As Victoria’s First Peoples we will stand together with all Victorians in this time of great trauma - trauma to our Country, trauma to our People and trauma to our Culture.
Before Victoria, this place was our Peoples’ Country and had been for many thousands of years. It is still our Peoples’ Country, it is our Mother and it can nurture us, but today we grieve for all those who have been harmed whilst sharing her with us.
Our People manage our Culture and our Heritage, not just for the benefit of our own mob but for all People that come to our Country and who call this place home. We want all People, all Families, all animals and all Country to be safe but, in this state of disaster, it cannot be guaranteed.
Our Ancestors, though all the struggles they faced living their life ways, were masters of living and loving our land. Through looking to our Ancestors, we will lead our truest life. As best we can be leaders in our own mobs, to the advantage of our People, we should bring calmness and guidance in this time of disaster.
We ask you, the broad, diverse, distressed Victorian community to work with Traditional Owners. Together we can understand the devastating effects of climate change and implement Country management strategies that will help heal our fire and drought ravaged land. Many Traditional Owners now have Country Plans, that are Strategic documents for Healthy Country and Healthy People, we need support to lead the implementation of these documents and realise their visions.
Fire is a devastating element that brings great danger and great renewal. Only added in July 2019 to the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape was the first site in Australia to be included solely on cultural values. On Saturday, the Budj Bim National Park and Lake Condah were ablaze. These places have survived many fires and, hopefully, will survive many more. Sites in the North and East of the state, fundamentally linked to the wellbeing of Aboriginal Peoples, have also been ravaged.
Unlike the fires still raging across the South East of the Country, some fires can be used to affect strategic change and regeneration. In May 2018, the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy was launched. The Strategy was developed with Traditional Owners so that Country can be managed both sensitively and effectively. An enabling piece of work, the Strategy communicates our future together managing ‘right fire, the right way’ and the strategy is commended to all Victorians,
As a Council of Traditional Owners, we seek support for all Aboriginal People whose Country and cultural wellbeing has been affected by wrong fire. When the smoke clears, we can look to the regeneration created by fire. The Country regrows and sites are sometimes revealed. And we long for a future, for all our children, where we make fire of our choosing that brings health to the land and its People.
What we can take out of this is that our People and Country are resilient. We continue to be true to who we are and what our Ancestors created in this world – our sites, our stories and our dance. The good news is that we will be here in another 100,000 years, we can guarantee it - it’s in our DNA.
Reviewed 26 March 2020