PARKS Victoria has taken an important step towards managing land in collaboration with traditional owners with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding at Wilsons Promontory National Park.
The MOU was signed last Wednesday by representatives of Parks Victoria and the three traditional owners groups with a connection to Prom Country – Gunaikurnai, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung.
The signing ceremony, which coincided with the official opening of the Yiruk Warnoon Keeping Place and Education Centre at Tidal River, was the culmination of much consultation over recent years. The groups have come together often to talk about aspirations, common goals, cultural heritage, park management and management of country and have now established a strong working relationship.
Addressing the crowd gathered for the signing, Parks Victoria Chief Executive Dr Bill Jackson said the purpose of the MOU was to establish a framework for communication and working collaboratively, to assist in developing a collective vision for the park and to provide opportunities for future projects between the parties.
“Working together in good faith, for the benefit of the park, as well as sharing knowledge about managing cultural heritage can only benefit both Parks Victoria and the traditional owners in future management practices,” said Dr Jackson. “Parks Victoria can learn a lot from the traditional owners,” he added.
‘Uncle’ Merv Brown of Bunurong peoples shared Dr Jackson’s sentiments, remarking that the signing of the MOU was a significant occasion.
“We are delighted to be able to work collaboratively with the other traditional owners on management principles and cultural heritage for Wilsons Promontory National Park,” he said.
Last Wednesday’s celebrations were attended by upwards of 60 people, including Gunaikurnai, Bunurong and Boon Wurrung, Parks Victoria staff and members of the Wilsons Promontory Advisory Council, the Friends of the Prom and other groups associated with the popular national park.
The celebrations began with a smoking ceremony to cleanse the new Yiruk Wamoon Keeping Place and Education Centre. The ‘Yiruk’ and ‘Warnoon’ of the title are the names the traditional owners give the Prom.
Chief Executive of Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Corporation Barry Kenny, who played a vital role in establishing the Memorandum of Understanding, said the new centre provided an excellent opportunity to showcase an array of Aboriginal artefacts and increase knowledge of the unique cultural heritage for all visitors who come to the Prom.
“This was a key aspect of the MOU and we were delighted to have the Yiruk Wamoon Keeping Place and Education Centre established so quickly as part of the process,” he said.
Parks Victoria donated the building and a display cabinet for the centre. It is already full of artefacts which have been generously donated by a range of donors and several more gifts were handed over on Wednesday by representatives of the traditional owners. Among the items on display are boomerangs, woomera, a fish trap, abalone shells, grinding stones, a coolamon, a digging stick, axes, clapsticks, war shields and didgeridoos. Handprints of some of the traditional owners were taken after the signing on Wednesday and these will be proudly displayed as well at the centre.
‘Aunty’ Carolyn Briggs from the Boon Wurrung said last Wednesday’s events marked a major step forward in the integration of the shared knowledge of traditional owners and Parks Victoria.
“We look forward to sharing an understanding of the asset and how it maintains its living identity, particularly strengthening the involvement of our youth and their role in future collaborative projects,” she said.
Dr Jackson remarked that the dual use of the building as a keeping place and an education centre was very appropriate as it reflected the common purpose of the traditional owners and Parks Victoria to pass on knowledge to future generations.