The pattern of Indigenous settlement in western Victoria has long upset the notion that Aboriginal people were purely nomadic people prior to European invasion.
In the west of the state, the extensive fish traps and remnants of stone houses and the memory that people lived and farmed in defined areas highlights the fact that there were a range of lifestyles followed by traditional owners in Australia.
Now there are attempts to get the area around Lake Condah listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The following article comes from the ABC, and the journalist is Bridget Brennan (she also took the attached image).
Older than the Pyramids: Hopes Victoria’s hidden treasure Budj Bim will get World Heritage listing
Traditional owners of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape at Lake Condah in Victoria are pushing for the site to be recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage area.
It has been described as a hidden treasure and Victoria’s answer to Kakadu.
The site near Heywood, in south-west Victoria, contains evidence of an ancient Aboriginal settlement and one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems.
At 6,600 years old, the site is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids and the Gunditjmara traditional owners believe its exceptional cultural significance deserves a World Heritage declaration.
The traditional owners want the site to be nominated on Australia’s new draft list for nominations for UNESCO World Heritage sites and the final decision rests with the Federal Government.
The Victorian Government announced today that the site was the number one priority for World Heritage listing.
“Budj Bim’s structures pre-date Egypts pyramids,” Premier Daniel Andrews said.
“It’s a Victorian treasure and should be recognised as an international treasure.”
The United Nations’ World Heritage Committee meets once a year to determine which nominations it will accept.
Before that happens, it must be on Australia’s World Heritage Tentative list for at least 12 months.
The Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation said it had done everything possible to get the Federal Government to accept its nomination, including submitting independent audits and archaeological surveys.
In a statement, Environment Minister Greg Hunt said he believed Budj Bim had “the potential to achieve World Heritage status”.
Mr Hunt said that if an independent audit showed outstanding universal values, the nomination will go to the United Nations World Heritage Committee.
“This is an internationally required step for possible consideration by UNESCO,” he said.
Tourism hopes for Victoria’s hidden gem
Gunditjmara man Damien Bell’s ancestors used Lake Condah and surrounding wetlands to form channels to harvest eels in the area thousands of years ago.
Today the remains of a set of intricate stone traps used to form the channels can be seen at the site.
Mr Bell is also the chief executive of Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation.
“Here [are] the traditional channels that we use to farm the eels to, the eels go through from pond to pond,” he said.
“Most of the eels were eaten but a lot of the eels were smoked for storage.”
The Gunditjmara also protect a number of sites where the remains of stone huts once stood, evidence that Aboriginal people lived permanently in the area, farming and harvesting eels and fish.
Australia currently has 19 World Heritage sites, which include iconic spots such as Kakadu and the Great Barrier Reef.
Mr Bell said Gunditjmara people wanted their home to gain the same international recognition to drive growth and tourism.
“Tourism is going to provide us with the resources to share the story, in order to protect the story,” he said.
“Things have changed, it’s not 200 years ago. We need to make sure we have revenue and wages for our people to still be on country.
“It’s Gunditjmara culture, it’s Gunditjmara people.”
Mr Bell said plans were being drawn up to build more tourism information points and external operators would be able to bring groups on Gunditjmara land.
Aboriginal people who live in the area said the Budj Bim was a special place, preserving their history and culture.
The area is teeming with bird life on the wetlands, and borders the Mount Eccles National Park.
The Gunditjmara also preserve the Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission, set up in the 1860s.
Tyson Lovett-Murray, a young Gunditjmara man who works with the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, said he wanted to share the area with as many people as possible.
“The place actually just sells itself, we don’t have to sell it too much to people, it’s just a very special place,” he said.
“It’s got all this archaeological significance to it. It’s a great beautiful place, too.
“Every time I do a tour with school groups, I try to tell them that it’s not just our heritage, it’s not just Aboriginal heritage out here, it’s all of our heritage that we want to protect, we all live here together.”