Visitor Experience Discussion Paper

Visitor Experience Discussion Paper

‘Ngootyoong Gunditj, Ngootyoong Mara’
South West Management Plan

Visitor Experience

(download  a PDF from the Resources page)


Within the planning area there is a wide range of visitor experiences and recreational opportunities. A variety of visitor destinations within the planning area are accessed from key towns including Portland, Port Fairy, Casterton, Nelson, Mt Gambier, Hamilton and Warrnambool.

The purpose of this paper is to invite community discussion on the future directions for visitor experiences in the planning area. It is important to recognise that in planning for the future, we are not working with a blank slate – the land is subject to legislation and Government policy which provides some boundaries for use, and further guidance is provided by relevant strategies and plans. Within these parameters, Parks Victoria, the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and DSE is actively seeking the opinions, perspectives and views of the community to shape the future of parks and reserves , Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPA’s within the planning area.

This discussion paper highlights the factors that influence visitor experiences, including management tools and key drivers for future directions. The paper will also pose key questions to help shape the future direction of Visitor Experiences. A separate paper is available for Recreation Activities.


Legislation and Policy

The DSE Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria's Public Land 2002 provides the state-wide policy setting for recreation and tourism on public land. This policy is currently under review by DSE.

The parks and reserves of the planning area are managed variously under the National Parks Act 1975 (Vic.), the National Parks (Park) Regulations 2003, the Forests Act 1958 (Vic.), the Land Act 1958 (Vic.) and Crown Land (Reserves) Act 1978 (Vic.), which provide the legislative basis for the management of the parks and reserves. The National Parks Act provides for the use and enjoyment of national parks in balance with the primary purpose of nature conservation. Other relevant legislation includes:

  • Indigenous Cultural Heritage is protected under the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006
  • Issues relating to native title are dealt with according to the Native Title Act 1993 (Cwlth). This Act sets down the basic principles in relation to claims for native title, and provides for the validation of past acts, actions undertaken on land prior to the Act being proclaimed. It also provides for future acts, protecting native title rights and imposing conditions on actions affecting native title on land and waters.

The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners 2007 Native Title consent determination recognised the non-exclusive native title rights of the Gunditjmara people over 140,000 hectares of vacant Crown Land, national parks, reserves, rivers, creeks and sea north west of Warrnambool. These include the right to:

  • have access to or enter and remain on the land and waters
  • camp on the land and waters landward of the high water mark of the sea
  • use and enjoy the land and waters
  • protect places and areas of importance on the land and waters
  • take resources of the land and water

Park Zoning

Parks Victoria uses management zoning as a tool used to identify the broad intent of managing particular areas of parks and reserves. Zoning must be consistent with the aims for the park and the terms of the park vision. The statewide zoning scheme has six primary management zones and a number of overlays. It does not specify which activities can occur within each zone; rather it is a tool that provides for the application of particular broad management directions within a park or reserve. Park zoning:

  • provides a geographic framework in which to manage a park  
  • reflects sensitivity, fragility and remoteness of natural values  
  • indicates which management directions have priority in different parts of the park  
  • indicates the types and levels of use that are appropriate throughout the park  
  • assists in minimising existing and potential conflicts between uses and activities, or between activities and the protection of the park's values  
  • provides a basis for assessing the suitability of future activities and development proposals. 


The visitor experience is a complex and personal interaction between an individual and the natural and cultural environment they visit. The richness of these experiences is influenced by the visitor’s expectations, the setting, social interactions, degree of active participation (passive through to active) ,level of immersion (emotional, physical, intellectual and spiritual engagement), and  visitors associated memories. Protected areas are well recognised for their vital role in protecting our natural environment and cultural heritage, and in bringing social benefits in terms of the physical, mental and spiritual health of individuals and the community – as recognised by the Healthy Parks, Healthy People campaigns in Victoria and other states.

Communities and the tourism industry benefit from protected area visitor access and facilities. This is underpinned by the provision of infrastructure and services, such as roads, safe drinking water, walking tracks, signage, interpretation and education programs, guided tours, campgrounds, toilets, car parks, picnic sites of brochures, and websites. It is important to maximise the accessibility of these services for people with disabilities as well as of different cultural and linguistic backgrounds. It is a significant challenge to manage visitor infrastructure to contemporary standards. In planning for visitors, there is a need to identify appropriate and inspirational experiences which meet current and future visitor expectations now and in the future.

Visitors may be tourists travelling through the area or staying overnight. They can also be members of the local community visiting the areas for recreation, sightseeing or relaxation. The Parks Victoria Visitor Satisfaction Monitor for Lower Glenelg NP conducted in the summer of 2010 at Pritchards visitor site reported that 53% of the 75 visitors interviewed had visited the park before on average 1.7 times in the past twelve months. It also reported that 29% were on a day trip from home.

Parks Victorias Community Satisfaction Monitor conducted in 2010 found that:

  • The majority of respondents commented that the key benefits of parks to the community are the use of parks for recreation and leisure (57%).
  • The benefit of parks in providing a place for relaxation relates to other key benefits mentioned such as a place for kids to play, for outdoor activities, to get away from the city or suburbs, to socialise, and the freedom of being outdoors.
  • Flora and fauna are also mentioned as a key benefit, in relation to providing greenery and conservation.

Parks Victorias Visitor Satisfaction Monitor for 2010 found that key positive aspects of visits to parks included:

  • Atmosphere /ambience
  • Being outdoors/ mountains/ open space
  • Scenery/ the views/ attractive
  • Peaceful/ quiet/ relaxing
  • Natural environment/ unspoiled/ untouched
  • Fauna - wildlife/ birds

Protected areas also bring measurable direct and flow-on economic benefits to local, regional, state and national economies. These economic benefits are a key enabler for communities to function and prosper, allowing them to build social cohesion, social capital and healthy communities.

Parks Victoria, Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and DSE provide a variety of opportunities for people to engage with the natural environment through the provision of visitor facilities, information, interpretation, education, park services and access (roads and trails). Budj Bim Tours, a Gunditjmara Traditional Owners company, provides guided tours to Kurtonij IPA, Tyrrendara IPA, and Lake Condah IPA. The tours all start from the Budj Bim orientation centre at Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation.

Licensed tour operators, educators and lessees also play a key role in facilitating access and promoting park and reserve values and appropriate behaviours. To find out about sustainable tourism directions, initiatives and the role of the parks in providing and supporting tourism refer to the Sustainable Tourism Discussion Paper.

As part of this planning exercise Parks Victoria, Gunditjmara Traditional Owners and DSE will be conducting a Public Participatory GIS website which will capture visitors’ experiences as well as values and threats.


In planning for and managing the visitor experience,  protected area managers aim to achieve a  balance between protecting cultural and natural values with a range of factors including individuals’ needs and aspirations, broader community desires, external influences and available financial resources. The principles of equity, diversity, quality and sustainability are key to strategic planning, as is a consideration for recreation trends and threats such as climate change.

Parks Victoria manages parks and reserves in accordance with a range of regulations. Various recreation activities are managed in accordance with regulations, such as the National Parks (Park) Regulations 2003 and include:

  • horse riding
  • camping
  • vehicle access, including 2WD and 4WD, bicycles, motorised scooters and wheelchairs.
  • firewood collection
  • campfires and use of portable stoves.
  • dog walking

The draft management plan will provide information about the range of recreation opportunities in the planning area, and the most suitable locations for different types of recreation activities. More information about activities in the planning area is provided in the Recreation Activities Discussion Paper.



Parks Victoria has developed a number of tools and services to assist with planning for visitor experiences, including:

  • Visitor market segmentation
  • Levels of Service
  • Asset Management System
  • Visitor Risk Management
  • Information, Interpretation and Education.

Visitor Market Segmentation

The Visitor Satisfaction Monitor (VSM) is used to help refine understandings of visitors to parks, their expectations and satisfaction. The statewide biennial survey of visitors has allowed Parks Victoria to group visitors into like segments that provide valuable information to park managers to plan for the future supply of facilities and services.

Levels of Service

Levels of Service (LOS) is a tool to guide the strategic management of visitor services across the Parks Victoria park and reserve network. It provides a statewide context for the establishment and delivery of services and infrastructure to meet the needs of visitors and provide guidance for the management of a sustainable and diverse network. LOS ensures that safe and satisfying visitor services are provided in the right place at the right level that there is a consistent standard of delivery across the park network, and that visitor experiences across the Parks Victoria network are economically, culturally and environmentally sustainable. More information is provided in the Levels of Service Fact Sheet.

Asset Management System

The Parks Victoria Asset Management System encompasses all aspects of managing assets, including; works management, risk management, the financial system, LOS, disaster recovery, insurance, programming, heritage values, asset information and more.

Visitor Risk Management

Recreation plays a vital role in human health, wellbeing, and development. Elements of risk will always be present in nature, and recreation activities can be, by their nature, inherently dangerous. It is not desirable to remove all risk from recreation as risk creates important opportunities essential to visitor experience. Parks Victoria, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation and DSE, however, owe a duty of care to visitors to take reasonable care to avoid foreseeable risks of injury.

Interpretation, Information and Education

Services and products delivered through interpretation, information and education can manage visitor behaviour and public safety, conserve and protect park values, promote enjoyment and understanding of values and support for management policies and practices.

Interpretation is a means of communicating ideas, feelings and values that helps people enrich their understanding of natural and cultural values.

Information is factual material that conveys or imparts knowledge and is generally designed to reach a broad audience.

Education is a formal process of teaching skills, knowledge and concepts that lead to greater understanding of natural and cultural values. It generally targets students, teachers and others with a commitment to learn.

Gunditjmara Traditional Owners past and present connections with country combined with the natural beauty and ecological significance and the current recreational opportunities provide key themes for information, interpretation and education in the planning area.

The Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape (NHL) Sustainable Tourism Plan states that it is vital that the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners community is fully involved, resourced and in control of interpretation planning for their country. The plan identifies the main interpretive theme for Budj Bim NHL as:

Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape is a nationally significant and unique landscape whose values – natural and cultural - are inextricably bound up with the Gunditjmara people caring for country, past, present and future. It is recognised as having outstanding heritage significance to Australia and potential world heritage significance.

From this main theme the following sub themes were identified in the plan:

  • The ancestral landscape
  • A natural and cultural system (indivisible). Continuity of Gunditjmara use of the landscape – caring for country
  • Gunditjmara Traditional Owners aquaculture and sustainable practice
  • The Gunditjmara Traditional Owners fight for land justice. Eumeralla wars
  • Non Indigenous links to the place.

(Context et al 2007)

A range of contemporary programs and experiences are offered for visitors to enjoy including guided walks, education programs, and Information and interpretive signage at major destination and visitor sites throughout the planning area.

Parks Victoria and DSE are working in partnership with the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners to develop a consistent approach to interpretive and information signage across the planning area, with key messages and recognition of the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners. Examples of this to date are park entry signs, park interpretive signs and Park Notes with Gunditjmara Traditional Owner language and welcome to country.



The visitor sites across the planning area include camping sites, day visit areas, walking tracks, horse riding trails and camps and picnic areas. Many visitor sites are also a base to further explore parks and reserves through a variety of recreation activities.

Within the planning area sites managed by Parks Victoria have the following LOS ratings:

  • High - sites that provide for visitors seeking quality facilities in a predominately natural or cultural setting
  • Mid - sites that provide for active and passive recreationists seeking some facilities in a predominately natural or cultural setting
  • Basic – sites that provide a basic level of service with limited facilities and are important to many visitors as they provide a remote, self reliant experience.

LOS Rating



Lower Glenelg NP – Pritchards Camp, Princess Margaret Rose Caves


Mt Eccles NP


Crawford River RP – Hiscocks Camping area


Cape Nelson SP – Cape Nelson Lighthouse, Cape Nelson Picnic Area.


Discovery Bay CP – Bridgewater Lakes, Cape Bridgewater Blowholes, Glenelg River Estuary, Lake Mombeong, Lake Mombeong Camp, Ocean Beach, Swan Lake Camp, Swan Lake Day Visit Area, Swan Lake Dune Buggy Camp, Swan Lake Public Camp, Yellow Rock,


Lower Glenelg NP – Battersbys, Bowds, Bulley Ranges Picnic Area, Deutchers, Forest Camp North, Forest Camp South, Georges Rest, Hutchenssons, Lasletts, Lower Glenelg River, McLennans Punt, Moleside, Moleside Canoe Camp, Moleside Picnic Area, Murrells, Pattersons Canoe Camp, Pattersons Walkers Camp, Pines Landing, Popeyes, Post and Rail, Red Gum Landing, Sandy Waterholes, Sapling Creek Picnic Area, Saunders, Simsons, Skipworth Springs, Wild Dog Bend, Wilson Hall


Mount Richmond NP - Summit


Dergholm SP – Baileys Rocks


Crawford River RP – Blue Wren Picnic Area, Bronzewing Picnic Area, Hiscocks Picnic Area, Kingfisher Picnic Area, Steepbanck Picnic Area, The Neck Picnic Area, Youngs Hole Picnic Area


Cape Nelson – Devils Kitchen, Sea Cliff Nature Walk carpark.


Discovery Bay CP – Blacks Beach, Cape Duquesne (Petrified Forest), Crayfish Bay, Mallee Camp, Murrells Beach, Noble Rocks, Scenic Road viewing sites, Seal Colony Viewing Platform, Shelley Beach, Springs Camp, Tarragul Caves, The Springs, Trewalla Camp, White Sands, Whites Beach,


Lower Glenelg NP – Inkpot,


Mount Napier SP – Byaduk Caves, Menzels Pit

Mt Richmond NP – Kennedy’s Road Picnic Area


It should be noted that the Levels of Service assessment was carried out in 2005 and have not been conducted for Cobboboonee NP or Cobboboonee FP. Nor are Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPAs included.


  • Proposed World Heritage Nomination for the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.
  • Partnership approach to Interpretation across the planning area, incorporating Gunditjmara Traditional Owner recognition, presence and connection to Country.
  • Rename roads and other park and reserve features with Gunditjmara Traditional Owners language, in accordance with relevant park management guidelines and the Guidelines for Geographic Place Names (DSE 2010).
  • Gunditjmara Traditional Owners aspiration for skills audit and training/capacity building in all aspects of protected area management.
  • Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation , Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation , Parks Victoria and DSE providing combined and integrated or complementary visitor experiences.
  • Budj Bim Tours exploring Ecocertification (business and tour guides) to provide capacity building and consistency of product.
  • Exploration of specific visitor experiences during different seasons.


  • The need to minimise or prevent the potential for visitors to damage natural values and cultural values.
  • The need to recognise the Gunditjmara Traditional Owners Native Title rights and consider the implications on the visitor experience offer.
  • Community opinion (where it aligns with existing legislation and policy).
  • The need to comply with asset based legislative requirements and to communicate decisions made for legislative compliance reasons.
  • The need to review services in some areas to maximise the quality of infrastructure at other sites in the consideration of landscape scale approach.
  • The need to review assets based on risk, either structural or geotechnical.
  • The need to manage the parks, reserves and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPA’s sustainably.
  • The need to provide a diverse range of visitor experiences – activities, settings and scale of facilities -where these are compatible with other management objectives.
  • The need to provide for greater year round visitation in the Management Plan area to ‘spread the load’ and maximise use of visitor facilities and minimise over-use or crowding.
  • The need to adapt the visitor experience to climate change.
  • The need to provide a range of visitor experiences in line with changing visitor demographics and needs.
  • The need to maintain settings, activities and facilities that allow for adventure in a challenging setting
  • The need to identify, recognise and manage for the social significance of place – that is, manage to provide for special community connections to place  - where these do not unduly degrade other values.
  • The need to coordinate the promotion of key destinations, journeys, events and experiences with tourism bodies and other land managers
  • The need to continue to be relevant to the community by providing contemporary Interpretation, Information and Education.
  • Government strategies and directions such as the Victoria’s Nature Based Tourism Strategy
    and Tourism Australia’s ‘National Landscapes’.
  • The need to consider potential opportunities with proposed World Heritage Application for the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape.
  • The need to consider the potential impact of bushfires and implications on the visitor experience and management.
  • The need to consider implications of identification Budj Bim NHL in Great Ocean Road product Audit.


  • How should visitor experiences be offered across land tenure?
  •  Are changes required to the current mix of visitor experiences and/or sites offered?  If so what changes are required, and why?
  • Should there be a greater investment in the highly visited sites at the expense of those less popular?  If so should a best practice approach rather than historical existence of the site be a driver? What other changes are required over the landscape and why?
  • Should there be a greater investment in some experiences at the expense of others in the planning area?  If so, which experiences should receive more investment and which less – why?
  • Is there a need to improve visitor information and orientation at key towns or locations that are the gateways to the parks, reserves and Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPA’s major destinations?  If so which ones and what sort of information?
  • How will climate change affect your visitor experiences in the planning area?
  • What visitor experiences do you think should be offered on Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation and Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation properties and IPAs?


Context Pty Ltd, Sinclair Knight Merz & Urban Initiatives 2007, Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape Sustainable Tourism Plan, Report Prepared for Winda Mara Aboriginal Corporation, Heywood.

DSE 2002, Policy for Sustainable Recreation and Tourism on Victoria's Public Land 2002, Department of Sustainability and Environment, Melbourne.

Parks Victoria 2005, The Value of Parks - The economic value of three of Victoria's national parks

Parks Forum 2008, The Value of Parks - Inspire, Refresh, Conserve, Protect, Play

Rights strengthen Gunditjmara identity - Talking Native Title - National Native Title Tribunal

Tourism Victoria, 2008 The Victorian Nature Based Tourism Strategy 2008-2012, Tourism Victoria, Melbourne.

Contact: James Hackel

Phone: 0429950623