INDIGENOUS leaders have cemented an agreement with Parks Victoria giving Traditional Owners a formal role managing swathes of land across the region.
The major milestone years, if not decades, in the making is part of a longer term goal to help central Victoria's Dja Dja Wurrung care for and heal Country.
The deal was about much more than an understanding between two parties, said Uncle Graham Atkinson, chair of land management board Dhelkunya Dja.
"When I enter Dja Dja Wurrung Country it just lifts my spirit to know that I'm here," he said.
"I come back on my Ancestors' Country, that we - the descendants - must now really look after. We are very committed to do that."
Uncle Graham called it a spiritual connection that was very difficult to describe.
"It's a very emotional affinity with the land," he said.
Uncle Graham said the goal of the new agreement was not to exclude other park users.
He emphasised that shared use was vital as long as it was done responsibly and with respect to the needs of the land.
The agreement outlines how Traditional Owners and Parks Vic will work together to manage land including the Greater Bendigo National Park, Hepburn Regional Park, Kooroora State Park, Paddys Ranges State Park, Wehla Nature Conservation Reserve and part of the Karra Kara National Park.
Rodney Carter heads the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and he said that the deal formalised a part of the relationship with Parks Victoria that had gathered steam over the previous decade, especially in 2013 when Traditional Owners signed a formal reconciliation and settlement agreement with the state.
"But Parks Vic has been talking to Indigenous communities for a long time. They've had Aboriginal employment programs for decades," he said.
"All of that has led to today."
Parks Victoria regional director Dan McLaughlin said his organisation employs Dja Dja Wurrung to care for Country, works with Indigenous business group Djandak and consults intensively with Traditional Owners.
"So this agreement helps and guides us in how we do that," he said.
"So on what it means and what we do next, it's really about managing the parks. The agreement helps guides us in how we do it."
Have you signed up to the Bendigo Advertiser's daily newsletter and breaking news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in central Victoria.