Aboriginal occupation in Gunbower Forest is evident through cultural heritage sites and artefacts such as scar trees (as shown in header image), shell middens and burial sites. These sites appear along watercourses, billabongs, wetlands, floodplains, levees, swamps and lunettes within the forest. These sites remain significant to the Aboriginal Community today.
Indigenous engagement is a key component of the Flooding for Life project. Indigenous communities with an interest in the Gunbower Forest have been identified and recognised as the Barapa Barapa and the Yorta Yorta nations.
Barapa Barapa native title claimants preside over the lower part of the forest, including the Dry Swamp Track Bridge. The Yorta Yorta Registered Aboriginal Party presides over the middle and upper components of the forest, including works at Hipwell Road and along Gunbower Creek.
Local Indigenous groups have attended field trips and meetings to learn about the Flooding for Life project and to share their own cultural understanding of Gunbower Forest with project staff.
Under the Aboriginal Heritage Act (Vic.), cultural heritage management plans are developed for all The Living Murray construction works in Gunbower Forest. The process required to develop cultural heritage management plans will be used as the key vehicle for ongoing engagement with the Traditional Owner groups of Gunbower Forest.
Barapa Water for Country project
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.