The Declaration specifies the measures to be taken to protect Ghow Swamp Aboriginal Place.
The Minister is satisfied that Ghow Swamp is an Aboriginal place, and that the Declaration is appropriate, having regard to the importance of maintaining the relationship between Aboriginal people and the place. This follows a consultation process where all persons considered likely to be affected by the proposed Declaration were given the opportunity to make written submissions.
The Minister for Treaty and First Peoples also consulted with the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council.
When does the Declaration commence?
The Declaration was signed on 28 September 2022. It came into effect when it was published in the Victorian Government Gazette on 6 October 2022 (the commencement of the Declaration) and is ongoing. A copy of the Declaration is also being published in the Riverine Herald (Echuca), the Country News and the Koori Mail.
Where can I find information about my obligations to comply with the Declaration?
A copy of the Declaration is available below along with some frequently asked questions about the measures to be taken to protect the Aboriginal place and about the Aboriginal Heritage Act . Interim signs notifying of the Declaration have been placed at Ghow Swamp Aboriginal Place and will be eventually replaced with permanent signs. Further queries can be directed to First Peoples-State Relations via email to Aboriginal.Heritage@dpc.vic.gov.au or by phone on 1800 762 003.
How will the Declaration be enforced?
The Declaration will be enforced primarily by Authorised Officers and Aboriginal Heritage Officers who are appointed under the Aboriginal Heritage Act . These officers have powers to assess compliance and investigate reports of harm to Aboriginal cultural heritage.
Authorised Officers under theImpounding of Livestock Act may also enforce the Declaration with respect to restrictions on livestock access to Crown land. Compliance monitoring will be a collaborative effort across public land management agencies.
What are the penalties for breaching a Declaration?
Breaching an Ongoing Protection Declaration carries a maximum penalty of up to 1800 penalty units for an individual (equivalent to $332,856, as of 1 July 2022) and up to 10,000 penalty units for a body corporate (equivalent to $1,849,200, as of 1 July 2022).
What is Ghow Swamp and why is it important?
Ghow Swamp is a large wetland located about 215 kilometres northwest of Melbourne, near the township of Leitchville in northern Victoria. The swamp is oval-shaped and covers an area of about 28km2.
Ghow Swamp has been an immensely significant place for Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years. The relationship of Aboriginal people with the swamp is reflected in the rich cultural heritage located within and around the swamp and the continued Traditional Knowledge and associations Aboriginal people hold with the Aboriginal place.
This includes campsites, where stone artefacts scatters, and the remains of cooking hearths have been recorded. The swamp is also the location of culturally scarred trees; Aboriginal people removed bark to manufacture canoes, containers and shields. Of immense significance, Ghow Swamp is also a location where a large number of Aboriginal people were laid to rest over many thousands of years. These Aboriginal Ancestral burials are associated with landform features at Ghow Swamp that include lunettes, kow sands and cohuna silts.
Why is Ghow Swamp of such high significance?
Ghow Swamp is highly significant to its Traditional Owners, who have lived on, been supported by, and cared for this landscape for tens of thousands of years. The connection of the Traditional Owners to Ghow Swamp remains strong and significant today and is evident through years of advocacy for its protection.
Interconnected with the immense significance Ghow Swamp holds to Traditional Owners is the international recognition afforded to Ghow Swamp due to its large number of Aboriginal Ancestral Remains. This includes what is considered to be the world’s largest grouping of late Pleistocene age Ancestral burials (radiocarbon dated to between 9,300 and 13,000 years Before Present) found in one location.
Ghow Swamp is also highly significant as a location where Traditional Owners have again laid their repatriated ancestors to rest, following sustained campaigning by the local Aboriginal community for the return of Ancestral Remains from museums and universities.
Who are the Traditional Owners for Ghow Swamp?
The Yorta Yorta peoples are the Traditional Owners at Ghow Swamp and are the Registered Aboriginal Party under the Aboriginal Heritage Act for most of the area. Further information can be found on the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation
Other Traditional Owners in the wider region also have connections and associations with Ghow Swamp.
Why is a Declaration needed at Ghow Swamp?
A range of activities have impacted the highly significant and fragile Aboriginal heritage at Ghow Swamp Aboriginal Place and degraded its irreplaceable cultural heritage values, including the environmental values.
While all Aboriginal cultural heritage is protected under the Aboriginal Heritage Act , the Declaration specifically identifies and limits those activities that have been causing harm at Ghow Swamp Aboriginal Place.
All of the measures in the Declaration relate to activities on Crown land/waters only, except for one, which prohibits mining and exploration on both Crown land and private land. The Declaration supports the protection of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage, while ensuring landowners, public land managers and the public can continue to interact with and enjoy the landscape in a way that is appropriate and consistent with the requirements of the Aboriginal Heritage Act .
Can the public still visit Ghow Swamp?
Yes. Access to Ghow Swamp from public reserves continues. People can still visit the area for picnics, photography, birdwatching, fishing and other recreational activities that do not impact the values of the Aboriginal place. The Declaration measures must be observed when visiting Ghow Swamp.
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Reviewed 06 October 2022