Na­tive ti­tle claim signed

Alpine Observer - - Front Page - By STRUAN JONES

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.

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