Victoria’s Budj Bim region has become the first Australian site to be recognised on the UNESCO World Heritage List for its Aboriginal cultural values alone.
Gunditjmara Traditional Owners attended the World Heritage Committee meeting in Baku, Azerbaijan to witness the announcement of Budj Bim’s listing.
“This is a very special day for our community. This landscape, which we have cared for over thousands of years, is so important to Gunditjmara People,” said Gunditjmara Elder Denise Lovett.
“The decision also recognises Budj Bim’s significance to all of humanity. We are so proud to now be able to share our achievements and story with the world.”
Budj Bim Cultural Landscape has been recognised for its aquaculture system that manipulated water flows to ensure eels could be harvested year-round.
The system has been carbon dated at 6,600 years old and includes stone channels, weirs and dams hundreds of metres long, dug out of basalt lava flow.
The southwest Victorian region also holds proof of permanent Gunditjmara settlement in the area in the form of over 300 round, basalt stone houses.
For the past five years Gunditjmara Traditional Owners have worked with the Victorian and Federal Governments in developing Budj Bim’s nomination for a World Heritage listing.
“The Gunditjmara People have managed their Country for thousands of years and pursued Budj Bim’s World Heritage listing over several decades – it’s wonderful to see their ingenuity and determination globally recognised,” said Victorian Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Gavin Jennings.
The Victorian Government has also invested $13 million into protecting Budj Bim as it develops into a globally celebrated tourism destination.
A statement from the Victorian government said this investment also supports “self-determination for the Gunditjmara People in sharing the land with the rest of the world.”
“We will continue to support the Gunditjmara people in taking a self-determination approach as they lead the protection and development of this remarkable landscape and share it sustainably with the world,” said Member for Western Victoria Gayle Tierney.
Budj Bim is now the 20th area on the World Heritage List for Australia and the second for Victoria together with the Royal Exhibition Building and Carlton Gardens.