NATIVE GRASSES in a regenerated section of the Bendigo Creek are growing so well that they are being harvested and turned into baskets.
A Dja Dja Wurrung elder recently gathered enough lomandra grass grown near new Knight Street frog ponds to weave the baskets.
It is one small sign that storm water running into the creek is now healthy enough to grow plants for traditional use.
There are plenty of others, Djandak project manager Shane Antsee said.
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His team is tracking the quality of storm water quality flows through the frog ponds and into the creek.
"When the stormwater washes into the first pond it's really quite sick," Mr Antsee said.
"It has high levels of phosphorous, salt and turbidity, for example. When it gets to the last pond those measurements are fine."
Djandak - an arm of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation - recently built storm water drainage mimicking the sort of wetlands the area was once home to.
The series of ponds clean the water and give enough shelter for frogs, birds and the invertebrates they feed on.
Frogs are also appearing at a new section a block away at the intersection of Koomba Street and The Boulevard.
Djandak are still planting out that stretch, which captures run-off from nearby houses.
The water first fills the first in a series of catchments. Granite walls between each catchment help filter out sediment before water finally reaches the Bendigo Creek.
"Before we came along the storm water just flowed on the ground when it rained," Mr Antsee said.
"That's what made this area so appealing. There was all this unused storm water."
The Dja Dja Wurrung often describe the creek as "upside-down" country.
Nearly two centuries of colonisation have seen the creek's health drop. It has been transformed from a series of billabongs into a conduit for storm water run-off.
DDWCAC chief executive Rodney Carter said traditional owners feel a keen sense of responsibility for the health of the creek.
"If you were moving through here culturally, this would be the main water body you would use," he said.
"In a hilly landscape like you'd need to hug water features like creeks and rock wells."
There is still a long way to go before the creek is healed. Healthy water is still mixing with sick once it flows into the creek.
Mr Carter said the two White Hills projects show what was possible, though, and are shaping how the Dja Dja Wurrung thought about other stretches of water.
Djandak could one day turn its attention to works on the creek itself, not just storm water run-off, he said.
"We'd love to have a think about ways we can pick off a reach (section of creek) and have a crack at doing a complete restoration."
That could be some way off. The Dja Dja Wurrung would work closely with the City of Greater Bendigo and water corporations before getting started.
Ultimately, though, Mr Carter said Djandak would be in charge of healing the creek using its own expertise.
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