Indigenous Budj Bim Cultural Landscape added to UNESCO World Heritage Listby PORT FAIRY & REGION VISITOR INFORMATION CENTRE
Budj Bim is home to one of the world’s oldest aquaculture systems – a 6,600-year-old network of channels, dams and weirs developed by the Gunditjmara people to manipulate flood plains and water flows to trap and harvest kooyang (eels). It spans one hundred square kilometres on the site of the old Budj Bim lava flow in south-west Victoria, just north of the Great Ocean Road, about an hour’s drive from Warrnambool.
Unlike Kakadu and Uluru, which are also listed as World Heritage sites, Budj Bim is not recognised for its natural beauty or biodiversity. Instead it was nominated as a Cultural Landscape – a category of the World Heritage Convention that recognises combined works of nature and man.
Today, Budj Bim Cultural Landscape spans 9935 hectares and includes nine Gunditjmara-owned properties and a large section of Budj Bim National Park, which is cooperatively managed by Gunditjmara traditional owners and Parks Victoria.
The aquaculture systems are maintained by a team of Budj Bim rangers, who work in revegetation, feral animal control, weed control, and give tours to visitors.
The site is not only home to one of the world’s oldest and most complex aquaculture systems – it’s also the site of over 100 permanent stone dwellings. For thousands of years, dwellings such as these were home to a settled community of Gunditjmara people – a rarity in Aboriginal culture, which is mostly known to have been nomadic.
The reason Budj Bim’s aquaculture network – far more extensive than similar cultural sites in western Victoria and South Australia – was able to support a settled community was because of its once reliable water supply. But these days the demands placed on Australia’s waterways mean the site is unable to run at its full capacity.