Budj Bim stories of lava and fire

Member News image The Tyrendarra fish trap complex, located adjacent to Killara, shows how dams artificially hold in winter flood waters and kooyang during periods of dry conditions.


Between Warrnambool and Hamilton you will find yourself on Gunditjmara Country in Budj Bim National Park.


During Reconciliation Week 2023 CFA members visited Budj Bim in south-west Victoria for a cultural immersion tour.

A World Heritage listed area, the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape contains extensive physical evidence of the Gunditjmara people altering the landscape to modify and manage the water flow and ecosystems to manage food resources.  

The Budj Bim ranger shared with us the Gunditjamara story that relates to the volcanic eruption of Mt Eccles from around 30,000 years ago, when an ancestral creation-being revealed himself in the landscape. Modern science dates this modification back at least 6,600 years, which modified the water system for kooyang (eel) trapping into artificially-constructed holding ponds to enhance kooyang containment and availability. 

CFA members remarked that the tour of Budj Bim is a great way to challenge the myth (from our childhood educations and general white/western beliefs) that First Nations people were always nomadic hunter/gatherers, who never constructed homes or established communities in 'permanent' locations. During the tour we saw the remnants of these homes and a reconstruction. 

Walking through the Budj Bim sites we saw evidence and heard stories of Gunditjmara’s use of fire to heat rocks and water to crack them in pond construction, and fire to clear the vegetation for water flow from pond to pond. The smoke from fire was used to preserve eels. Together we spoke of cultural fire and bushfires in the area.

“I enjoyed the discussions about the various links to fire that we discussed during the day, which is very relevant to CFA, and learning about the way in which the Gunditjmara community continues to care for Country through restoration using a mix of traditional and modern methods and technology,” CFA Senior Capability and Capacity Adviser Jacqui Symonds said.

District 5 volunteer Adrian Straw and District 7 volunteer Jan Weate thought it was an excellent tour with a very accessible and knowledgeable tour leader and an awe-inspiring site.

Paul McCallum a volunteer in District 5 said, “this was a fantastic experience. I haven’t stopped talking about it”.

With NAIDOC week approaching you can support, and get to know, your local First Nations communities through activities and events held across the country.

To find local events visit the NAIDOC website


  • Member News image
  • Member News image
  • Member News image
  • Member News image
Submitted by Emma Taunt