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Striking it rich in central Victoria

Published 23 Mar 2017 

The Nardoo Hills reserves in central Victoria are the traditional lands of the Dja Dja Wurrung people, and they protect both natural and cultural values.

Dja Dja Wurrung assessor Ron Kerr inspects a scar tree on the Nardoo Hills reserves. Photo by Annette Ruzicka.Gloved fingers point at a collection of maps lying on a 4WD bonnet. The group of Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Custodians and Bush Heritage staff are here to survey the Nardoo Hills reserves in central Victoria for their cultural values, and Dja Dja Wurrung Ranger Ron Kerr has recommended the team start by making their way to a river bed.

“A pretty important part of Aboriginal culture is water – it’s where we find most of our artefacts and scar trees,” Ron tells his Field Officer Jackson Dunolly.

Recently, the Nardoo Hills reserves grew by 203ha with the purchase of Lawan Reserve, made possible through Trust for Nature’s Revolving Fund, which assists conservation groups in purchasing and managing habitat of high conservation value in Victoria.

Lawan Reserve, like the rest of the Nardoo Hills reserves, protects and connects patches of temperate woodland, which is the most threatened wooded ecosystem in Australia, primarily due to land clearing. Not only has this led to declines in woodland bird species, it has also resulted in the destruction of cultural heritage such as scar trees.

Dja Dja Wurrung Ranger Ron Kerr and field officer Jackson Dunolly. Photo Annette Ruzicka.The group finds one such scar tree, a Grey Box gum, during their survey. The shape of the deep scars etched into its base tell Ron and Jackson that its bark was once used to create a coolamon, a device traditionally used to carry food and water, and to cradle babies.

“The process of extracting bark was a very important cultural practice and was conducted during certain seasons when the gums of trees were soft and easy to peel off,” says Ron.

It’s the ninth scar tree to have been found on Bush Heritage’s Nardoo properties, and the fact that it is a Grey Box highlights the importance of protecting Victoria’s grassy woodlands for both their cultural and natural values.

“We’ve found and recorded scar trees that connect us with our Dja Dja Wurrung ancestors, so it’s good to be asked by Bush Heritage to do this survey,” says Ron.

The purchase of the new Lawan Block and associated costs was made possible through the generosity of donors (The RE Ross Trust, the Jaramas Foundation, the Biophilia Foundation and Mr Doug Hooley in memory of his parents Alan and Beryl Hooley), and through Trust for Nature’s Revolving Fund.

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