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MEDIA RELEASE - World heritage for Budj Bim

6 July 2019

The protection of one of Australia’s most important indigenous cultural sites has been secured for generations to come following today’s historic UNESCO World Heritage listing.

Glenelg Shire Council Mayor Cr Anita Rank said the inscription of the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, announced this afternoon by the United Nation’s governing body in Baku, positions the site as the first listed exclusively in Australia for its Aboriginal cultural value.

“Budj Bim will forever be etched in the nation’s storybook because of this history making decision,” Cr Rank said.

“It is an important step in protecting the cultural heritage of this unique landscape, ensuring the storytelling of the Gunditjmara people is embedded in our history … in the nation’s history, for generations to come.

“This announcement is testament to 40 years of diligent hard work and persistent lobbying by the Gunditjmara community who have passionately shared their ancestral stories. Today we thank them for this amazing gift which will attract much deserved global attention to this cultural heartland.

“Importantly, this listing will assist to preserve the culture of this land and ensure sustainable development in the future, whilst progressing the continuing path of reconciliation.”

The Budj Bim Cultural Landscape spans almost 100 square kilometres and features what is believed to be the world’s oldest freshwater aquaculture systems, pre-dating the Egyptian pyramids.

The landscape includes evidence of a large nomadic society who built stone huts across the wetlands, with remnants still evident across the landscape today.

It was this evidence which captured the UNESCO committee’s attention, today noting it was a “perfectly managed site” with “excellent and effective management systems” involving “full engagement of Aboriginal people”.

The committee continued that it was a “wonderful nomination”, commending the quality of the work which highlighted a unique understanding of nature and sustainable development.

Thanking the committee chair in Baku following the historic decision, traditional owner Denis Rose said the outcome had been a whole of community effort.

“For us to get to this stage it’s been a long journey but I’d like to acknowledge our gunditjmara ancestors who have led the way for us. We know they are still here with us, their ingenuity still shows in the aquaculture systems that are still operational to this day,” he said.

Cr Rank said the announcement would assist to secure future jobs for the region, with hundreds of visitors expected to visit the landscape daily due to the global exposure.

She said major investment, including $13 million from the State Government, was being used to build critical tourism infrastructure to cope with demand.

“Budj Bim will join 19 other iconic attractions such as the Great Barrier Reef, Sydney Opera House and Kakadu National Park on this globally recognised list. This announcement is an important and critical step in building the profile of indigenous tourism product in Australia, assisting to share this unique story with a global audience,” she said.

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