06 July 2012
Students immerse themselves in Aboriginal culture
Students studying conservation and land management at RMIT University visited Lake Condah in the Western District of Victoria recently to learn about cultural landscapes.
"This trip allowed a concentrated immersion in a little known and less understood facet of Victorian cultural and natural resources," trip organiser and teacher, Bruce Partland, said.
Road trip-style, the 20 diploma students involved in the multiple-day excursion visited a variety of sites and lands of significant Aboriginal importance.
Lake Keilambete, the Mt Emu Creek massacre site and the "Last of his Tribe" monument in Camperdown cemetery were all on the itinerary.
The wide range of places visited allowed students to build upon class work, expanding their knowledge of the Burra Charter, Koori Heritage Trust, and Aboriginal culture in a practical sense.
"Their major assessment task is to write a report assessing the significance, in terms of the Burra Charter, of an Aboriginal cultural site and to nest that site in a greater cultural landscape," Mr Partland said.
The Western District is unique in Australia, encompassing the Victorian volcanic plains, with many spectacular geological features.
Lava flows have formed stony rises, having a massive effect on drainage patterns and forming vast wetlands that, uniquely in Australia, allowed the development of semi-sedentary Aboriginal communities living in substantial villages.
"Students were prepared for the trip by first meeting and spending time with local Aboriginal representatives, the Wurundjeri," Mr Partland said.
RMIT delivers a program in conservation and land management to the Budj Bim rangers who guided the diploma students around the land of the Gunditjmara.
Few Victorians have seen ancient village sites interpreted by an Aboriginal guide and the experience was valuable for both sets of students.
"The field trip allowed the diploma students to learn first-hand the importance of respectful protocols when undertaking research into another group's cultural resources," Mr Partland said.
"As land managers of the future, this is vitally important to their development."
This week is NAIDOC Week, which runs to 8 July. It is an annual event that celebrates the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
An Aboriginal stone hut in the Lake Condah area. Photos courtesy of Budj Bim Tours.
Local men showing eel-trapping techniques.
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