TRADITIONAL Owners say an environmental crisis will continue until Victoria fundamentally rethinks its approach to Country.
Dja Dja Wurrung representatives have told a parliamentary inquiry into Victoria's ecosystem decline that "we need to return balance to the system", a newly published transcript reveals.
That could eventually mean reintroducing animals like emus, quolls and dingoes to some areas to reverse the turning "upside down" of Country.
But the representatives said Traditional Owners should immediately be allowed to "garden" Country, much as they did long before Europeans arrived.
Their message was delivered at an inquiry that had already heard disturbing evidence about the collapse of Victoria's biodiversity.
Dja Dja Wurrung land strategy manager Nathan Long said reversing those processes would need a dramatic rethink of the notion that forests should hardly be touched.
"Our law, and practices, require to us take only what is needed, and with healthy ecosystems Djandak (Country) actually gives that to us. That needs to be there," he said.
"At the moment, if we went out on to Country to harvest yams to make bread, or kangaroo grass to make bread, it would be impossible to do, or it would cost us thousands of dollars per loaf."
Mr Long said current land management relies too much on wait-and-see approaches in which people want all the evidence before they act. By then it is often too late.
There are plenty of people ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work, he said.
Dja Dja Wurrung Group chief executive Rodney Carter said an example could include growing plans for harvest through a forest, with "de-engineered" creek banks allowing mini wetland-style floods for nourishment.
Insects and other invertebrate predators would take the place of artificial herbicides to provide a natural balance.
Some might call those ideas whacky, Mr Carter said.
"But if we do not do something now, out of the box - and that is what we are proposing, something out of the box - we will definitely be worse off. Because that is what science and history sadly tells us," he said.
Three generations of beekeepers show how forests went silent
Newly published transcripts of other people's testimony have also given more insight into the scale of some species' declines.
Third generation beekeeper Stuart Fraser has described how bogong moths would once sweep through parts of central Victoria "like a snow storm", during a state inquiry into ecosystem decline.
He has spent a lifetime moving bees through Victorian forests, much like his father and grandfather did.
He has witnessed an environmental "catastrophe" unfolding throughout his lifetime.
Just one issue has been a marked decline in the number of bogong moths moving through Victoria over the last 15 years. Mr Fraser says he has seen particularly few in the last four years.
"We are seeing what is basically a loss of one of the major pollinators - one of the major food sources for our mammals and birds," he said.
The moths would once move south from the Mallee in such large numbers radars could pick them up. They would pass through an area west of Bendigo to avoid spring heat.
Mr Fraser worried that the moths might never move in such numbers again.
He could only speculate on the apparent population drop's causes, though he suspected it could have something to do with modern insecticides and the sheer scale of industrial farming land in some areas.
Whatever the case, the problem exemplified the "severe trouble" many insect species faced, Mr Fraser said.
Many animal and tree populations were under extreme stress already because of climate change and deforestation.
Already, Bendigo had lost so much, judging from the tales handed down to Mr Fraser from his father and great uncle dating back to the 1880s.
To actually remember the stories ... of what it was actually like, they would tell the stories that if you camped in the forest, the noise at night would keep you awake, with the different birds and animals," Mr Fraser said.
"And today, you can camp in these forests and they are silent."
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