BLOG IMAGE Georgi Westlund

Georgi Westlund, Owner, Corella Creek Country Farm Stay

Georgi Westlund, Owner of Corella Creek Country Farm Stay is a passionate ambassador for outback tourism, and has created a little slice of bush heaven in the tiny town of Nelia Queensland. A global traveller who has been influenced by her time living in Paris, and experiences around the world, Georgi sees the future of tourism in Queensland as inextricably interwoven with food tourism, Indigenous tourism and eco-tourism.

Corella Creek Country Farm Stay is Georgi’s homage to the abundantly simple pleasures to be found in the outback, where the unforgettable glory of what nature has to offer is the whole show, and is best shared with others.

How are food and animals part of the Outback experience you provide as part of your accommodation at Corella Creek Country Farm Stay?

Food and animals combine to bring Corella closer to an ideal place to relax and find fun or inner peace. I try to bring people back to the simple aspects of life, the natural flows of the Outback environment, the easy pleasures that a connection with a wide range of friendly animals and good food brings.

The experience provided by the variety of domestic animals and wildlife remind us that we are interdependent with the natural world and its unique cycles and without this interdependence our lives would not be possible.

In this busy and technologically dependent era we can become so distanced from nature’s essence that human egos can create terrible stress resulting in serious health impacts internally and for others around us.

Life at Corella, however, is life at its simplest – sunrise, sunset, food, water and somewhere cool or warm and dry to spend our days. It can be a bliss space for adults needing to take time out. Children can experience the opportunity to run free, meet a new animal friend and/or discover a new interest or feeling of freedom.

Big skies and the space of the Outback provides a setting where time spent ‘just being’ is ok and tuning into rhythm of the outback refreshes the spirit, and can awaken the inner child in all of us.

After a day of personal connections, including sunset drinks with the cow around the campfire, the pleasure of trying some quality local ingredients combined well at dinner is an event, and important for a visitor’s wellbeing.

Food tourism is an important element in the escapism mix and cannot be forgotten. The movie Bagdad Café comes to mind where in the most unexpected and oddly removed place, in my case Nelia Queensland, a food niche can be found. I try to cook amazing food for all lifestyles and tastes, showing that no matter where you are, good food can turn a previously uninspiring location on its head. I not only focus on introducing ingredients of our region or Australia, but try to make each dinner memorable and satisfy a guest’s senses, so they have a deep relaxing night’s sleep.

You have worked for UNESCO in Paris and worked for many years in Perth, how did this experience make you a unique business leader in the Outback?

I am an eclectic mix of visionary, planner and am prepared to do what is needed as best I can to create a little space here for individuals or families. Basically, I try to help them look at life through different eyes and experience fun and freedom. This mix encourages me to keep trying to be the best that I can be and reflects the energy of all the places I have worked and explored in Australia and Overseas.

UNESCO taught me what amazing things people in developing countries could do with scant resource, and my health education and public affairs work for State and United Nations allowed me to gain understandings of research, marketing and teamwork approaches to working with local providers and Indigenous Australians. Living in Paris taught me to provide the unexpected to create an impact and, that quality is important.

Prior to coming to Nelia from Western Australia over decade ago, my previous 30 years employment was related to education, health and providing experiences that could change a person’s view on how they see the world. I sought out opportunities to work with good leaders and mentors who gave me wings and supported me as I tried new ideas while having the luxury of an external budget. These experiences gave me confidence, helped me develop skills and understand that no matter what type, or how many of resources we have, we can always create something that can make a positive difference to someone’s life.

In Outback Queensland there are different resources to what I was used to in other stages of my life, so the discovery of new possibilities has been fun. Discovering that I also had to personally provide the finances rather than work within a publicly provided budget has been my greatest learning curve, and is undeniably the most important factor to be considered by small business owners. The recently discovered comment ‘If you’re not paying yourself a wage, you have a hobby, not a business’ is a sobering thought we all should keep in mind as our businesses mature.

What is your inclusive tourism vision for your part of the Outback?

I am very passionate about food tourism, Indigenous tourism and eco-tourism as important ingredients for a total vision of my part of the Outback.

The Outback in general is ripe for a coordinated approach to food tourism in order to shake the idea that travellers survival depends on roadhouse meals and pre-packaged pies and canned drinks. This mentality stops people from choosing to travel to places far from the coast. I started to plan what would be considerations by a tourism body to coordinate such an approach and upskill locals, and it is possible. There are so many young people keen to stay in their hometowns in Outback North Queensland but few jobs to support them. The food and tourism industry provide wonderful employment opportunities.

Indigenous tourism should not be visionary in 2020, but sadly is in North Western Queensland. Indigenous representation at the local level has been shockingly ignored by many local Councils and empowering and upskilling our First Nations young people would create a whole new industry that can also dove tail with food tourism and eco-tourism.

Examples of this have been successfully operating in parts of the Northern Territory for over 35 years. Visual written representation of our First Nations People in all tourism materials and in specific locations: their lives in these places: their interpretation of the land and animals and their rightful place in employment as Outback Rangers caring for the land and assisting tourism access to appropriate sites are all elements that need to be considered.

Connection and consultation are the key to this vision succeeding. From the very first Sculpture project in Nelia I have been slowly finding the right way to approach this. The plan is to open an opportunity for signage and interpretation in Nelia as an example to other tourism locations.

At a very minimum towns and travel routes should have good visual representation and acknowledgement of the lives of the First Nations People of that area.

This needs to be in every location tourists travel through and stop in Australia, not just the Outback.

The power of the senses to drive purchasing behaviour and bring return visitors is also very strong. Future consumers, currently 12-25 years of age are demonstrating great levels of integrity and heartfelt support for sustainability and environmental protection principles.

These potential tourists actively want to immerse themselves in sensory opportunities where they more fully experience natural heritage and also contribute to protection or rescue campaigns for wildlife and critical habitats. Ecotourism has been developing well for many years and my vision in this area is to increase participation by Australian Tourists. Overseas Tourists have been well catered for in the design of eco experiences.

Ultimately my vision for future tourism in the Outback in my area is to see these three concepts developing together to create a far more interesting and memorable holiday for Australian and Overseas Visitors and accordingly dramatically boost the economy of my region and those who work in it.

How has your journey made you more resilient and what is possible when you connect with people in the outback?

My life began with a very strong mother who encouraged me to look for anything new in the garden each day, to notice what is happening around me and to find solutions if I had a problem. I have met people I have listened to, and some I ignored due to their overdeveloped ego.

Each day is a gift and I see that I have a role to play in every conversation or connection with people. I have learnt over the years and from the situations I have been in that it is my responsibility to make myself happy, and that health challenges can be overcome.

Previously I was prone to anxiety but the rhythm of nature and how it dictates life out here has shown me that I will only win at the end of the day by accepting what life, and nature in particular, delivers.

Being resilient also means to me being ready for the next challenge – because there is always going to be one no matter how hard we try to believe our life is almost perfect. A good diet, sufficient rest physically and mentally, and a treat here or there, cannot be underestimated if we wish to be able to bounce back and be resilient.

The term pivot, post COVID, is being used with respect to business survival. However I have always used the phrase ‘tac to the left, tac to the right when needed’.  In other words, when life presents a blockage or pulls the rug from under you – stay calm and change direction slightly to see if you can start moving again. Another phrase that helps us stay steady is ‘be like water, it always finds a way’ (to keep moving ahead).

The people of the Outback are often very direct but have a nature that considers other people’s immediate need, and their personal priorities are dropped if another person needs vital assistance. They are often prepared to give the most important gift – their time. Due to the hardships we all face in the Outback’s harsh environment and cycle, there is an unwritten understanding that someone not from the area may appreciate a helping hand or perhaps a kind introduction to local social events and groups.

I believe these qualities are what make people in the Outback great ambassadors for tourism. They love being ‘different’ from those closer to the coast, love telling tourists about the nitty gritty of their lives, and are prepared to share their skills and time when really needed.

Advice for future female leaders?

The most important to me is to believe in your self-worth. Self-esteem is quite different and can result in an over developed ego which may be counterproductive in some communications. My life mantra adopted as a very young child may help future female leaders. ‘I am the Cat the who walks by herself sic (himself) and all places are alike to me’ (Rudyard Kipling, Jungle Stories).

This thought has enabled me to hold my head high and take charge of situations. To be a leader, even in our own lives, is to feel and know that we have the right to be anywhere and everywhere that we choose to be. It is also knowing our inner strengths or skills we can acquire and what is needed to steer a personal direction or lead others in a direction to achieve a goal. Rudyard Kipling’s Story ‘The Cat who walked by Himself’ is worth reading and reflecting on the methods employed by the Cat to achieve his/her ultimate goal.

As a woman you have a right to belong, to be very visible and to succeed.

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Posted by Jade Collins - Femeconomy Founder

Mother, wife, daughter, determined dreamer. Lover of books. Background in Human Resources leadership in global organisations.