Pat Barblett AM formed FACET thirty-two years ago to bring together like-minded people in environmental and cultural and eco enterprises. Here she talks about what lead up to the organisation forming and the benefits to members.
Pat Barblett Joins Rottnest Island Board
I was on the Rottnest Island Board for 17 years. The last three of my term, I chaired it. I was appointed to it in 1976 and I left it in 1993. I was the first woman on the board. In those days in the 70s, no women were on any government boards. June Craig was in Charlie Court’s government, as the Minister for Lands. She had responsibility for Rottnest, for Kings Park and the Zoo. When she took over her portfolio she found that there were no women on any of those statutory boards. She set about doing something about it.
I knew her personally and she knew I had a passion for Rottnest spending time with my family there. I amassed a degree and three post-grads and a diploma. I made sure that all my study covered material that would help me in my role on the Board at Rottnest.
History Becomes Part of The Focus
I also did this Public History Postgraduate at Murdoch University. There I discovered the seminal book called The Past is a Foreign Country by Professor David Lowenthal. I went to a museum conference in Canberra and David Lowenthal as a guest speaker.
He’d never been to Western Australia and I said, “Well, the next time you come east, come home via Perth and I’ll get you a plane fare and you can stay with us.” Which he did; six months later he’s in Perth.
The Discovery of a Large Number of Individual Operators
Chris Back was the CEO of Rottnest and David Lowenthal gave three public lectures. He gave one in Fremantle, one at the public library and one over at Murdoch University. Out of the woodwork came all these people working in environmental and cultural and eco enterprises. It was amazing. I came back to Chris Back and I said, “Look, Chris, we’ve got to give these people a voice within tourism. They’re all working in tourism but in total isolation.” In those days, and even still, tourism is a very complex industry with many big players.
An Alternative To The Big End of Town
The big boys up the big end of town, the airlines, the hoteliers, the bus people, they’re the people who tend to control it. Their bottom line is making money which is fine. Rottnest was always in their sights and I can remember the then Head of the Tourism Council saying to me, “We can’t take our tourists to Rottnest, it’s such a dump.” I said to him, “Well, don’t bring them, take them wherever there is a luxury resort, take them there.” They didn’t understand that Rottnest had an essence and a meaning for people.
Once I got to see how many small operators there were, I joined with the Tourism Council and Pauline McMullan (then Pauline Sinclair) and we gathered these people together. Every couple of months, we’d have coffee in a coffee shop and we’d bring these people together. We’d tell them the latest things that were happening. These gatherings became an important point of connection.
FACET Becomes Official
As the membership of this informal group grew, they wanted to become a more formal organisation. We engaged a facilitator, and we had this weekend at Rottnest. Out of that weekend came FACET, forum advocating cultural and eco-tourism.
FACET Grows In Influence
From that very small beginning, we have now developed into one of the leaders of tourism because many more people are waking up to the rising potential of nature-based, cultural and heritage tourism. Our members are driving that emerging sector.
FACET is 30
Pauline McMullan did a great job as the Executive Officer of FACET over many years. We’ve just had our 30th birthday and our latest events have been the best yet.
FACET has been successful because we bring like-minded people together. Through this connection, we generate energy and passion and all those things that don’t happen with other tourism organisations because they’re so money-centric. I’m the first to acknowledge that making money is important. However, there are values that are deeper and that deliver more lasting benefit for everyone.
I think one of the greatest benefits for members is coming together face to face and working towards a common goal. That gives a greater sense of purpose. Many members out there are working in relative isolation. FACET keeps them informed about what’s happening across the board in tourism.
Perhaps one of our greatest achievements is the growing number of our members who have moved into positions of influence. A lot of our members now are on boards including Ross Dowling who is the inaugural Professor of Tourism at Edith Cowan University. I was chair for the first 10 years and I think he was chair for the second 10 years. He’s given it a lot of impetus. Now we’ve got Ryan Mossny as Chair. He’s a young man from the city and he brings a fresh perspective. Ryan is continuing the important work of giving people a peer group and helping them realize their influence.
Time to Join
It is a very exciting time to join FACET. You’ll be amazed at the people you’ll meet and all that you’ll learn about. You’ll be inspired and motivated. You’ll make friends and important business connections. Most importantly, you’ll feel like you are an important part of something bigger.