Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians

Traditional Owners have always cared for this Country, and always will

For thousands of years, this region was occupied and cared for by a number of Aboriginal clans. They fished and hunted in the waters of the area and harvested food from the bush and grasslands. Archaeological evidence at the Murrup Tamboore site north of Melbourne shows the land, coasts and waterways of the Port Phillip & Western Port region were supporting Aboriginal people at least 31,000 years ago.

Their wisdom and skills have enabled life in harmony with the landscapes and ecosystems. For Aboriginal people, managing the land and waters was done, and continues to be done, in ways that maintain both the environmental and community health. This has included active and adaptive approaches, using fire, animal traps and vegetation management as integral management tools for maintaining productive and healthy landscapes.

With the arrival of Europeans and the subsequent colonisation that was turbulent and often violent, some Aboriginal traditional ecological knowledge for land and water management has been lost or sidelined through the past 200 years. Of the 1.3 million hectares of land in this region, less than 1,000 hectares is now under Aboriginal community ownership and/or management.

However, the knowledge and practices of Traditional Owners remain important and there is a resurgence in their use as they are increasingly embraced and re-applied in today’s management of natural resources.

The Traditional Owners of this region – the Bunurong, Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and Wadawurrung Peoples – actively seek for the philosophy of Caring for Country to be embraced and at the centre of conservation planning and practice to restore, sustain and improve this Country. Ongoing support must be provided to Traditional Owners to care for Country and foundational activities must be strengthened to include Traditional Owners in decision making, planning and determination of priorities on their Country.