Skip to main content

Bringing culture to life

23 Aug 2018

Scar trees were once common in Gunbower Forest, evidence of a cultural practice spanning tens of thousands of years.

Large sections of bark were expertly removed from towering gum trees and used to make containers or canoes. 

However, with logging taking out many of these majestic trees and the restrictions on Traditional Owners practising their culture, scar trees have become a thing of the past.

That was until a few weeks ago when the success of a very special project was celebrated.

The Barapa Water for Country project is partnership project between the North Central Catchment Management Authority (CMA) and Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners.

The project centres around Barapa Cultural Team members identifying, mapping and recording the cultural values of the lower Gunbower Forest to improve the management of environmental water.

It involves the collection of information and knowledge on the cultural and spiritual values of the area and is allowing the voices of the Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners to be heard in the water management of the forest.


With the support of an archaeologist and an ecologist, the team has used maps to prioritise cultural hot spots. Then, by walking in the steps of their ancestors, the hot spots are visited so their cultural values can be recorded, and watering priorities considered.

“To celebrate the success of the project we gained a permit to make a traditional bark canoe, involving the Barapa community to continue practicing culture on Country and create a scar tree that will tell a story for future generations,” North Central CMA Project Officer Patrick Fagan said.

“To be able to support the Barapa Barapa people in practicing their culture like this is significant, and it is historical.

“We also planted a river redgum and installed a plaque at the Treetops scout camp, acknowledging the hard work of Barapa Barapa over the five years of the project, and made presentations to participants and project staff.”

The award-winning Water for Country project was funded by the Victorian Government, with in-kind support from the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s Living Murray Indigenous Partnerships project

“The project supports Barapa custodians’ capacity to take part in decision making about water management, and recognises and integrates their rights, needs, priorities and values in water management,” Mr Fagan said.

“When the project started five years ago we had three people attend the first workshop. As the project grew, participation increased, and over the life of the project we have 33 Traditional Owners representing different generations involved.

“The project steering committee have contributed governance and leaderships skills and kept a cultural perspective at the heart of the project. The Elders and younger ones working together really shows the link between the wellbeing of people and the wellbeing of Country.\

"A key focus of the North Central CMA is that we acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the land, their rich cultural connection to Country, and importantly pay our respects to the Elders, past, present and emerging.”