Promoting and protecting Australia’s iconic Standley Chasm is a passion for Nova Pomare

Promoting and protecting Australia’s iconic Standley Chasm is a passion for Nova Pomare
General manager Nova Pomare is a Western Arrernte woman who was born and raised in Australia's vast Northern Territory, and her connection with Standley Chasm goes back to childhood.“As a little girl, we always visited my auntie and uncle who ran the place back in the seventies,” she says.“This was one was one of my first jobs. So it's amazing and I have to pinch myself sometimes that I've come back to now be the manager.”AdvertisementKnown traditionally as Angkerle Atwatye, meaning ‘Gap of Water’, Northern Territory’s spectacular Standley Chasm is Aboriginal owned and run, and trains local cultural guides to share the site’s rich history with visitors.“It was a women’s dreaming area where Aboriginal women would go to give birth,” sheexplains. “And it is very sacred for our Western Arrernte people.”Now a major tourist attraction at the start of the Larapinta trail, the sandstone formation draws around 50,000 visitors each year, from Australia and overseas.Many visitors complete a three and a half kilometre (1.5 hour) return walk to learn more about this iconic canyon and its native animals and plants.“The MacDonnell Range cycads are a rare species of tree that can live to be 500 to 1,000 years old,” explains cultural guide David McCormack to a diverse group of visitors.“And this cycad is only found in three places, including here at Standley Chasm.”The distinctive native plant with bluish-green fronds is threatened by hotter droughts linked to climate change, and is the focus of a conservation program to prevent its extinction.“Cycads are beautiful and flourishing here,” says Ms Pomare.“We also have many wildflowers and native plants. The bird life is just beautiful as well. And if you are lucky enough to see them, we have rock wallabies, too,” she says.Nova Pomare returned to Standley Chasm four years ago, after honing her finance skills managing an Aboriginal medical centre in Tennant Creek.The mother of five runs Standley Chasm as a family business with her builder husband.“We love being here. We love being on country and doing what we do. My son is also here helping us run the business. He is the head cook and pumps out all the beautiful burgers for tourists.“But the most important part is that visitors can learn about one of the oldest living cultures in the world, which we're very proud of.”Since taking over, she has turned the business around financially.“Visitor numbers are up very, very high to around 300 people a day, camping has increased and bookings for cultural tours have tripled,” she says.However, it hasn’t been an easy journey. When COVID-19 restrictions closed state and international borders, visitor bookings dried up almost overnight.“We were locked down in an area that no one could access. So we went from operating with big numbers to absolutely no one coming here.“And we were looking very bleak. We considered closing the business, after 50 years of operation, and it was looking pretty sad.“COVID left us down to almost nothing in the bank account.”Standley Chasm is a major local employer but during the early phase of the pandemic, Ms Pomare says many of its Indigenous workers were stood down.“Some had to find other employment and others just couldn't work. But a lot of them stuck by us, and helped with maintenance and cleaning,” Ms Pomare says.“I was very worried. But we have worked so hard, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel. I'm a fighter, and a pretty tough cookie. So I decided to fight even harder for my family business.”At this point, Nova turned to Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) for help – and was approved for a COVID Business Relief Package.“We were here to support the business through the COVID pandemic, which was great,” says Rachel Harding, a Senior Business Development Officer with IBA.“Nova has done some amazing work and over the last three and a half years, she turned the business around.”Funding helped to install a communications tower, essential to running a tourist business in remote Australia.“We have been a black spot for 48 years so for us to be able to get a Telstra tower has made huge difference,” Ms Pomare says.IBA funding also provided an opportunity to lease a sturdy offroad vehicle, essential to transport essential supplies and staff on the 100 kilometre trip from Alice Springs.“Without the support of IBA, we wouldn't have been able to reopen and continue to operate,” Ms Pomare says.IBA is proud to have supported Nova through the COVID pandemic.“It is an iconic tourist destination rich in traditional Aboriginal heritage and Nova is a fantastic mentor and trainer for young Indigenous workers.” IBA’s Rachel Harding says.With restrictions eased and Australians heading outback in droves, business is booming at Standley Chasm once again.“People want to travel again, so bookings are up in a big way for the next couple of years.”And we are living proof here at Standley Chasm that, despite all the challenges we had, we still stood up and kept doing what we were doing, and we are still here standing.”And i hope we are good role models for the rest of our mob.”
To find out more about Indigenous Business Australia visit www.iba.gov.au, and for details on Standley Chasm visit www.standleychasm.com.au

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