and watch the sun rise on one side of the ocean, and then watch the sun set on the other side of the ocean. It is a place that is recognized around the world. I have been on the Board for the last 16 years. I have seen it grow from its humble beginnings, to what it is today – a multi award winning wilderness camp. It has given me a purpose. It’s showed me that there is a way to share knowledge, to share experiences, and to share a country. It has made me I think a role model for the younger people in the community, to see that there is a career in tourism. And you can make a comfortable living from that. But I think for me it is more of a lifestyle, more of a desire to impart knowledge and share experiences. I have started my own tourism business that I operate out of Kooljaman, and I think it’s getting people to know or recognize that there is a place that no one else has seen, but everyone else who comes here can share what we have. My main dream for the future is to see young community people stepping up and doing what I do, learning from myself and others up there who are leaders in the tourism sector in the peninsula, and hopefully one day seeing them be managers of our resort, to bring other young Bardi people along with them on the ride. Our people have been a part of this land and of this country for thousands of years. I think we see ourselves as teachers. I feel that what I have to offer to people outside our country, our state, and indeed Australia, is a knowledge base that evolved around the country, around tradition, around culture, and keeping that alive for me is something that I am striving to achieve, and hopefully I can do that through a job that I get great enjoyment out of.