Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism Experience launches in Victoria’s Gunditjmara Country

The First Nations owned-and-operated Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism on Gunditjmara Country in Victoria’s far Southwest is set to launch on July 1 this year.

The new Indigenous cultural experience will give visitors an incredible discovery of the region’s ancient living heritage where evidence of society working around a system of life-filled waterways dates at least 6,600 years.

The new cultural tourism experience is located in and around Budj Bim National Park and Tae Rak (Lake Condah) beyond Victoria’s picturesque Great Ocean Road, a popular natural attraction for both Australian and overseas visitors.

Budj Bim (meaning ‘high head’) erupted some 37,000 years ago, resulting in lava flows and waterways that allowed the Gunditjmara to establish one of the world’s most extensive and oldest aquaculture systems.

Kooyang (eels) were sustainably farmed and used both as a food source and for trade. The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2019, the first Australian landscape to be included purely for its Indigenous cultural values.

State-of-the-art tourism infrastructure designed to enable an enriching experience of the landscape and its people has been developed by Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (GMTOAC). Financial support for this tourism infrastructure was provided by Regional Development Victoria and was officially launched by the Honorable Mary-Ann Thomas MP on April 1 this year.

Hamilton-based Cooper Scaife Architects designed the Tae Rak Aquaculture Centre including a visitor information hub and eatery, along with four other visitor sites across the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape using sustainable and culturally significant designs.

Visitors can try refreshments and smoked kooyang, at the Aquaculture Centre, bringing to life the farming and culinary techniques practised by Gunditjmara over hundreds of generations.

An extended series of walking trails and raised boardwalks weaves throughout the Budj Bim landscape and allows visitors a discovery of the region’s most important heritage sites while protecting the natural environment and Gunditjmara culture. These aquaculture systems have been preserved on Country and are now accessible to visitors.

From July 1, 2022, small group tours led by Gunditjmara cultural guides will be on offer with a chance for visitors to discover the Indigenous culture and landscape at Budj Bim through Gunditjmara eyes.

Included are a two-hour tour of Tae Rak, a half or full day tour of Tungatt Mirring (Stone Country) or a full day tour of Yarkeen Yaang (Swamp Dreaming), meaning visitors can opt for a shorter day visit or a deeper dive into the cultural landscape.

Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism Chairperson Tracey Onus-Bamblett said the launch of Budj Bim Cultural Landscape Tourism was the result of decades of hard work by the Gunditjmara Community and is excited about the future opportunities that will be created as a result.

“We are very excited to embark on this new journey and share our knowledge, stories, and history with visitors in a sustainable way to ensure the ongoing protection of our Country,” Onus-Bamblett said.

In next steps for the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape a 2.5 gigalitre water allocation has been approved for the Palawarra (Fitzroy River) system which will reinvigorate the spectacular wetland, a natural attraction and breeding habitat for thousands of native birds which thrive in the diverse environment, creating a rewarding outdoor experience for visitors.

Featured image: budjbim.com.au