Dr Damien Jacobsen

Lecturer in Tourism

School of Business
Faculty of Business, Economics and Law


Specialises in the diverse matters relevant to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in tourism.

Dr Damien Jacobsen is a descendent of the Bulgun Warra people, whose traditional lands form part of the Guugu Yimithirr language region near Cooktown, Cape York. Damien's qulaifications include a Bachelor of Business (Tourism) and Masters by Research (Tourism) from Southern Cross University, and a PhD in tourism from Charles Darwin University. His post-graduate inquiry focused on reconciliation in tourism, which is an issue he encountered first-hand in the mid-90s working in the tourism industry and continues to investigate today.

He has worked in Centre for Regional Tourism Research, the CRC for Sustainable Tourism and the Desert Knowledge Co-operative Research Centre. More recently, Dr Jacobsen completed a 6-year appointment (funded by the Commonwealth CRC Program) from the Co-operative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation as Principal Research Leader for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Tourism Product Project. Involving over 70 stakeholders (mainly small businesses) from remote Australia, the program examined ways that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander enterprises can remain resilient in challenging remote areas.

Dr Jacobsen has a strongly applied research background ultimately focused on enabling Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to strengthen the wellbeing of their culture, country and people. He has produced a body of industry development resources and academic publications based on qualitative and quantitative research. He founded an Aboriginal non-for-profit corporation aimed at capacity building Aboriginal people involved in tourism, and he maintains links with Aboriginal tourism stakeholders throughout the country. Some of his other advisory roles include the Scientific Committee for the World Indigenous Tourism Summit 2020, the 10 Deserts Tourism strategy and tourism development for the Aboriginal art sector.

Research Interests

  • Reconciliation through tourism
  • Remote Aboriginal tourism
  • Domestic tourists
  • Aboriginal art and tourism
  • Bush foods and tourism

Research Impacts

Impact outside of academia is important for Dr Jacobsen, who has a strong applied research background that bridges the worlds of Aboriginal people and academia. His work transcends notions of Aboriginality and ultimately seeks transformative impact on Aboriginal people in Australian society. With a long-term research interest in the challenges of reconciliation in tourism, he adopts a strength-based approach that seeks to enable Aboriginal capabilities, including the role of culture to guide economic development. Dr Jacobsen’s work empowers Aboriginal worldviews in academia, tourism development and wider Australian society.

In his role as Principal Research Leader (funded by the Co-operative Research Centre for Remote Economic Participation), he implemented of a 6-year national research program (the ATSITPP) generating impacts for Aboriginal tourism in remote Australia. The program was evaluated by an external consultant in 2016, which concluded that the work corresponded:

…with the national agenda and pathways for Closing the Gap priorities and Reconciliation aspirations, and that this CRC-REP project is delivering solutions to improve the social and economic experiences of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander individuals and their communities in remote Australia. (p. vii)

The research involved many small Aboriginal tourism operators, some of whom are quoted in the evaluation report stating:

‘The project is important for us and our young ones. They get a future on Country.’

‘Being involved in the project has broadened our network nationally.’ (p. vi)

Enabling is a key impact sought by Dr Jacobsen. For example, a participant in a 2014 ATSITPP study on enterprise clustering applied insights from the project when he returned home to Cape York where he created a cooperative arrangement between several small tour operators (and local Aboriginal artists). Dr Jacobsen believes it is important for academics to build impact through long-term commitment to industry, hence he maintains an ongoing relationship with Aboriginal tourism operators throughout remote Australia, as well as operators and agencies in related sectors such as Aboriginal art.

Another component of impact for Dr Jacobsen is to generate appropriate research deliverables, especially for stakeholders who otherwise find it difficult to access university research. As part of the ATSITPP, Dr Jacobsen facilitated industry workshops that incorporated outcomes generated through the research program. The free workshops were available at the request of operators and held in locations like the Kimberley, remote South Australia and Far North Queensland. In terms of policy impact, outcomes of the ATSITPP have informed initiatives like the 10 Deserts Tourism Strategy and the UN ECOSOC (United Nations Economic and Social Council) High-level Political Forum (HLPF) on Sustainable Development. Policy impact outside of Aboriginal tourism includes the 2008 Victorian Rural and Regional Committee Inquiry into Rural and Regional Tourism.

Dr Jacobsen also achieves impact by developing projects aligned with real-world needs. An example here is his 2017 project in partnership with Arts Queensland to address Far North Queensland art sector income diversification issues raised at an industry workshop in 2016. Dr Jacobsen believes that this kind of approach aligns with advocating Aboriginal rights. Other advocacy roles include providing expert insight to parliamentary inquiries (such as the 2018 inquiry into the Impact of Inauthentic Art and Craft in the Style of First Nations Peoples) and improving the standards of academic research (such as advising the World Indigenous Tourism Alliance statement on research into sustainable Indigenous tourism).


  • Master of Business, Southern Cross University
  • Bachelor of Business, Southern Cross University
  • Doctor of Philosophy, Darwin.


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Book Chapter

Journal Article

Conference Publication

Other Outputs