Lake Condah Bush Blitz

Author
by Kate C
Publish date
22 March 2011
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Comments (6)

The only way to learn about the biodiversity of an area is to get out there and look. That’s exactly what a team of scientists, including 24 MV staff and volunteers, is doing at the Lake Condah area in south-western Victoria for the next nine days.

The expedition is part of Bush Blitz – a three-year project to document the flora and fauna of Australia’s National Reserve system. As a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton, Earthwatch Australia and Terrestrial Ecosystems Research Network (TERN) AusPlots, Bush Blitz teams have identified about 350 new species on eight trips so far. The current trip is especially significant because it’s the first one to be held in an Indigenous Protected Area – the Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape, comprising about 3,000 hectares over several properties.

Woodland at Kurtonitj Open woodland at Kurtonitj, one of the properties that comprise the Winda Mara owned and managed areas.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

This country is the traditional homeland of the Gunditjmara Nation. Within its rocky, volcanic landscape are ancient structures including eel traps and stone houses. For thousands of years this was a site of major aquaculture efforts where Gunditjmara created pools and channels to cultivate and harvest eels. However Europeans arrived in the 1830s and within 30 years, the Aboriginal population had been decimated and displaced. The Government established Lake Condah Mission to house the people who refused to leave, but in 1919 the mission was closed and in the 1950s the land was reassigned to returning WWII soldiers. But this is a tough mob; in 1996, the Gunditjmara community persisted and they lodged a claim for native title to their lands. It was finally granted in 2007 and Lake Condah was returned to Aboriginal people.

kangaroo A kangaroo eyeing off the Bush Blitz crew at Kurtonitj.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Until 1 April, Bush Blitz will be taking a snapshot of the life of this region. There are botanists from the National Herbarium of Victoria and entomologists from the South Australian Museum and the University of New South Wales among the Bush Blitz crew. We’re counting and photographing and collecting to learn more about what lives here – which will, in turn, aid its protection. Working with the Elders of the community and the Indigenous rangers means that the scientists will learn about the ecological knowledge of the Traditional Owners, too.

spotlighting Three MV biologists spotlighting for frogs on the first night at Lake Condah.
Image: Mark Norman
Source: Museum Victoria
 

Uncle Kenny Saunders came to talk to us the night that we arrived and gave us a warm welcome. He spoke about the spiritual and cultural importance of the area to the 300 or so Gunditjmara living locally and the much larger population of Gunditjmara now living across Australia. After telling us his stories he left us with an inspirational challenge – that he hoped these scientific surveys would give him more stories to tell about his country.

Links:

Bush Blitz

Lake Condah Sustainable Development Project

ABC Mission Voices: Lake Condah

Comments (6)

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Louisa Erglis 23 April, 2011 00:33
great to see new identifications taking place. Also good to hear some heritage going back to where it should, what an encouraging story
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Helen Baldwin [nee DARBY] 22 April, 2011 18:31
My great grandparents Frederick CARMICHAEL married Sarah MULLETT
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Simon 27 March, 2011 09:34
Hey Kate, great story, can I point out that I am cradling a frog in my hands and that I'm not about to burst into weird applause. Also the catering was damn fine.
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Caroline 23 March, 2011 16:12
what an absolute privilege, so jealous! say hey to Uncle Damien for me :)
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Gen 23 March, 2011 12:39
Great story and great work.. Good to see the Museum out working with Traditional Owners.
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Bec 23 March, 2011 09:31
Science and culture combine, sounds perfect!
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