Another portion of the old aquaculture system created by indigenous people in south-western Victoria thousands of years ago has been exposed to fire.

The UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in Budj-Bim last year featured a comprehensive network of rough-lined canals and ponds built up for the gathering of antlers by the Gunditjmara.

Apart from Egypt’s pyramids, parts of the countryside which have also been proven by stone buildings have been dated 6600 years ago.

Traditional owners who visited the site following a forest fire last week found more places previously concealed in foliage and believed they are part of this aquaculture system. Later in late December, a fire triggered by the adjacent lightning strike was replaced by another fire in the nearby area, which was only controlled last week following a tremendous firefighting operation.

The lake was filled with more than 7,000 hectares of land, including sections of the aquaculture system in the region known as the Muldoon Trap Complex near Lake Condah and the Budj Bim National Park.

Gunditj Mirring Abu Rose, Project Manager for Aboriginal Owners, claimed that he was not “very afraid” of how the fire might damage the system when the fire initially broke out.

“In the thousands of years before to this, there have surely been countless flames.”

The effect following the fire was our greatest concern, and we still have work to do.

“We were worried about trees… especially those higher trees, which grow around and inside certain fish pitches and also on the related stone housing sites, that weaken [the trees], harm [the trees] and topple over and the roots of some of the historic stone buildings.”

After the fire they were astonished by what Rose and other traditional owners witnessed in the burned countryside.

“We walked just maybe 20 metres off the trail, covered with tall grass and bracken fern and other plants.

“We have discovered that we have also found sites that were not registered in very close proximity in other areas of the lava flow.”

The site description from UNESCO states that the aquaculture system is constructed from cooled lava flows and “is one of the largest and oldest in the world.”

For over 6 thousand years, the intricate channels, weirs and damns (short-finned eels) were supposed to be employed as trapping, retaining and harvesting Kooyong. Following a brass burn, the archaeologists who are aware of the location and indigenous rangers will be surveyed on cultural heritage. For landscape surveys too, aerial photography uses sophisticated software.

Although the findings were good, Rose noted they were made in the sombre backdrop of the devastating fires in other regions of the nation that continue to burn.

“Here we were really lucky,” he added. “The branding in the eastern region of Australia was pretty cool – definitely nothing like the harm and devastation.

‘[These flames] have burned the ground instead of burning the entire forest.’ Since the first fire, a few days before Christmas Day, firemen have been handling fire in and around the Budj Bim National Park.

Forest Fire Management Mark Mellington, Victoria Manager stated firefighters had to work on the rough land of the region because of a very recent volcanic history. “Earthmoving is one of our regular applications in the building of fire lines, therefore we look to acquire earthmoving machines online and we can unload these fields,” he added.

“We thought we would utilise less impact control measures if we had fires in this terrain.” Rose complimented firemen to battle burns, preventing heavy equipment from entering the scene. “We absolutely recognise the excellent effort they have done to safeguard the lava flow and the cultural characteristics here,” he added.

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