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Cultural centre opens ancient Victorian eel and fish trip site up for tourism boom

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A new aquaculture centre within the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Budj Bim National Park is preparing to welcome visitors after works were completed earlier this month.

Budj Bim in Victoria's south-west is home to one of the oldest and most extensive aquaculture sites in the world.

The site features a complex system of channels and weirs used by the Gunditjmara people to trap eels and fish for more than 6,600 years.

It's also home to the remains of more than 300 Aboriginal stone houses, evidence of the Gunditjmara people's permanent settlement in the area.

The new Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre will give visitors the opportunity learn about how Gunditjmara people worked with the environment and it's natural resources for more than 30,000 years.

It will feature Aboriginal artefacts, eel tanks and a bush tucker café serving local food and coffee.

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation Budj Bim World Heritage executive officer Erin Rose said the new aquaculture centre would be an ideal meeting place to learn about Gunditjmara culture.

"It's a tourism hub where people will be able to meet, taste some eel, have a coffee and learn about our culture," she said.

"It's great for us to be able to share our knowledge, and our stories in a sustainable way that will allow us to continue caring for our country and our culture."

An opening ceremony for the centre at Lake Condah was held last Friday, and it is expected tours will commence for the public in June 2022.

The Budj Bim site, which is older than the pyramids, was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2019 after more than a decade of lobbying.

Ms Rose said securing UNESCO recognition and the works at Budj Bim have been a "long process", and she was proud of how far the community have come.

"It's a really big achievement for us," she said.

"it's been a long-term aspiration and we are quite proud.

"Economically, being able to look after ourselves and our country as well as being able to offer employment opportunities fits in nicely with where we want to go as a community."

The Victorian Government has invested more than $12 million into the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape project which includes the national park, the Tyrendarra township, Kurtonitj, Lake Condah, and Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area.

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Corporation acting chief executive Denis Rose said the Gunditjmara people welcomed the government's assistance to protect Budj Bim and encourage more people to learn about and understand the history of this significant landmark.

"These works will help to ensure that this land continues to be visited and looked after for many years to come."

The Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre and cafe at Lake Condah is scheduled to open to the public in June 2022.

Guided cultural tours of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape will also commence at this time.

Story by Mia Burgess

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