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  • How to weave a First Nations flavour into your conference or incentive program

    May 28, 2023

    Culture, cuisine and coffee – three things most event planners and delegates conjure when they think of Melbourne, right? Except these days, more and more conference and incentive planners are embracing and incorporating Victoria’s historic and contemporary Aboriginal stories into their programs.

    From conference logos and artwork designed by local Indigenous artists to Aboriginal-guided walks along the Birrarung Marr on the banks of the Yarra River. Team building with Yarning Circles to moving Welcome to Country performances. Guest Indigenous speakers to dining on native Australian food and ingredients — there are so many ways to weave a First Nations flavour into the delegate experience.

    Where to begin?

    The Melbourne Convention Bureau (MCB) links event planners to the right people, places and products to ensure your event is planned and executed with ease and infused with First Nations culture.

    Meanwhile, here is a taste of the type of experiences you may want to consider.

    Connection at THE LUME Melbourne

    Opening June 2023 is the next installment of Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre's (MCEC) THE LUME Melbourne experience - 'Connection'. 

    Connection is the largest representation of First Peoples art and culture ever assembled, featuring more than 500 works from over 110 visual and music artists. 

    For corporate event organisers, MCEC offers opportunities to host exclusive events, as well as events on the mezzanine level overlooking the main gallery, in one of the city’s most creative business events venues. Guests can enjoy the Connection experience from an intimate setting, providing a unique conference experience and an opportunity for delegates to authentically engage with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander culture.

    The experience also makes for a truly memorable incentive reward itinerary experience. 

    Delegates will be able to step inside the works of Australia's most celebrated First Nations artists, in an experience spanning 3,000 square metres with projections four storeys high. Connection will weave art, music and performance elements together with evocative aromas and an inspired food and beverage offering for a one-of-a-kind immersive experience.

    MCEC’s culinary experts have created bespoke breakfast, cocktail and gala dinner menus, drawing inspiration from the experience and showcasing Australian native and locally grown ingredients. Each dish carries a cultural legacy and is paired perfectly with Indigenous-focused cocktails. The menus extend the experience of the exhibition to incorporate taste and smell, fusing native food in a contemporary menu.

    Learn more about Connection at THE LUME

    The LUME_First Nations Connection 

    Image: Connection at THE LUME Melbourne

    Aboriginal-guided nature walk at Royal Botanic Gardens

    Get some fresh air in between meeting sessions with a walk through Melbourne’s centrally located Royal Botanic Gardens. The MCB team can connect you on an Aboriginal-guided walk to learn more about how indigenous groups lived off the land, local ecosystems, and native flora and fauna.

    Aboriginal Heritage Walk 

    Dine on native cuisine

    Head to the city’s hub at Federation Square where groups can share a seasonal menu of native flavours at all-day bar and kitchen Big Esso by Mabu Mabu, with Torres Strait Islander chef Nornie Bero at the helm. Admire the bright space filled with artworks by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists and dine on the likes of kangaroo tail, pepperberry spices, yam crisps and crocodile.

    Another great idea is to engage with the National Indigenous Culinary Institute to introduce a live cooking demonstration with tastings using Indigenous ingredients.

    National Indigenous Culinary Institute Ltd_AIME 2023 

    Aboriginal art experiences and river walks

    While at Federation Square, pay a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria’s Koorie Heritage Trust, where you can browse a collection of Aboriginal art and historical objects. The Koorie Heritage Trust also offers Birrarung Wilam-guided walks along the Birrarung Marr – the Aboriginal name for Melbourne’s Yarra River that meanders through the heart of the city. Hear the stories of the river and visit places of significance to gain a deeper understanding of Melbourne’s rich First Nations history.

    Koorie Heritage Trust

    Image credit of Koorie Heritage Trust by Tourism Australia

    Incorporate a Welcome to Country at the start of your program

    The Asia Pacific Incentives and Meetings Event (AIME) held in Melbourne in February 2023 showed just how powerful and moving a Welcome to Country experience can be. The MCB team can connect you with respected Aboriginal elders who can perform a Welcome to Country, such as AIME’s impressive welcome at Marvel Stadium, with the didgeridoo reverberating its song across the field.

    Opening Ceremony AIME 2023

    Image: AIME Welcome to Country ceremony

    Hire a local First Nations business event supplier

    The MCB actively encourages event professionals to consider using local indigenous event suppliers when holding a conference, business meeting, gala event or incentive program in Victoria.

    It could be something simple, like engaging with a First Nations graphic designer to incorporate indigenous-themed artwork on your exhibition booth, as MCB did for its 2023 AIME booth built by partner, Harry the hirer.

    Or use a First Nations artist to design your conference logo and promotional artwork, recently implemented by the Rotary International Convention coming to Melbourne in May.

    Get an idea of who you can work with in Melbourne using this handy guide to local Indigenous business event suppliers.

    Melbourne stand at AIME 2023 

    Image: MCB incorporated indigenous designs into tradeshow booth artwork by engaging with a local First Nations artist.

    Keen to get assistance with your next conference, meeting or incentive program?

    Find out how you can host your next business event in Melbourne, then reach out to the MCB team for free assistance to bring your business event to life with a First Nations flavour.