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Healing through connections and caring for culture

bushland after the fires

Taungurung Land and Water Council (TLaWC)’s project Taungurung Fire Story: Healing through connections and caring for culture, focuses on sharing traditional ecological knowledge from Taungurung Community & Elders.

TLaWC Executive Manager of On Country Operations and Taungurung woman, Sherryn Antonopoulos, says the project explores how healing can take place in different ways after a fire. Sherryn says: 

“It’s not just about the healing of land, it’s about Community, Elders and the personal healing of people. Part of our responsibility is to be looking after our country and ensuring that we protect our cultural heritage.”

The summer bushfire had a flow-on effect on cultural heritage, biodiversity, and the health and wellbeing of Taungurung people.

The bushfire burnt approximately 103.508 ha of Taungurung land resulting in significant damage to fire-sensitive ecosystems and species and dozens of cultural heritage sites.

Sherryn says:

“Despite having the legal rights across the fire-affected area, we were largely ignored in important fact-finding Local Government Authorities’ policy-making forums. This has created a lot of stress within the Taungurung community as we were not able to care for the country.”

We have designed this project to reinstate traditional land, water, and fire management practices and protect heritage sites.

The project will be implemented in three stages. Reading the Country, to inspect all landforms with potential for the presence of cultural heritage within the fire-affected areas, containment lines, or management works, and adequately record every cultural heritage place.

Healing the Country, to renew the cultural and spiritual connections to land through traditional ecological knowledge.

Caring for Country, to share and promote traditional ecological knowledge across the selected fire-affected sites managed by Taungurung.

Preliminary inspections have shown visible harm to cultural heritage due to fire and suppression activities heightened by a lack of knowledge of unregistered cultural heritage in the burnt areas.

The cultural heritage preservation work and land surveying work being done by TLaWC’s Cultural Heritage Team is being conducted in state and national parks. This work is contributing to the crucial updates of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Register Sensitivity Layer.

The project has identified new and undiscovered artefacts. Artefact scatters have been identified at Rock Creek Track, Lyrebird Plain, Cresta Plain, Yarrabuck Track, Goldie Spur Track and the Buckland Valley Camp sites.

The traditional knowledge of Taungurung Elders has not been well-documented in the past. A ground-breaking project is underway to help better understand environmental cultural practices. Healing activities will begin on Country led by Elders through sharing circles that will capture stories and document traditional ecological knowledge.

The work TLaWC has begun includes undertaking a three-dimensional recording of Aboriginal Places. TLaWC are using this information to update their records that will provide timely advice about preservation, conservation, and replication of at-risk cultural heritage components.

Sherryn says: 

“There’s so much work to be done. We are able to get out on Country and survey cultural heritage that hasn’t been explored yet.”

She acknowledges that the funding was extremely important for Taungurung to move forward with their cultural heritage and biodiversity work.

“We are so grateful for this funding, and we are really excited and eager to be able to get ourselves, our Elders and our community back on Country as part of this project.”