Traditional Owners

The Glenelg Hopkins region is a diverse landscape, covering volcanic plains, grassy woodlands and eucalypt forests, productive Sea Country, significant rivers and extensive wetland systems. These landscapes are rich in both plant and animal life – such as black fish, eels, kangaroos and yam daisies – that have been cultivated and harvested to sustain permanent settlements of Aboriginal people in the region for millennia.

The Glenelg Hopkins region was home to numerous cultural and linguistic groups in pre-colonial times – Gunditjmara and the Eastern Maar Nations across the majority of the Glenelg and Hopkins River catchments and the coast, Jadawadjali and Wotjobaluk to the north of the Glenelg River, Wadawurrung in the north east, and Boandik to the west of the Glenelg River. The landscape remains rich in cultural values with Traditional Owners maintaining their spiritual connection to lands where they have custodial rights and responsibilities. Traditional Owner culture is expressed through involvement in land and sea management, teaching of culture practices and knowledge, and continuing to access and enjoy Country.

Four Traditional Owner groups help manage the unique cultural landscape of the Glenelg Hopkins region – Barengi Gadjin Land Council, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation. Burrandies Aboriginal Corporation, representing Boandik Traditional Owners, also have interests and connections to Country in the western part of the Glenelg River catchment. Click the links below to learn more about Traditional Owner groups managing Country across the region.

Aboriginal people have a strong and continuing connection with the land and water across the Glenelg Hopkins region. They have important cultural obligations to manage their lands and waterways. Traditional Owner led management of Country is central to the region’s future.

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Contributing to the RCS

Traditional Owner groups have been generous in their contribution to the development of the Glenelg Hopkins Regional Catchment Strategy. Thank you to Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation, Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation, Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation and Barengi Gadjin Land Council.

As well as strategic outcomes and priority management directions to care for the land and waters of their Country, Traditional Owner group staff and community members have provided much broader and deeper insights into how Country can be better looked after. Many of these insights challenge the current way land and waters are managed, including the fragmentation of management responsibilities and how Traditional Owners’ leadership and decision making is considered. Some of the insights we heard from Traditional Owners throughout the RCS process are outlined below:

  • Aboriginal place names, and plant and animal names, and where possible Aboriginal language content, is a basic part of observing and communicating Aboriginal connection to Country.
  • Healthy Country and healthy people are linked. Good social and cultural outcomes are not separate from looking after Country. The use of language that reflects these relationships, such as ‘healing Country’, ‘caring for Country’, ‘looking after Country’ in place of or alongside language like ‘managing land and water’ and ‘integrated catchment management.’
  • Understanding relationships with Country as intimate and familial and defined by care and obligation, like parent to child and sister to brother, rather than by ideas of management and use.
  • The importance of seasonal calendars and the knowledge embedded in them – the implicit and explicit Indigenous Ecological Knowledge – observing and learning about Country at different times of the year, and looking after Country.
  • The role of cultural management activities in looking after Country. For example, identifying and caring for tangible Cultural Heritage such as scar trees, burial sites, dwelling places and massacre sites, and intangible Cultural Heritage such as stories (e.g. creations stories) and the places, people and species that are connected to them.
  • Because of the dispossession, massacres and forced removal from Country and confinement on missions, Traditional Owners in the south-west are often in a position of needing to relearn and reconnect with what has been lost. Partner organisations and agencies can support Traditional Owner groups in this relearning process.
  • The importance of seeing ecosystems and parts of Country as connected not separate, as outlined in the themes and sub-themes around which the RCS is structured.
  • Understanding Country in terms of cultural landscapes which are defined and named for their culturally significant species, and looking after cultural landscapes according to what those animals and plants need to thrive.
  • Identifying that fragmentation and isolation of Country is one of the biggest threats to Country and people, along with the fragmentation of the many agencies who are responsible for managing land and water.

We acknowledge that there is a long way to go in properly understanding and implementing these perspectives and knowledge in how we manage and care for land and water. We are confident that this RCS and the consultations that formed it are steps forward on that journey together.