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 2.4 Macalister system
Traditional Owner cultural values and uses
The Gunaikurnai have had a continued connection to Gunaikurnai Country for thousands of years, including
with the waterways in the Latrobe River system (which
the Macalister River feeds into). For the Gunaikurnai as traditional custodians there are immense challenges to heal, protect and manage Country which has been drastically altered since colonisation. Gunaikurnai see all of Country
as connected with no separation between landscapes, waterways, coasts and oceans and natural and cultural resources – the cultural landscape is interdependent.
Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) are working with the West Gippsland CMA to determine how to express Gunaikurnai objectives for water in a way that contributes to seasonal watering proposals from the perspective of traditional custodians, with traditional knowledge.
GLaWAC expressed that more water needs to go down the Macalister River between Lake Glenmaggie and Lake Wellington, to improve water quality including the threat of salinity, and support plants and animals with cultural values and uses.
Timing of watering events has also been raised by GLaWAC. This includes providing increased water depth to promote downstream fish migration and spawning, deeper water pools to prevent water quality degradation, and more variation to water levels to better mimic natural conditions.
Traditionally the landscape – which includes the Macalister River, anabranches, and associated floodplains – has
been a rich source of food, medicine and resources for
the Gunaikurnai people. In the area, there are many sites of cultural significance near the river and around Lake Glenmaggie. The Gunaikurnai people have moved through the landscape along the waterways for thousands of years, sourcing food and plants along the way.
From the perspective of the Gunaikurnai people, the
land and waterways flowing to the Gippsland Lakes are interconnected and cannot be considered separately where decisions made can impact downstream. The lower Latrobe wetlands and the rivers that feed them, including the Macalister, have important cultural significance to the Gunaikurnai people.
Watering requirements to support cultural values and uses include:
• timing of environmental watering planned in partnership with GLaWAC to support a seasonal flow regime and wet and dry periods that embody Healthy Country
• maintaining freshwater supply to Latrobe estuary, Dowd Morass, Sale Common and Heart Morass, and associated freshwater habitats. The lower Latrobe wetlands are an important resource for the Gunaikurnai
• providing connectivity between reaches and onto floodplains to support dependent plants and animals with cultural values and uses of significance to the Gunaikurnai
• maintaining water quality to support the health of native plants and animals with cultural values and uses of significance to the Gunaikurnai.
Social, recreational and economic values and uses
In planning the potential watering actions in Table 2.4.1, West Gippsland CMA considered how environmental flows could support values and uses including:
• water-based recreation (such as kayaking, fishing and swimming)
• socio-economic benefits (such as preventing erosion and potential land loss for local landholders).
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