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Aboriginal heritage site discovered after fire

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During the rehabilitation of the Ruffy bushfire in February 2019, CFA's Vegetation Management Support Officer Mitch Emmett spotted evidence of a previously-unknown Aboriginal cultural heritage site.

Aboriginal heritage site discovered after fire

CFA Culural Heritage Adviser Michael Sherwen shows grinding grooves used for tool making

The site, unknown to science or the Traditional Owners the Taungurung people, turned out to be rich in heritage values.

The Ruffy bushfire burned through private land divided by a creek which is fed by a permanent spring. Mitch's job was to supervise contractors engaged by CFA to repair farm fencing and stabilise soil disturbed during control line construction. 

The signs that Mitch recognised were granite boulders strewn around the paddocks and in the creek. Mitch contacted CFA's Cultural Heritage Adviser Michael Sherwen to ask whether there were any known cultural heritage sites in the area and to ask him to take a look. 

Mick's search of databases found a site nearby, but no records at the creek. However within a few minutes of arriving on site, Mick and Mitch found the first of over 70 grinding grooves in the granite rocks where tools has been made, and a series of wells carved to capture different flows in the creek. 

Quartz stone flakes from tool making were also found.  

Mick contacted the Traditional Owners and initiated formal site registration and survey work. 

The Taungurung elders were very moved by the discovery and thrilled to have CFA's support. Adjoining landowners are proud to have such special place in their backyards.

What is the future for the site? 

Rehabilitation work by CFA and ongoing management of the site by the Catchment Management Authority will ensure the protection of the site values. 

The discovery is great source of pride for all involved and the value to the Taungurung people is immeasurable. 

As a case study the discovery provides powerful learning opportunities for CFA members on how we can protect heritage values during a bushfire fight, and in fuel management activities such as planned burning.

It also provides a powerful reminder that anyone with just a little awareness and sharp eye can make a contribution to the protection of our shared cultural heritage.   

Well done Mitch, and our thanks to you Mick for sharing your culture and bringing your heritage expertise to CFA.