Heritage list push for Heywood site

A CAMPAIGN to have an indigenous site near Heywood recognised as having World Heritage status was launched yesterday.

Budj Bim cultural landscape, which covers areas at Lake Condah and Tyrendarra, have been earmarked for global recognition.

The state government has endorsed the push with Premier Denis Napthine confirming the move with indigenous leaders at a ceremony yesterday afternoon.

The Condah and Tyrendarra districts are home to evidence of the world’s oldest aquaculture system with Aboriginal elders working to boost recognition of the site’s cultural importance for more than two decades.

Evidence of permanent occupation of the Budj Bim area dates back 6600 years with archaeologists identifying some of the globe’s earliest remaining elements of eel farming.

Gunditjmara elder Ken Saunders said state backing for recognition of Budj Bim was a historic day for the south-west indigenous people.

In a speech yesterday, Mr Saunders recalled the work involved in achieving national recognition of the site and said it was necessary to take the push to an international level.

“When we went to Canberra, we lobbied every minister we could and after three days, we finally got there,” he said. 

“This is all about raising the bar, raising the bar for Aboriginal people and Aboriginal culture.

“But you can’t do it alone. 

“It’s all about working with the state (government) and working with all non-indigenous people (to achieve recognition).”

The Budj Bim landscape was included on the Australian National Heritage List in 2004, joining other areas of cultural importance such as Fraser Island, the Sydney Opera House and Uluru.

Former Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation chief Denis Rose said the campaign to highlight the site’s cultural significance dated back 25 years.

“It’s fair to say we started working away as early as 1989,” Mr Rose said. 

“No one could accuse us of rushing into things.

“You have to have the evidence. It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it.”

Dr Napthine, who is also South West Coast MP, said the historical background of Budj Bim was an Australian story worth celebrating.

“There are many thousands of years of permanent settlement on this land,” Dr Napthine said. 

“A sophisticated culture, sophisticated methods of eel farming and aquacultural production.”

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