The following Welcome to Country statement (in a Maar language and in English) is from the Eastern Maar.
Artwork: Warran Pookarr by Lee-Anne Clarke
The Eastern Maar are Traditional Owners of south-western Victoria. Our land extends as far north as Ararat and encompasses the Warrnambool, Port Fairy and Great Ocean Road areas. It also stretches 100m out to sea from low tide.
Eastern Maar is a name adopted by the people who identify as Maar, Eastern Gunditjmara, Tjap Wurrung, Peek Whurrong, Kirrae Whurrung, Kuurn Kopan Noot and/or Yarro waetch (Tooram Tribe) amongst others, who are Aboriginal people and are:
- Descendants, including by adoption, of the identified ancestors
- Who are members of families who have an association with the former Framlingham Aboriginal Mission Station
- Who are recognised by other members of the Eastern Maar People as members of the group.
Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC) is the professional organisation that represents the Eastern Maar People of south-west Victoria and manages their Native Title rights and interests. EMAC has a board of directors of Traditional Owners and is a registered organisation under the Corporations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) Act 2006, and a Registered Aboriginal Party (RAP) under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Vic).
The Glenelg Hopkins region encompasses the north and western regions of the Eastern Maar RAP area. Towns within this area include Terang, Mortlake, Warrnmabool, Port Fairy, Dunkeld, Lake Bolac and Ararat. Some of the significant places for Eastern Maar within the Glenelg Hopkins region include the Hopkins and Merri Rivers, Lake Bolac and Framlingham Forest.
Who we are
EMAC is governed by a 12-member Board – each member represents a deﬁned family grouping that is linked to a referenced ancestor who occupied territory at the time of European settlement. Up to 60% of its board is represented by proud Eastern Maar women, some of whom are senior Elders and applicants to EMAC’s Native Title claim. EMAC operates as a society that has a unique decision-making structure – one which is committed to collectivism and inclusion, and which values common goals over individual pursuits.
The contemporary Eastern Maar nation traces an unbroken line of descent back to our ancestors over many thousands of years. We have survived as our Country’s First People and, despite the well documented colonial history, continue to maintain economic, traditional, cultural, familial and spiritual ties to our homeland. Through the leadership and authority of our Elders, we are practicing our laws and customs, strengthening our system of governance and nurturing our connection to Country.
We continue to pass on our traditional knowledge from generation to generation, inducting our young people into Maar society as a cultural practice initiated by our Ancestors. It is a process that keeps customs and stories alive and ensures we are able to maintain Maar culture, language and society. Drawing strength from our identity and past, we are able to live our culture as a set of attitudes, customs and beliefs – helping us to be resilient and adaptable in changing circumstances.
We are the eastern landholding group of a larger Aboriginal nation – the Maar Nation. The western landholding group of this Maar nation are the Gunditjmara, with whom we share the lands and waters between the Eumeralla and Shaw Rivers. The Country to the east of the Shaw River to the Leigh and the Barwon catchment basins, and the area from the sea in the south to the Great Dividing Range in the north belongs to Eastern Maar.
Before the arrival of Europeans there were more than 200 clan groups belonging to the Maar nation. This number diminished quickly to just a fraction of the original population, with small groups coalescing into larger ones, and yet larger ones still until there were only two Maar landholding groups left, each covering a large area of land and water.
In accordance with our law and custom, clans that became incapacitated were superseded by others who remained strong, handing on their sanctioned place in the landscape and responsibilities for looking after the clan estate. This process ensured that the cultural values and practices of Maar citizens remained intact. Today some of our citizens continue to identify with the respective Maar clan groups of their ancestors, including Peek Whurrong, Chap Whurrong (Tjap Wurrung or Djab Wurrung), Kirrae Whurrong, Kuurn Kopan Noot and Yarro Waetch (Tooram Tribe). Other citizens comfortably identify as part of the broader Eastern Maar group without identifying with a particular clan.
Thangang poonart (Hopkins Falls)
Photo: Courtesy of EMAC
Belfast Coastal Reserve, Eastern Maar Country
Photo: Courtesy of EMAC
Warrion – A creation story
The Creation story of Warrion, the bandicoot, is centred around Mount Warrion and its lava flow. The story tells of how Warrion’s ancestor, a megafauna predecessor of the modern-day bandicoot, created the many small water holes East and South of Warrion hill by using his tale as a club. Warrion did this in order to change the direction of water flow away from Koorrang Koorrang (Lake Corangamite), a saline lake to the west of Mount Warrion, toward Lake Colac. Koorrang Koorrang (Lake Corangamite), is Koorrang Meerreeng (Snake Country), and if too much water flows into the lake the sleeping woman will wake, flooding all the surrounding lands with her tears.
This story is an example of a rich Maar cultural mosaic landscape that is now part of south-west Victoria. ‘Pang-ngooteekeeya weeng malangeepa ngeeye (Remembering our Future – Bringing old ideas to the new) is a project that will examine and reintroduce the cultural land and water management practices of the Maar nation. It will use the creation stories such as the one above to inform EMAC of the management objectives of each Country and how to implement them.
EMAC have three main priority areas including leadership in water and land management, build the capacity of EMAC and provide benefits for EMAC community and members. These areas are closely linked and feed into each other, and support the delivery of Meerreengeeye ngakeepoorryeeyt – the EMAC Country Plan. Some of the actions to further these priorities are outlined below.
Walker Swamp, Eastern Maar Country
Photo: Greg Kerr
Middle Island, Eastern Maar Country
Photo: Courtesy of EMAC
Leadership in water and land management
Build toward reinstating traditional land management methodologies by:
– Research, consultation and learning about cultural landscapes – gathering, storing and utilising data and information.
– Research and documentation of intangible values and cultural heritage including stories and language.
Develop a Healthy Country team to undertake strategic and on-ground work.
Spend more time on Country to learn about and understanding Country.
Take a proactive approach to assessment and protection of cultural heritage, not just in response to development applications.
Advise and partner with agencies and “on-ground” groups such as Landcare groups to achieve revegetation on waterways, weed and feral animal control, restoring wetlands, and installing interpretive signage.
Benefits for community and members
Cultural and social priorities of activities/ strategies/ projects sit beside ecological and economic outcomes and benefits.
Establishment and growth of a Healthy Country team results in jobs for community.
Build the capacity of EMAC
Resources to employ more staff.
Research, consultation and learning about cultural landscapes – gathering, storing and utilising data and information.
Establish and grow a Healthy Country team to undertake strategic and on-ground work.
Establish a CMA-liaison position funded by CMAs.
Long term involvement in planning, strategies and on ground delivery – not repeated short term involvement, and
Involvement and influence in Ramsar Wetlands – Western District Lakes.