Aboriginal people have lived across Victoria for thousands of generations. As a result there are places and sites across both public and private land that hold strong cultural significance to Aboriginal people.
They are part of our shared history and future in Victoria.
These sites are called Aboriginal cultural heritage places. They could be places where Aboriginal people were buried, born or lived for generations, and they often hold social, spiritual and ceremonial significance.
Examples of Aboriginal cultural heritage can range from small objects such as stone artefacts to large built structures such as ancient eel traps and stone houses.
The oldest known ground-edge stone axe in the world was recently found in Carpenters Gap in the Kimberley in Northern Australia. It has been dated to around 49,000 years old. Stone axes weren’t used by people in most other countries until farming was introduced about 10,000 years ago.
Scarred trees are another well-known example of Aboriginal cultural heritage where the scar, usually the shape of an elongated oval, was the result of people making objects such as shields, canoes and coolamons. Sometimes a whole area could be a significant site, such as a large stone arrangement.
Cultural artefacts such as stone axes and flaked tools may be found across Victoria and are all protected under Victorian law. The Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (and 2016 amendment) provides protection for all Aboriginal places, objects and human remains in Victoria.
CFA has an important role to play in protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage. With heavy trucks and machinery involved in suppression and fuel management activities, it's important our people know what has heritage value and how to avoid harm.
We also have a role to play in the protection of new sites. As recently as February 2019 a significant yet unknown site of Aboriginal cultural heritage was discovered by a CFA member who was working on a bushfire rehabilitation project in North East region. It’s a powerful demonstration of the power of knowing what to look for, and how CFA can take an active role in its protection.
We can demonstrate respect - one of our core values - by knowing about the importance of Aboriginal cultural heritage and what we can do to protect it. We now have a Cultural Heritage Adviser to help us understand our responsibilities and legal obligations to manage cultural heritage. CFA is also developing some procedures and cultural awareness material, so keep an eye out. If this interests you and you want to know more contact Owen Gooding: firstname.lastname@example.org
You can also learn more from the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan, Aboriginal Victoria, or by attending local events run by your local Traditional Owner group.
If you are interested in Aboriginal cultural fire, visit the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners.
This week is National Reconciliation Week, held each year to commemorate two significant milestones in Australia’s reconciliation journey - the 1967 referendum and the historic High Court Mabo decision in 1992.
Learn more about CFA's commitment to working with its Indigenous communities.