Water Country

Gunaikurnai people have occupied, used and managed coastal land and sea environments for many thousands of years. These include those areas that were dry land before the current sea level stabilised about 5,000 years ago. Our relationship with these cultural landscapes continues, even where the evidence of our previous occupation now lies beneath the ocean.

We see no distinction between the land and the sea. It is all a part of our Country.

– Whole of Country Plan

Intro via Lis

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Gunaikurnai Water

A historic win for our mob

In November, GLaWAC, on behalf of our members, received two gigalitres of unallocated water in the Mitchell River in East Gippsland.

This is a momentous outcome for the Gunaikurnai that recognises the importance of gaining rights to water to restore customary practices, protect cultural values and uses, gain economic independence and heal Country.

We see this as an enormous first step to achieving the water objectives of the Gunaikurnai, and we thank the Victorian Government who we have been working closely with since it released the ‘Water for Victoria’ policy.

We look forward to yarning with the Gunaikurnai Community and being able to self-determine how and where the water can help achieve priorities for healthy Country and healthy mob.

Sea Country

Our connection to the coastal and marine parts of our Country is rarely recognised, so we now need to be explicit about its significance to us.

Coastal areas were among the most densely populated parts of our Country. Rich in both terrestrial and marine food sources, they provided good places for our old people to live, camp and hunt, and the launching place for expeditions out to sea to gather seafood. Our ancestors would travel to islands in bark canoes and harvest fish and coastal species at levels that did not disrupt the natural balance.

We are still heavily dependent on our Sea Country and its resources. A major challenge for us is the lack of access to and equality in use of marine resources, not just for cultural purposes but for commercial uses as well. Our people have always used fish and other products that were harvested from the oceans as items to trade. Although the terms of trade have significantly changed in the past 200 years, our fundamental need still exists. But without commercial rights to fisheries resources, this need cannot be met.

Stronger involvement in the management of sea country can open up opportunities for improving economic outcomes for our mob, while better protecting our cultural heritage and improving environmental outcomes.

With a longstanding connection to managing the coast and sea, we can provide valuable perspectives to the coastal management programs.
Some of our joint management parks and reserves are adjacent to important coastal and marine areas, which need to be included holistically in the joint management program. In addition, we need stronger involvement in the protection of coastal and inundated cultural values within and beyond our Aboriginal Title areas.

Reclaiming our rights to use our sea as a resource is fundamental to recognising our ongoing connection with sea country. This should include access to fisheries anywhere for cultural purposes, which we would manage according to sustainability principles, and rights to harvesting of sea resources for commercial purposes.

Have a listen to what cultural water means to our mob