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Dja Dja Wurrung restoring culturally significant species to Country

Rachael Knowles -

Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC) is moving mountains to heal Country.

DDWCAC's subsidiary company, Dja Dja Wurrung Enterprises Pty Ltd (DDWE), are moving swiftly through their Wanyarram Dhelk (Good Waterhole) project in White Hills, Victoria.

The program, created in 2016, was born from a partnership between DDWE and North Central Catchment Management Authority. Wanyarram Dhelk will bring to life the aspirations of Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners to heal Country.

"What we are trying to do is apply a Dja Dja Wurrung way to rehabilitation. As opposed to just being driven by scientists, it's driven by our creative design and then we use science to test the design in its application back to landscape, and then we collect data as anyone else would to ensure it is working," said DDWCAC CEO, Rodney Carter.

"This is what we want to do as custodians of this Country and to heal Country."

Stepping up into stage two of Wanyarram Dhelk in Bendigo Creek, DDWE will restore culturally significant food and fibre species into the landscape; ensuring the waterways are healthy with the right water in the right places.

"Our ancestors in Country, cared for Country, they needed sustenance, they needed food and fibre in all its forms. We have just targeted six species ... we are engineering the environment, we are gardening the environment, we are putting that food and fibre back in the landscape."

"Food and fibre are our product on how to heal landscape and how to put mob back in touch with Country."

"For us, we are modern people, so we aren't necessarily there every day. So, putting food and fibre back in landscape is like putting those Traditional Owners back on Country because whenever we visit Country, talk to Country, listen to Country, you have food there to access."

DDWE has also been communicating their mission with the wider community.

"This is an old way to do things, but it is also really clever for us to do it now in a modern way as the world has changed so much globally and this is an investment in climate change adaptability [and] healthier lifestyles by getting out into Country and landscape," Carter said.

Dja Dja Wurrung Elder, Aunty Marilyne Nicholls, works within Wanyarram Dhelk.

"It's great the Wanyarram Dhelk Project stage two vegetation works are happening, and that the Dja Dja Wurrung as the Traditional Owners of Central Victoria remain at the forefront of caring and healing Djandak [Country] and the waterways, the way our ancestors had done centuries before," Aunty Marilyne said.

Carter noted the power of having Dja Dja Wurrung leading healing for Country.

"It's making Country healthy again, and you need First People to define what healthy Country is," he said.

"I think outside of our spirituality and creation and all of that stuff, it also has to be practical to sustain us, so that is food and fibre, that is clean water."

Wanyarram Dhelk is made possible through the partnership of North Central Catchment Management Authority, City of Greater Bendigo, the Environment Protection Authority, the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and Coliban Water.

By Rachael Knowles

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