• The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council says an important boundary line has been redrawn for Greater Melbourne. (AAP Image/Michael Dodge)Source: AAP Image/Michael Dodge
A new boundary designating responsibility for protecting cultural heritage and Country across Melbourne has left some parties bitterly unhappy.
NITV Staff Writer

1 Jul 2021 - 10:06 PM  UPDATED 1 Jul 2021 - 10:08 PM

Greater Melbourne will be divided by a controversial new boundary line from today, following a decision by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council (VAHC).

The city and dozens of local council areas have been divided in two, with Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) responsible for the Country to the south, and Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation (WWWCHAC) for the lands to the north.

Neither group chose to formally participate in a public information session about the changes today, but Wurundjeri Elder Allan Wandin told the meeting that he was distressed by the boundary changes.

“I really can’t do a welcome today. For us, it’s a very, very sad day,” Mr Wandin said.

“It’s a sad day because land has been given to Bunurong that is clearly not theirs.

"I’m just going to congratulate the Bunurong and the VAHC (Victoria Aboriginal Heritage Council) and the government for making me feel ill.

"It’s a very, very stressful time.

"(The government has done) a great job of divide and conquer.”

Boonwurrung woman Caroline Martin spoke in support of Mr Wandin and asked why the Boonwurrung people had not been included in the process.

“My family is in the same distress because of a decision that you have made,” she told the meeting, which ended shortly after her question.

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In a statement, the VAHC said the fact the groups chose not to participate "highlights the difficulty of Council's decision and the ongoing trauma and uncertainty endured by Traditional Owners in the face of historical dispossession of their lands".

The new boundary line runs from west to east across the city.

"(This) is so hard to achieve today given that we are required to draw lines, boundaries, fences, walls, because of the imposition of modern context."

The Council’s chair Rodney Carter described it as a “pretty difficult decision”, which came after more than four years of talks between the two Registered Aboriginal Parties failed to reach an agreement.

"We understand in our customs and traditions, and of what defines us as individual clans and of people, that the boundaries are the places that bring us together, and they actually make us stronger," Mr Carter told the meeting.

"They are places in old times that were blurred and allowed us the opportunity to see each other, to travel from one domain to the next and do business.

"That is so hard to achieve today given that we are required to draw lines, boundaries, fences, walls, because of the imposition of modern context, and we should (never) be judged upon what is imposed on us in having to draw these lines.

"They were not of our design and not of our making.

"We've created this line, in terms of traditional areas - they are along roads, riverways, and is an acknowledgement of our colonised environment.

"We must stand strong and protect Country."

A map showing the new boundary line set by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council

Council says decision provides "certainty"

The council said the two registered Aboriginal parties (RAPs) had their boundaries extended to bridge the "gap" between their pre-existing areas, in what it described as a landmark registration variation under the Aboriginal Heritage Act.

The director of the Office of the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council Matthew Storey acknowledged there were people on both sides, within both the WWWCHAC and the BLCAC, who were unhappy with the changes.

"When you make a decision like this you can never keep everybody happy, particularly when you've got two opposing views," Mr Storey said.

"Council has the statutory job... of making the decisions so that Victoria as a society has some certainty about who they can speak to as Traditional Owners of country."

He said both RAPs had consented to the proposal relating to their own area last month.

"Not everybody is going to be happy with all the decisions, but a decision has been made and it's important to work with it."

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