The Port Phillip and Westernport region is home to several Traditional Owner groups 

Aboriginal Traditional Owners have lived in this region for tens of thousands of years and have connection with the landscape and waterways through significant places, artefacts, language, stories and traditions. Thousands of cultural sites and places recorded throughout the region are near watercourses. Land and waters of the region hold deep spiritual and cultural significance for Aboriginal peoples including people from the Wada wurrung, Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups. 

Traditional Owners’ connection to this region has been damaged by the processes of colonisation and urbanisation. Traditional Owners have been excluded from waterway management since the first days of colonisation. The sad outcome of this exclusion is twofold: contemporary waterway managers who lack the unique and proven perspective of Traditional Owners, and Traditional Owners who lack the opportunity, skills and resources to manage their Country in a contemporary context. 

This strategy commits to working with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to protect and promote their cultural and historical connections with waterways. It also aims to protect the environmental values (land, water, vegetation and wildlife) which underpin these connections, and to share knowledge and understanding about waterways and their catchments. 

We are still in the early stages of understanding cultural values 

As a society, we are only just starting to appreciate the wealth of cultural knowledge and meaning of waterways for Traditional Owners. Understanding, protecting and promoting this cultural knowledge and facilitating a greater involvement in waterway management will help to achieve better outcomes for the environment and our community. 

Aboriginal cultural values need to be identified by Traditional Owners 

The overarching goal for recognising Aboriginal waterway values, developed by The Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung, and approved by the Bunurong and Wadawarrung is:  

Traditional Owners have a recognised role as custodians of waterways and their cultural values. Their unique perspective and knowledge allows them to influence the agenda for waterway management and actively participate in caring for their Country.  

Actions that protect and promote cultural values 

The strategy actions to support and improve cultural values are framed as seven regional performance objectives that are underpinned by guiding principles. A series of principles have been agreed to that will support the achievement of the overarching goal. These are:  

  • Traditional Owners are involved at all levels of waterway management – planning, prioritisation and delivery. 
  • Traditional Owner groups have the resources and expertise to support a self-sustaining ‘waterway business’. 
  • Traditional Owners are included in planning and prioritisation processes as early as possible. 
  • Where possible, waterway management programs are designed to match the existing capability of Traditional Owner groups and participation increases their capability for involvement in future programs. 
  • The internal collaborative processes of Traditional Owner groups are supported with time and/or resources by waterway management partners. 
  • Waterway management is a job that an individual Traditional Owner can aspire to. 

Additionally, it was agreed that: 

  • Partnership projects must develop intellectual property or expertise that can be applied by Traditional Owner groups to new situations. 
  • Participation in waterway management is an expression of culture. It is a cultural value in its own right. 
  • Contemporary Aboriginal culture is always developing and, as a result, things that have not been tried before need to be mutually supported. 
  • Partnership projects need to proceed at a pace that respects Traditional Owners’ other obligations and allow upskilling and inclusion of diverse individuals and communities. They must also facilitate intergenerational knowledge transfer. 

The performance objectives in the strategy are designed to align with to these principles and drive actions towards achieving the goal.

See the regional performance objectives under Cultural for details on what is being done to address cultural values.