Traditional Owners are Aboriginal People with particular knowledge about traditions, observances, customs or beliefs associated with the area; and have responsibility under Aboriginal tradition for significant Aboriginal places located in, or significant Aboriginal objects originating from, this area.
The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 recognises Traditional Owners
“as the primary guardians, keepers and knowledge holders of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage”
Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) are representative corporations, inclusive of all Traditional Owners of an identified Country. Before being granted RAP status, they have undergone a rigorous review process, in which their relationship to Country, the inclusivity of their membership and proven link to Apical Ancestors have been considered.
RAPs have important roles and functions as the decision makers for their Cultural Heritage over an appointed area of Victoria. Their core functions include:
- evaluating Cultural Heritage Management Plans
- assessing Cultural Heritage Permit applications
- making decisions about Cultural Heritage Agreements
- providing advice on applications for interim or ongoing Protection Declarations
- entering into Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreements with public land managers
- nominating Aboriginal intangible Heritage to the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register and managing Intangible Heritage Agreements
Throughout the process of assessment and registration by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, their knowledge, lore, cultural responsibilities, and authority has been proven. Their registration as a RAP confirms their inherited and fundamental role to speak for Country and Culture within their registration area.
Currently Victoria has 11 RAPs, covering 74% of the state. They are:
- Barengi Gadjin Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
- Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation
- Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation
- Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation
- First People of the Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation
- Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation
- Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
- Taungurung Land and Waters Council Aboriginal Corporation
- Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation
- Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation
- Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
Whilst the First Peoples of Victoria continue to live and work within imposed systems and structures, it is essential that their voice is heard at all levels of governance of their Communities, Culture and Country. Self-determination, the act of Aboriginal Peoples being able to make decisions about their governance, underpins the registration of Aboriginal parties.
The RAP statutory functions that Aboriginal Corporations undertake, ensure that Traditional Owners are involved and, in time, will have control of all aspects and impacts of Cultural Heritage on Country.
The larger Aboriginal Corporations that are registered through the RAP process undertake the statutory responsibilities of a RAP as a function of their broader programs. Their broader programs and work may include:
- Ceremonies, including Welcomes to Country and Smoking Ceremonies.
- Traditional Owner representation at events and in decision making groups.
- Engagement with the broader community about a range of activities undertaken on Country.
- Country mapping through assessments of cultural values on Country.
- Requests for use of language.
- Requests for content for educational resources.
- Assessment of Cultural Heritage Management Plans and Permits.
- Natural Resource Management crews undertaking environmental works on Country.
- Community capacity building.
- Economic development.
- Community wellbeing and cultural participation.
- Cultural engagement and education.
- Membership programs and events.
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Reviewed 04 June 2021