Budj Bim National Heritage Landscapes
The descendants of the Gunditjmara peoples of southwest Victoria have been active for over a decade in preserving the ingenious fish and eel traps and stone huts at Lake Condah and advocating for their protection.
Carbon dating of charcoal found during excavation at the site showed the Budj Bim stone-walled fish trap complex to be more than 6600 years old – one of the world’s first engineering projects and the oldest continuously used fish trap in the world, predating the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge. It is also one of Australia’s oldest and largest aquaculture system – a series of canals and graded ponds, around 35km in length in which water levels were manipulated to encourage eels into holding ponds.
Here the Gunditjmara people lived in large, permanent settlements, dispelling the myth that Australia’s Indigenous people were all nomadic.
Budj Bim was awarded Australian National Heritage listing in 2004 and in 2007 the Gunditjmara were granted Native Title over the area and a management plan was put in place. The drain in the lake was plugged allowing the fish traps to fill once more.
World Heritage nomination
In January 2017 the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscapes of Mt Eccles, Lake Condah and Tyrendarra Areas were nominated by the Federal Government for UNESCO World Heritage listing. They are now on Australia’s Tentative List World Heritage Nominations.
If successful, and we anticipate it will be, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape will become the first Australian place to be world heritage listed exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural values.
Prime Minister Turnbull, Jan 2017.
See here for the Gunditj Mirring YouTube on nomination.
What happens now
Over the next 12 months a comprehensive World Heritage nomination will be developed and must be submitted to the World Heritage Committee no later than 1 February 2018. ICOMOS and IUCN will then make a recommendation to the World Heritage Committee which will meet in July 2019 to accept or reject the nomination.
Budj Bim National Park
The area formerly known as Mt Eccles National Park was renamed Budj Bim National Park in April 2017 following community consultation by Parks Victoria that demonstrated 80% support for the change.
News releases and reports
Denis Rose on ABC Radio National, presented by Daniel Browning, 7 October 2017 The Rich Cultural Landscape of Budj Bim – Summary: Aboriginal people built the world’s oldest known aquaculture system in a lava flow in south-western Victoria 6500 years ago.