As a collective of Traditional Owners, the work that we do through the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council moves the Victorian community towards a place of understanding and respect for Aboriginal Cultural Heritage and the cultural responsibilities of our People.
Traditional Owners have inherent rights and responsibilities to speak and care for their Country. We manage our Culture and our Heritage, not just for the benefit of our own mob but for all People that come to our Country.
One of Council’s primary functions is to appoint Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAPs) to manage their Cultural Heritage on Country. These organisations represent Traditional Owners and hold decision‐making responsibilities under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 for the protection, management and preservation of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage within an appointed area. RAPs are the primary source of advice and knowledge on matters relating to their Heritage.
Further strengthening the empowerment of Traditional Owners under Victorian legislation to manage Country, on 6 February 2020 Council varied the boundaries of the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC).
Our decision to name the representative and inclusive Traditional Owner organisation, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, for this area is clear to the principles of maintaining the primacy of Traditional Owners.
The changed boundary extends easterly from EMAC’s existing shared RAP area, including the townships of Warrnambool, Terang, Mortlake, Camperdown, Colac, Apollo Bay, Lorne and Cressy as well as the Great Otway National Park. The area is bounded to the north west by the Grampians National Park and extends through Ararat north easterly. Its northernmost point is just across the Wimmera River.
Although the area does not include zones within the registration area of any existing RAP, Council encourages Traditional Owner organisations to continue to be proactive and to explore negotiation and conciliation options that may be available to them. Council understand these issues are complex and sees it as important for Traditional Owners to have these discussions, especially where there may be overlapping claims or interest.
Through Council’s supervision of RAP functions under the Act, it may impose conditions on a RAP to ensure inclusiveness and representativeness. In this way, Council can support all Traditional Owners of Maar Country to exercise their cultural rights as members of their RAP. Further to this, Council’s decision does not preclude future applications for registration variation over the Decision Area from other Traditional Owner groups.
Council supports Eastern Maar as the Rightful People to speak for and manage their Country under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006. Accountability to their membership is a key and fundamental practice which we encourage.
Traditional Owner assets are not materialistic, our Culture cannot be measured in monetary forms, it is in the shape of Our Peoples’ strength, knowledge and in the Peoples’ unified voices.
Council has been considering this land for over a decade and are satisfied that EMAC are an inclusive representative organisation, with the organisational capacity, sustainability and ability to undertake Cultural Heritage management and protection responsibilities for their Country.
The Act validates our strong, independent Registered Aboriginal Parties and their role to provide protection of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage in Victoria. Council has always known that the strength of Registered Aboriginal Parties lies in their inclusivity and bringing together of Culture and People. It supports inclusive Traditional Owner group structures whilst appreciating that all people have a voice and the agency to speak for their Culture.
Reviewed 23 June 2021