Budj Bim World Heritage Weekend. 20-22 October 2023
In October, twenty-two members enjoyed two days of walking, geology and insights into Indigenous knowledge at Australia’s first World Heritage Area listed solely for its Indigenous values. We stayed at Port Fairy and met up on Friday night for a barbecue and a talk by geologist Richard Lovell. Many of us were amazed to discover that SW Victoria is an internationally significant volcanic province with dozens of dormant volcanoes, which were active relatively recently. The geological background Richard provided enriched our experiences throughout the weekend.
This was especially so on the first day when we walked on the mountain, Budj Bim, formerly known as Mt Eccles. We walked on lava canals, explored a volcanic cave, walked to a lava tube and around the rim of the volcano enjoying great views into the crater and Surprise Lake. A reproduction of a Von Guerard painting at a lookout showed us the vegetation that existed when the traditional owners were managing the area, and we were able to compare this to the present landscape.
Everybody joined in a group dinner at a local hotel on Saturday night, before driving on Sunday morning to Tea Rak, the Aqua Centre where the Gunditjmara begin their tour of the cultural landscape. Our guide enthralled us by melding both traditional and modern scientific knowledge about the area and about the amazing life of eels. We saw eel traps dated as 6,000 years old, visited a smoking tree and enjoyed a beautifully presented luncheon that included eel and various local and Indigenous produce. We also discovered that the Eumeralla Wars, the conflict in the area from 1834-1849, saw thousands of Gunditjmara killed as they defended their land.