A NEW project to survey cultural heritage important to local traditional owners has begun in the lower Gunbower Forest.
The project, delivered through the North Central Catchment Management Authority, will work closely with the Barapa Barapa community to identify and map sites of cultural significance such as scar trees, shell middens, earth mounds as well as food, fibre and medicine plants.
North Central CMA Indigenous facilitator Bambi Lees said archaeological and traditional owner knowledge indicated that the Gunbower Forest was rich in cultural heritage.
"However a large proportion of the forest remains unsurveyed leading to the potential destruction and degradation of sites," he said.
The 12-month project, led by a steering committee comprising Barapa representatives and North Central CMA staff, has been funded through the Australian Government’s Indigenous Heritage program.
Survey work will be conducted by traditional owners with training in modern survey techniques by a bio-anthropologist (archaeologist) and ecologist.
Information gained through the project will support North Central CMA to develop annual environmental watering priorities for the Gunbower Forest that reflect the social, spiritual and cultural values of the traditional owners.
An important focus for the project will be to provide opportunities for Barapa people to come together to work and share knowledge on Country.
Elder Uncle Neville Whyman said the project would help to look after both environmental and cultural values of Gunbower Forest.
“Water is important to make our connection to country," he said.
"The project will learn from the historical evidence – and we need to bring our young ones along with us.
"If we don’t, we’ve got no generation behind us that’s got the knowledge.
"We can only do that by bringing them out on country – and there’s got to be something here (for them to see)," he said.
Traditional owners, private land owners and CMAs were among those consulted for the new Victorian Waterway Management Strategy released last month.
Water Minister Peter Walsh said the strategy aimed to improve the health of waterways over the next eight years so they could continue to provide "environmental, social, cultural, and economic values that are important to everyone".