Page 207 - VEWH Seasonal Watering Plan 2020-21
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Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
At Gunbower Island there are two Traditional Owner groups which recognise the forest as their traditional Country. The mid and lower area of Gunbower Forest is recognised as the traditional Country of the Barapa Barapa people, and the upper Gunbower Forest is recognised as the traditional Country of the Yorta Yorta people. North Central CMA seeks engagement and input from both groups when undertaking annual environmental water planning and throughout the year as part of the Living Murray Indigenous Partnerships Program.
Waterway managers are seeking opportunities to increase the involvement of Traditional Owners in environmental water planning and management. Where Traditional Owners are more deeply involved in the planning and/or delivery of environmental flows for a particular site, their contribution is acknowledged in Table 5.2.5 with an icon.
Barapa Barapa custodians have clearly expressed their aspirations for an active role in the management of land and water, to fulfil custodianship obligations and contribute to improvements in the health of Country.
Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners have been working in partnership with the North Central CMA to deliver the Water for Country project in Gunbower Forest since 2015. The Water for Country project builds on the work of the previous Barapa Barapa Cultural Heritage Mapping of Lower Gunbower Forest project, delivered in 2013–14 to map
a catalogue of cultural heritage assets in the forest. The Water for Country project aims to investigate how Traditional Owners’ cultural and spiritual values may be better represented in water management. In 2018, the Water for Country group has evolved to also include Wamba Wamba Traditional Owners and continues to have a focus on Gunbower Forest.
Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners identified a range of opportunities for 2020–21 watering to support cultural values (Table 5.2.3).
Table 5.2.3 Barapa Barapa cultural values and uses at Gunbower Forest
5.2 Victorian Murray system
    Watering planned and/or delivered in partnership with Traditional Owners to support Aboriginal cultural values and uses
   Values/uses
  Considerations
   Cultural values, cultural practices
  Water in wetlands and on the floodplain from environmental watering and natural flooding supports culturally important plants throughout Gunbower Forest and allows the continuation of cultural practices including harvesting of food, medicine and weaving plants.
   Cultural values
 Providing drought refuge and maintaining areas with healthy habitat is a high priority for Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners. In a dry forest, they feel it was important to ensure that water is delivered to healthy areas, such as Reedy Lagoon, which elicit a good vegetation response and can support wetland and forest fauna.
 Cultural values, cultural practices
   Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners recognise the value of resources that occur on the drawdown after inundation of the forest floodplain, providing food for animals, and cultural plants such as old man weed. Providing this resource is considered particularly important in a dry forest.
   Cultural values, cultural practices
 Having a diversity of habitat and vegetation responses is a priority for Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners, particularly in a dry year. They highlighted the importance of having a diversity of drought refuge, with a range of water depths, which creates a more diverse vegetation response and results in a range of resources becoming available over a longer timeframe.
 Cultural values
  Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners value having water in natural creeks and billabongs off main wetlands, which were likely to have traditionally been canoe mooring sites. Evidence of this in the forest can be seen near Long Lagoon by numerous earth mounds and a large canoe tree on the edge of a large floodrunner.
 Cultural practices
   Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners have aspirations to reintroduce traditional fish traps into natural creeks within Gunbower Forest. The flood-runners around the Little Gunbower Creek Complex have been identified as potential trial sites.
   Cultural heritage
  Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners have noted that areas of black box and river red gum both have cultural heritage values, however the changed watering regime since regulation and changing climate is causing the encroachment of black box into areas previously dominated by river red gum. Barapa Barapa Traditional Owners expressed the desire to preserve the tree community that was historically present.
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