This website contains images of people who have passed away.

Culture and Country

The richness and diversity of Aboriginal history and culture in Victoria and the resilience and strength of Aboriginal communities and peoples, is something for all Victorians to celebrate.

Our shared commitment

The promotion of the rights and responsibilities under section 19(2) of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006.

Victorian Aboriginal communities and peoples are culturally diverse, with rich and varied languages, traditions, and histories. Aboriginal Victorians hold distinct cultural rights, including the right to maintain their spiritual, material, and economic relationship with their traditional lands and waters and continue to strengthen and grow with the resurgence of language, lore, and cultural knowledge.

The richness and diversity of Aboriginal history and culture in Victoria, and the resilience and strength of past and present Aboriginal communities and peoples is something for all Victorians to acknowledge and celebrate.

Goal 18: Aboriginal land, water and cultural rights are realised

18.1 Increase the recognition and enjoyment of Aboriginal land, water and cultural heritage rights


  • 18.1.1 Area of Crown land with native title determinations and/or Recognition and Settlement Agreements.
  • 18.1.2 Work of the State in advancing the treaty process.
  • 18.1.3 Number of Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAP) that have submitted a notice of intention to enter into an Aboriginal cultural heritage land management agreement.
  • 18.1.4 Number of Whole of Country Plans published.
  • 18.1.5 Number of Joint Management Plans and area of land covered.
  • 18.1.6 Number of cultural burns conducted.
  • 18.1.7 Number of formal partnership agreements for planning and management between Aboriginal communities and key water and catchment agencies.

Formal recognition

In Victoria there are 3 different processes through which Aboriginal people can seek the formal recognition of the State as Traditional Owners of their ancestral Country:

  • Native title determination under the Native Title Act 1993.
  • Traditional Owner settlement under the Victorian Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (TOS Act).
  • Registered Aboriginal Parties (RAP) under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 (Heritage Act).

In 2019-20, native title is recognised across 14,899 square kilometres of land. A further 50,976 square kilometres of land is recognised under TOS Act agreements, which is a significant increase from 30,766 square kilometres in 2018-19.

Advancing the treaty process

The Victorian Government has committed to advancing treaty with Aboriginal Victorians as an essential step in enabling self-determination. Victoria is currently in phase 2 of a 3-phase treaty process. In July 2020, the Victorian Government also committed to a truth and justice process to formally recognise past wrongs and address ongoing injustices experienced by Aboriginal Victorians. This work will be led by the independent Yoo-rrook Justice Commission, announced on 9 March 2021.

Aboriginal cultural heritage land management agreements

One avenue for recognising Aboriginal land, water and cultural heritage rights is through the establishment of Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreements (ACHLMAs). ACHLMAs are designed to facilitate a proactive, holistic approach to managing and protecting Aboriginal cultural heritage and landscape. In 2019-20, 2 RAPs submitted an intention to enter an ACHLMA.

Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC) Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Land Management Agreement

The Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) manages and maintains thousands of kilometres of forest roads and tracks on Gunaikurnai Country. Along this road network, there are over 500 known cultural heritage sites. GLaWAC and DELWP have entered into an ACHLMA for road and track maintenance within State Forest where DELWP is the land and road manager.

Development of the ACHLMA was guided by key principles, including respect for and recognition of GLaWAC as the primary guardians, keepers and knowledge holders of their cultural heritage, and empowering GLaWAC to be the decision makers in respect of their cultural heritage. This ACHLMA is a significant milestone for both GLaWAC and DELWP, respecting the principles of self-determination for the Gunaikurnai and meeting the operational requirements of DELWP.

Whole of Country Plans

Whole of Country Plans are overarching, long-term visions, developed by Traditional Owner groups, that set out clear goals and priorities, principles of engagement and measures of success in caring for Country. There are currently a total of nine Whole of Country Plans published in Victoria.

Joint management plans

There are 3 joint management plans with three Traditional Owner groups in Victoria, covering a total of 1225.75 kilometres squared, spanning 17 parks and reserves, as follows:

  1. Gunaikurnai, joint management plan over ten parks and reserves in the Gippsland region,
  2. Dja Dja Wurrung, joint management plan for six parks and reserves in the Central West, and
  3. Yorta Yorta with a joint management plan for Barmah National Park in the Riverina region.

Joint management plans provide the strategic direction for the management of Country (public parks and reserves) subject to joint management arrangements between Traditional Owners and the State Government. Joint management arrangements and the development of joint management plans are delivered under Traditional Owner Land Management Agreements.

A key attribute of joint management plans is that they integrate Traditional Owner knowledge and care for Country into the management of the parks and reserves subject to the plan. The plans are developed by a Traditional Owner Land Management Board, which is established by the Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change and comprises a majority of Traditional Owners. A joint management plan replaces any prior park management plans.

Joint management can involve the transfer of legal title to the land from the Government to Traditional Owners, where joint management occurs as part of a Recognition and Settlement Agreement under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. Where this occurs, the title is a modified form of freehold title referred to as Aboriginal Title. The parks and reserves under joint management with Gunaikurnai and Dja Dja Wurring are all Aboriginal Title lands.

Cultural burning

Cultural burning assists in maintaining the land for future generations and reconnecting Aboriginal people with their history and culture. In the twelve months to June 2020, Traditional Owners conducted eight cultural burns with the support of Victorian Government agencies. This is a significant increase from the previous year (5 in total) and highlights the critical role of Traditional Owners in fire management, particularly in light of the recent 2019-20 bushfire crisis.

Water and catchment partnerships

Traditional Owner Corporations hold significant rights to the land and have cultural obligations to manage traditional lands and waters. They are equal partners in ensuring catchment health. In many cases, Traditional Owners’ rights over Crown land and waterways are recognised in settlement agreements (covering more than 40 parks and reserves) and governance arrangements to ensure their perspectives, knowledge and interests are valued.

In 2016, the Victorian Government released Water for Victoria, a plan for a future with less water as Victoria responds to the impact of climate change and a growing population. The plan commits to recognising Aboriginal values and objectives of water, including Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning, supporting Aboriginal access to water for economic development, and building capacity to increase Aboriginal participation in water management.

This commitment was supported with $9.7 million in funding to partner with Traditional Owner and nation groups to explore Aboriginal water values, and accessing water for economic development. This has seen a significant increase in the number of partnerships during the reporting period.

As of June 2020, there were 90 active and ongoing partnership agreements between Traditional Owner groups and key water catchment agencies to promote Aboriginal values and traditional ecological knowledge in water planning and management.

Goal 19: Aboriginal culture and language are supported and celebrated

19.1 Support the preservation, promotion and practice of culture and language


  • 19.1.1 Participation in community events which celebrate Aboriginal culture.
  • 19.1.2 Investment in Aboriginal language and culture revitalisation programs.

Past government policies of dispossession and assimilation have led to a decline in Aboriginal cultural practice and language transmission. Despite this, the strength and resilience of Aboriginal Victorians has helped maintain language and culture, which continue to be practiced and passed on to future generations.

Connectedness to culture and community strengthens individual and collective identities, and promotes positive self-esteem, resilience and improved outcomes for Aboriginal people.

While cultural identity is central to the lives of Aboriginal Victorians, all Victorians should celebrate and take pride in Aboriginal culture and language.

The below table outlines standalone Aboriginal language and culture revitalisation initiatives supported by the Victorian Government. Significant government investment in language and culture revitalisation is also embedded in many of the foundational programs and services delivered by ACCOs, such as kinship family finding, return to Country and cultural camps.

Koorie Heritage Trust (KHT) The Victorian Government provides funding to KHT for core operations, family history services and an oral history program. KHT offers various services, including Aboriginal history and culture exhibitions, Aboriginal art galleries, cultural tours, cultural awareness training and a retail shop selling handmade cultural items.
Connecting Home Limited (CHL)

The Victorian Government provides funding to CHL for continued services to address the effects of forced removal, giving effect to the ongoing commitment to implement the recommendations of the Bringing them home report and respond to the National Inquiry into the Separation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children from their Families.

Cultural Markers Project

The Victorian Government provides support for the Cultural Markers project which aims to increase visibility of Aboriginal people and culture in Victoria via the use of Cultural Markers. Usually, Cultural Markers are a plaque of some kind, a sign and/or statue. The project will attract cutting edge technology from the Start-up Industry to create markers that Aboriginal Victoria (AV) hopes to establish throughout Melbourne CBD and regions. AV hopes the Cultural Markers become a standout tourist attraction and produce educational, economic and tourism partnerships that engage members of the public and bring to the forefront the wealth of Aboriginal culture that is alive, active, living and breathing in the state of Victoria.

Reconciliation Victoria (RecVic)

The Victorian Government provides funding to RecVic to delivering of a range of activities that promote reconciliation within the community.

Lake Tyers Aboriginal Trust (LTAT)

The Victorian Government provides funding to LTAT to deliver municipal and essential services to its residents. This funding supports the management of LTAT’s land, water and built environment, as well as the preservation of cultural heritage.

Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLaWC) The Victorian Government provided funding to TLaWC to organise and host four camps of cultural strengthening and language revival activities at Camp Jungai for Taungurung people. These activities included learning, teaching and performing cultural dance and ceremony, and cultural guidance with Men’s and Women’s business, guided by Elders within the community. Taungurung Elders were invited to host fireside talks, share cultural knowledge and speak about life experiences to the community including young people. The four camps held over the year sparked more interest within the community to learn Taungurung language. This was considered by the TLaWC Board which led to the formation of the Taungurung Language Reference Group, with a view of developing a language program and language revitalisation.

Goal 20: Racism is eliminated

20.1 Address and eliminate racism


  • 20.1.2 Prevalence of racist attitudes against Aboriginal Victorians held by the Victorian community.

The Victorian Government acknowledges that Australia, including Victoria, has its own sorry history of violence and racism, and that the structures and systems established during colonisation deliberately excluded Aboriginal people and their lore, customs and traditions. Systemic and structural racism still exists today, and has contributed to the over-representation of Aboriginal people in Victoria’s justice and child protection systems. Racism continues to significantly impact Aboriginal people across all areas of their lives, including their health and wellbeing.

One indicator of racism experienced by Aboriginal Victorians is formal complaints made to the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission (VEOHRC). In 2018-19, three complaints were made to the VEOHRC about racial discrimination towards Aboriginal Victorians. While this follows a positive trend (there were 15 reports in 2016-17 and nine in 2017-18), it is important to recognise that this data is only a measure of formal reports made to VEOHRC and does not capture unreported racism.

The Victorian Government is working with the VEOHRC to improve mechanisms for reporting racism, including through the development of a community reporting tool that simplifies reporting and is accessible through local government and community organisation websites.

Given its wide-ranging impacts, it is important that we continue to identify other ways of measuring the prevalence of racism.

Action the Victorian Government is taking

The Victorian Government is committed to tackling racism in our society, including addressing and eliminating racism directed toward Aboriginal Victorians. The Yoo-rrook Justice Commission and the Anti-Racim Taskforce and Strategy are important elements of this work.

It is anticipated that the Yoo-rrook Justice Commission will investigate both historical and ongoing injustices, including racism, committed against Aboriginal Victorians since colonisation by the State and non-State entities, across all areas of social, political and economic life. Truth telling and truth listening can help non-Aboriginal Victorians to confront unconscious bias and structural racism. The Commission is expected to commence in July 2021, with its final report due three years after establishment.

In November 2020, the Victorian Government committed to establish an Anti-Racism Taskforce to guide the development of a new Anti-Racism Strategy, due to be launched in March 2022. In 2020/21, $1.4 million was provided to deliver this work, including $0.065 million to support the Taskforce’s establishment.

The Taskforce’s membership will reflect the diversity of Aboriginal and multicultural communities and their experiences. Members will be selected on the basis of their professional skills, experience and expertise in areas directly relevant to the scope of the Taskforce, with two positions designated for Aboriginal members. Government is working collaboratively to ensure that in the establishment of the Taskforce, membership appropriately reflects not only lived experience of racism, but an understanding of power dynamics, unconscious bias and privilege, and how these result in structural racism.

The Victorian Government is also committed to Aboriginal self-determination, cultural safety, cultural revitalisation and working in partnership with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to manage culture and country through Pupangarli Marnmarnepu (owning our future) – DELWP’s Self-Determination Reform Strategy. Pupangarli Marnmarnepu acknowledges Aboriginal Victorians have the right to make choices that best reflect them on their journey to self-determination; that it is our responsibility to partner with Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to advance self-determination by committing to delivering real outcomes and following Traditional Owner leads.

Key investments in 2020-21 include

$10 million to provide immediate support and funding for cultural strengthening and celebration through the Aboriginal COVID-19 Response Fund. The Fund was designed as part of the $23 million COVID-19 response package to support Aboriginal Victorians through the pandemic and supports self-determination by putting decision-making power back in the hands of Aboriginal communities.

$18 million to improve recognition and management of water by Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians through the Water, Country and Community Program. Water, Country, and Community is a continuation of the Victorian Aboriginal Water Program and has been developed through learnings from the first four years. The funding will be distributed over four years (2020 to 2024), through different funding rounds and amounts. Funding is available for Aboriginal Water Officers, the Aboriginal Water Officer Network, and projects, research, and resources to start and/or continue to better understand, document and progress Aboriginal access and management requirements to water, for self-determined purposes.

$1.25 million for Advanced bushfire management: Aboriginal Cultural Fire Leadership to enable Traditional Owner groups to lead the implementation of the Victorian Traditional Owner Cultural Fire Strategy. This work directly contributes to the implementation of the VAAF and Pupangarli Marnmarnepu.

$4.8 million for the Aboriginal Water Program to support the extension of existing Aboriginal Water Officers (or their equivalents) and Traditional Owner led water related projects.

$418,000 for core environmental and traditional owner program Managing Country Together. Parks Victoria will deliver a range of core services for land and management services in partnership with Traditional Owners to address the increasing impact of climate change, particularly with the increased length, intensity and impact of fire seasons as well as ensuring compliance with laws to protect Aboriginal Heritage.

Key actions across 2020 include

Bushfire biodiversity response and recovery - maximising long term resilience

In response to the 2019-20 bushfires, funding has been provided to nine Traditional Owner Groups impacted by the bushfires to undertake activities within and adjacent to the current fire extent to read and heal Country and species of cultural significance using cultural knowledge and practices. To maximise long term resilience, $2.05 million has been provided until June 2021 with further extension of this funding expected to June 2023.

The Aboriginal Access to Water Roadmap (roadmap)

The roadmap delivers on the policy commitment made through Water for Victoria with funding provided to the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owners Corporations to lead this work in partnership with the Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations. The roadmap contributes to self-determination by identifying opportunities for Traditional Owners and Aboriginal Victorians to access water, manage and own water for spiritual, cultural, environmental and social economic purposes.

Forest Modernisation Program

Funding totalling $1.2 million to support Traditional Owner Corporations’ capacity to facilitate or lead any collective and common policy and project initiatives related to the Forest Fire and Regions Groups land management portfolio.

Sea Country Project

In line with a self-determination approach, funding of $480,000 supports Traditional Owner involvement in marine and coastal planning and management, including sea and country plans, 2-way capacity and capability building, and restoration of marine and coastal cultural knowledge and practice.

Traditional Owner Ranger Programs

Traditional Owner Ranger Programs are tailored to the specific needs of each individual Traditional Owner Group Entity (TOGE) and their jointly managed Crown lands:

  • The Gunaikurnai TOS Act Agreement package provided $1.031 million to fund the direct employment eight Gunaikurnai Rangers to work on the 10 jointly-managed Gunaikurnai parks and reserves in Gippsland in 2020-21
  • The Taungurung TOS Act Agreement package provided $1.305 million to fund the direct employment six Taungurung Rangers (seconded to Parks Victoria) to work on nine jointly-managed Taungurung parks and reserves in North East Victoria
  • The Dja Dja Wurrung TOS Act Agreement package provided $358,000 to fund Parks Victoria’s employment of three Dja Dja Wurrung Rangers to work on the six jointly-managed parks and reserves in Central Victoria in 2020-21
  • The State’s Economic Stimulus Funding Program provided Parks Victoria with $636,480 in 2020-21 for the employment of four Yorta Yorta Joint Management rangers, including salary and training costs, and an operating budget for priority on ground works. It also provided Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation with $155,150 for a Joint Management Coordinator to act as a liaison between Yorta Yorta National Aboriginal Corporation and Parks Victoria and oversee the new Joint Management rangers.
Traditional Owner Renewable Energy Program (TOREP)

The Traditional Owner Renewable Energy Program (TOREP) will make a total investment of $1.1 million available as grant funding to all 11 of Victoria's current RAPs, to enable the empowerment of Traditional Owners to self-determine how they want to be part of Victoria’s renewable energy transition.