Managing Country Together
Parks Victoria recognises that Aboriginal people have lived throughout Victoria for more than a thousand generations, maintaining complex societies with many languages, kinship systems, laws, polities and spiritualties. Aboriginal people are the original inhabitants, or First Peoples, of this state. Land forms the basis of Aboriginal existence and identity which, along with water and natural resources, were subject to access and use rights and sustainably managed according to traditional laws and customs.
Parks Victoria recognises the devastation caused to these societies with the arrival of Europeans, including the loss of ancestral lands, separation of families and attempted suppression of culture. Aboriginal people were dispossessed and unable to assert their native title rights and interests. With successive governments expropriating and reallocating away their inherent rights to lands and resources, Aboriginal people became the most disadvantaged in contemporary society.
Parks Victoria recognises that Aboriginal people make a unique and irreplaceable contribution to the identity and wellbeing of this state, and that the people of Australia intend to rectify the consequences of past injustices. Traditional ownership of Country is increasingly being recognised by state and federal governments; and the special relationship of Aboriginal peoples with their land is being acknowledged through legal recognition Traditional Owner rights. Aboriginal cultures are becoming more broadly understood and celebrated.
Parks Victoria recognises that the world class network of parks and reserves under its management responsibility form the core of Aboriginal cultural landscapes, which have been modified over many thousands of years of occupation. They are reflections of how Aboriginal people engaged with their world and experienced their surroundings. They are the product of thousands of generations of economic activity, material culture and settlement patterns.
Parks Victoria recognises that these parks and reserves are critical for Traditional Owners’ ability to practice culture and to fulfil their responsibilities to care for Country. The Victorian Government’s progressive handback of these lands to Traditional Owners, together with new joint management governance, are one means of achieving practical reconciliation and providing an opportunity for contemporary expression of Aboriginal culture and rights. The Parks Estate is integral to the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage and Aboriginal intangible heritage; and it provides a platform
Joint management recognises the ongoing connection of Traditional Owners to the land. It involves Traditional Owners and park staff sharing their knowledge to manage specific areas.
In Victoria, joint management is established under the terms of the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010 (Vic). This Act establishes a framework that recognises native title in Victoria and joint management can be a component of a native title settlement. The Act allows for parks and reserves to be returned to Aboriginal ownership under a form of land title called Aboriginal Title. Land under this title will continue to be managed as national parks or other forms of public parks.
Traditional Owner Land Management Boards (TOLMBs) will be established to oversee the management of parks covered by joint management arrangements.