Strengthened pride in and knowledge of Aboriginal cultural heritage

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape recognised on UNESCO’s World Heritage List, Caring for Country, Our Places Our Names, taking control of our heritage and making change.

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape recognised

On Saturday 6 July 2019, a significant milestone in realising Traditional Owner led management, protection, education and enjoyment of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage was made by the Gunditjmara Peoples. The Gunditjmara Peoples’ Country, their relationship to Country, their innovation and their custodianship was recognised at a global level with the inclusion of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

The strongest protection of our cultural sites is achieved when others learn to care and, today, the world has said they care.

'In us lives a Culture that extends through time but, at the end of the day, we drive modern cars, eat modern food, live in a modern context and we apply our understandings of cultural identity to a modern world. Today the modern world has acknowledged our ancient lineal connection to Culture and Country, forged over tens of thousands of years.'

Rodney Carter, Chairperson

As a Council of Traditional Owners, we understand the work and commitment made by the Gunditjmara Peoples to have their ancient lineal connection to Country recognised. We applaud their strength and resilience in succeeding.

There are many of us who have had the opportunity to be exposed to our Culture. It shapes identity and is a lived spirituality fundamental to the wellbeing of our communities through connectedness across generations. Our Cultural Heritage has been passed from the Ancestors to future generations through today’s Traditional Owners whose responsibilities are profound and lifelong. We as First Peoples, with education and understanding, can share our Culture with the world.

'We support the Gunditmara Peoples in contributing to the cultural conversation for the protection of significant Aboriginal sites within the state. It is important that we work collectively to ensure all Aboriginal groups’ cultural rights are respected and recognised.'

Geraldine Atkinson, Council Member

In the first week of commencement of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006, on 30 May 2007, the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owner Corporation in Victoria’s south west was the first Aboriginal party to be registered to better protect and manage their Cultural Heritage. At the time, then Chair of the newly formed Council, Ricky Mullett, said “this is an important first step towards giving Aboriginal communities the decision-making power to manage and protect their Cultural Heritage at the local level – which is what traditional communities have wanted for a long time.”

The inclusion of Budj Bim on the World Heritage List, the first site in Australia to be included solely on cultural values, is another significant first step for the Gunditjmara Peoples. We encourage all Traditional Owners to follow in their footsteps and let the world look with awe on our Culture, the oldest living Culture on earth.

Caring for Country

These projects support Traditional Owners in undertaking their responsibilities for Country. They provide a space for Traditional Owners to talk about why it is important to protect Cultural Heritage and discuss how it is managed on Country.

Caring for Country on 3KND Big Brekky

The Council has partnered with 3KND radio to talk about Caring for Country. The new and deadly segment is a yarn with a different Traditional Owner each month about protecting Aboriginal Cultural Heritage. The program stared on Wednesday 29 April 2020, will continue until the end of 2020 and you can catch it live on the last Wednesday of each month at 8:30am.

Caring for Country at Fed Square

On 24 June 2020, Council presented a live digital event from the Deakin Edge at Fed Square. Racquel Kerr hosted a panel of esteemed Traditional Owners including Hans Bokelund, Rodney Carter, Jamie Lowe and Rachel Perkins. The panel discussed caring for Country through a consideration of the current legislation protecting Aboriginal Cultural Heritage.

During the event, Rodney Carter launched the Taking Control of Our Heritage Discussion Paper on legislative reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006.

Our places our names

These projects support Traditional Owners to reinstate their traditional names for places on Country into the current, formal frameworks of placemaking.

Our Languages Matter

The Our Languages Matter program of workshops have created a shared purpose, developed understanding and designed a shared approach that enables all interested people to create change together.

Since 2018, these workshops have provided opportunities for Traditional Owners to promote the importance of local Aboriginal languages in the naming of roads, geographic features and localities. Importantly, participants from Local and State Government have been supported to explore ways for establishing strong professional relationships with RAPs to enable future collaborative naming activities.

Council’s Our Languages Matter program of workshops were awarded a prestigious Good Design Award ‘Tick’ in July 2019. Australia’s annual Good Design Awards program is one of the oldest and most prestigious international design awards in the world, promoting excellence in design and innovation since 1958. It is recognised by the World Design Organization as Australia’s peak international design endorsement program.

Council strives for Aboriginal People to speak for, and with, their Cultural Heritage. Using language in place naming is an important contribution to reclamation and use of Aboriginal languages by Aboriginal Victorians. Traditional Owner managed Language and Country is fundamental to Council’s purpose and to these workshops.

'This is a project that applies co-design approaches to a sensitive and complex topic, and the adoption of visual techniques to work around language challenges. The Jury appreciated the connection between participation and positive impact for the communities involved – creating value through both process and outcome. It’s heartening to see both social impact and the potential for economic advancement. Well done.'

Good Design Award Judges

Our Places Our Names waterways naming project

Naming unnamed waterways and renaming of named waterways, with Traditional names, is an important step in realising self-determination for Victorian Traditional Owners. Council has released a guide for RAPs to navigate the naming process to ensure that the original names of Country be retained and used across Country. Additional protections are being considered for un-named waterways in Council’s taking Control of our Heritage Discussion Paper.

Taking control of our heritage

These projects explore the legislations that govern Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and advocate for the best international standards for protection and management.

Taking control of our heritage discussion paper on legislative reform of the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006

The objective of the Paper is to help everyone, Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, Victorian and non- Victorian, have their say on the operation of the Act. The Paper organises proposals for legislative change into themes corresponding to mechanisms and parts of the Act. Each has its own section which explains the key purpose of the proposed change and invites submissions and questions.

The primary focus of the review is the Act, however, if issues raised relate to the Aboriginal Heritage Regulations 2018 these will also be considered.

Taking control of our heritage Indigenous Cultural Heritage Conference 2021

Recently postponed until 24-26 March 2021, Council is hosting the Conference to provide the first opportunity for Traditional Owners and their allies to meet, discuss, and develop programs, strategies and ideas to take control of their Cultural Heritage in Australia.

The Conference is for all Traditional Owners, their organisations and those that work with them in the promotion, management and protection of Indigenous Cultural Heritage. The Conference program will encompass several relevant themes, prominent international and national speakers as well as a comprehensive social program.

Making change

These projects provide environments for Council and Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) to genuinely engage and discuss their work.

RAP Connect

In March 2020, Council had to drastically alter the Special RAP/Council forum it was to hold in Bendigo. The forum was to provide Council and RAPs and opportunity to sit together and discuss the ways the current legislations practically enable the management and protection of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in Victoria. Due to the stay at home directions, the forum was changed to a teleconference. The direct engagement, RAP Connect, offered by this changed format enabled genuine discussion amongst the RAPs and Council. As needs changed, the new forum continued every two or four weeks and will remain active as a digital based yarn until at least the end of 2020.

The Chair’s Dinner

The inaugural Chair’s Dinner was held in the Federation Room of the Parliament of Victoria on Thursday 13 February 2020. The formal banquet, hosted by Rodney Carter, achieved its objective of providing a social environment for senior Traditional Owners to sit together and discuss how best the primacy of their responsibilities for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage can be enacted by government.

Deeper understanding of cultural heritage

A long-standing statutory function of Council is to promote public awareness and understanding of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in Victoria. Complementing this function is Council’s role to promote and facilitate research into Aboriginal Cultural Heritage.

Council strategically engages with communities, organisations, government departments and the Minister for Aboriginal Affairs to build mutual respect in the broader community, in partnership with RAPs and other Traditional Owners.

Working Collectively

Council contributes extensively to promoting a deeper understanding of Cultural Heritage through broad engagement with strategic legislative and operational reviews.