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It’s very hard to condense 36,000+ years into a day!

When was the last time you spent time on Country, learning about first nations peoples and their land? Gunditjmara Country has a rich history and the Gunditjmara people can’t wait to share it!

Throughout the day we heard stories from local Gunditjmara people.  At the Heywood War Memorial Water Tower, which rises from the ground in a splash of colour and as we stood under it, LGSC alumni Troy Lovett, a Gunditjmara and Yorta-Yorta Man, told the story of the 5 Gunditjmara men depicted in the mural. Five men went to war for their country, who hoped to regain their stolen lands, who in the trenches were treated like equals but when they returned, the soldier settlement never came.

Braydon Saunders, a Gunditjmara Man and Tour Guide Coordinator with Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism, took us back in time at Tae Rak (Lake Condah). Back to 2019, when the site was World Heritage listed, to the 1980s when the Gunditjmara people began their quest for native title, back to the 1940s and 50s when a European installed drain changed the landscape and damaged the ecosystem, and finally back to pre-European days when Tae Rak eels was an important food source.

Gunditjmara woman, Erin Rose the Budj Bim World Heritage Executive Officer at Gunditj Mirring, spoke to us about getting the world’s oldest aqua system inscribed as a World Heritage Site, the first in Australia to be listed purely on its cultural significance. A key element of this is the management and enhancement of the site, which is managed in partnership with other local groups and government organisations.

Although it is impossible to fit 36,000 years into a day, our speakers filled the day with stories that educated, humoured and challenged us. This showed me that good story telling is a very powerful leadership skill. Like our first nations peoples, we can use the art of storytelling to motivate, inspire, connect, build understanding, heal and unite.

I encourage you to hear the stories first-hand at the various sites across the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape and the new Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre (opening later this year) is a great addition where you learn about the significance of the landscape and experience the most culturally inclusive building I have ever seen—another great example of what community consultation and storytelling can achieve.

Thank you to Troy, Braydon and Erin for your time and your stories—you are our bushfire and we will be your embers—starting spot fires of conversation.

Leesa ClausenBrown, 2022 LGSC Program Participant

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