Native title claim signed
AN HISTORIC native title claim has been signed between the Victorian State Government and the Taungurung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (TCAC), encompassing 11 per cent of the state including parts of the Alpine National Park.
It is the largest native title claim in the state’s history, and recognises the Taungurung as the traditional owners of the land in central Victoria, giving Taungurung people and the TCAC rights to manage and use the land.
The settlement area stretches from the Campaspe River, between Rochester and Kyneton, in the west and the Ovens River near Harrietville in the east, and includes the Mount Buffalo National Park
For Matt Burns, TCAC chief executive officer, the settlement is the result of 15 years of hard work.
“It means a lot to our people. Many people have suffered for years and have really wanted this, and we think it’s a great thing,” he told the Alpine Observer.
The native title means a joint management plan will be developed between Parks Victoria and the TCAC, with final control going to a management board made up mainly of Taungurung people, according to Mr Burns.
Under the agreement, Taungurung people will also have access to crown land for fishing, hunting, camping and gathering natural resources.
David Chitty, tour operator and head of the Mt Buffalo Ski School, said the claim had been coming for a while.
A number of parks and land areas in the state are already managed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, Parks Victoria, and native title owners, including in Gippsland where the Gunaikurnai people have held native title over much of the land since 2010.
However this is the largest and most significant agreement, and includes $33 million in funding.
“In general, joint management of parks and public land has meant better funding because there are two funding streams, it normally means some more staff,” Mr Chitty said.
“I’m hoping for Mt Buffalo we’d end up with four Aboriginal rangers up there, because they’re understaffed.
So let’s say we ended up with 2 - hopefully 4 - Aboriginal rangers who would work as part of the team, that would mean we have more staff up there during winter.”
Mr Chitty told the Alpine Observer he’d been pushing for a long time for more interpretive signing and literature about the Aboriginal use of Mount Buffalo to make clear the cultural and historical significance of the mountain.
“The other thing you might have is including Aboriginal culture and history in tours up there, and the TCAC might run some courses, which has happened before, where we’d learn about native food and history,” he said.
Mr Chitty was realistic however, given the size of the native title claim, it may only mean a small amount of resources gets allocated to Mt Buffalo.
Signing the agreement was one of the last acts of the Andrews Labor government before going into caretaker mode before the Saturday, November 24 state election.
ISLAND IN THE SKY: Mount Buffalo National park will come under the largest native title claim in Victoria’s history.