A project decades in the making is coming to fruition with the release of the draft plan that will see the Dja Dja Wurrung people and the state government share management of parks and reserves in the region.
The joint management plan, released for public comment on Thursday, aims to empower the Dja Dja Wurrung community to manage six parks and reserves in central Victoria in co-operation with the state government.
Greater Bendigo National Park, Hepburn Regional Park, Kara Kara National Park, Kooyoora State Park, Paddys Ranges State Park and the Wehla Nature Conservation Reserve are owned by the Dja Dja Wurrung people under Aboriginal Title.
Graham Atkinson, chairman of the Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board which prepared the plan, said it marked a significant achievement for the board and the Dja Dja Wurrung community.
“It’s also an opportunity to acknowledge our ancestors who were the pioneers, and passed on their knowledge to descendants like me and other Dja Dja Wurrung community members to fulfil this important task,” Mr Atkinson said.
He explained it was significant as the Dja Dja Wurrung people, the traditional owners of the land, had in the past been sidelined when it came to the management of such land, and this helped raise their profile and voice.
“It also puts the Dja Dja Wurrung people back into the landscape,” he said.
The strong affinity Dja Dja Wurrung people have with their land is at the core of the 15-year plan, which is only the second of its kind in the state.
Its implementation will be led by the Dja Dja Wurrung community.
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Mr Atkinson said the plan would ensure parks would remain open for the enjoyment of all people, while conserving and protecting significant cultural, heritage and environmental sites.
“Successful joint management will achieve wide-ranging benefits for the Dja Dja Wurrung people, the broader community and the environment through the integration of cultural knowledge and practices into the management of public land,” he said.
The plan was “many decades in the making”, Mr Atkinson said, but began gathering momentum when the Dja Dja Wurrung people lodged native claims in 1998.
He said the first milestone in working towards joint land management was the signing of the Recognition and Settlement Agreement with the Victorian government, an agreement that recognised the Dja Dja Wurrung people as the traditional owners for a large swathe of central Victoria.
Rodney Carter, the chief executive officer of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation, heralded the plan as visionary, a plan that would challenge all in its implementation and one he hoped the Victorian public would view constructively.
Mr Carter said the Dja Dja Wurrung people had worked hard within constraints of government systems to show they were capable of leading, and the Dhelkunya Dja board had done just that in developing the plan.
Members of the public can make submissions on the draft plan until June 18.
Submissions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or Board’s Level 3, 8 Nicholson Street, East Melbourne 3002.
For more information, visit the Dhelkunya Dja board’s website.