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Budj Bim National Heritage Landscape - Mt Eccles Lake Condah Area, Mt Eccles Rd, Macarthur, VIC, Australia

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List National Heritage List
Class Indigenous
Legal Status Listed place (20/07/2004)
Place ID 105673
Place File No 2/02/137/0001
Summary Statement of Significance
About 30 000 years ago the Gunditj Mara people of Western Victoria witnessed the volcanic eruption of Mount Eccles, the way that the ancestral creation-being, Budj bim, revealed himself in the landscape.  Mt Eccles is Budj bim and the scoria cones are described as tung att – teeth belong it.  The volcano is an outstanding example of the process of ancestral beings revealing themselves to Aboriginal people as part of a changing physical and social landscape. 
 
The lava flow from Mt Eccles changed the drainage pattern in this part of western Victoria, creating some large wetlands.  Beginning thousands of years ago, the Gunditj Mara people started to develop this landscape to manipulate the wetlands to grow and harvest eels and fish.  They used the stones from the lava flow to construct channels to link wetlands; weirs to pond water; and stone fishtraps.
 
The Mt Eccles/Lake Condah system is markedly different from contemporary, historical and archeological records or freshwater fish traps recorded in other parts of Australia. The fish traps in other parts of Australia provided a system for channelling fish in streams or rivers into traps rather than creating conditions for fish husbandry.
 
This system of eel aquaculture developed by Gunditj Mara, including modified and engineered wetlands and eels traps, provided an economic basis for the development of a settled society.  This system also resulted in high population densities represented by the remains of stone huts clustered into villages of between two and sixteen huts.  This settled society demonstrates a transition from a forager society to a settled, stratified society ruled by chiefs with a form of hereditary succession that practised husbandry of fresh water fish. 
 
European settlement in the area commenced during the 1830s. Like many other frontiers, conflict between Europeans and Aborigines was endemic in the Lake Condah area. The Gunditj Mara people resisted European encroachment on their lands during the Eumerella wars that lasted more than 20 years. 
 
Aboriginal people often used parts of the landscape that Europeans found difficult to access as a base for their resistance to encroaching European settlement.  Gunditj Mara used the Mt Eccles lava flow to launch their attacks.  Because the lava flow is uneven and rocky, Europeans and their horses found it difficult to penetrate the area.  This allowed Gunditj Mara to escape from attempted reprisals and to continue their resistance to European settlement.  The Mt Eccles lava flow provides a particularly clear example of the way that Aboriginal people used their environment as a base for launching attacks on European settlers and escaping reprisal raids during frontier conflicts.
 
Many Gunditj Mara people living at Lake Condah Mission maintained their links to country.  Following the proposal by Alcoa to develop an aluminum smelter at Portland, the Victorian Government decided to return Lake Condah mission to the Aboriginal community in exchange for an agreement to the development of the smelter.  However, the Victorian Government was unable to pass the enabling legislation through its Upper House and turned to the Commonwealth for assistance.  In a rare example of the Commonwealth using its full constitutional powers granted under the 1967 referendum, the Commonwealth returned the mission to the Gunditj Mara people under the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Act 1987.
 
Official Values
Criterion A Events, Processes
The eel traps along the Tyrendarra lava flow are of outstanding heritage value. Gunditj Mara people constructed channels to link wetlands; weirs to pond water; and, stone fish-traps (Coutts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jemara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Builth 2002, 2003). The construction of weirs allowed Gunditj Mara to create or manipulate wetlands, providing ideal conditions to grow and harvest eels and fish. (Builth 2002, 2003). The remains of the channels, weirs and fishtraps are hundreds and probably thousands of years old.
 
This system is markedly different from contemporary, historical and archaeological records of freshwater fish traps recorded in other parts of Australia which provided a system for channeling fish in streams or rivers into traps (Sutton 2004) rather than creating conditions for fish husbandry.
 
The remains of the system of eel aquaculture in the Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area demonstrate a transition from a forager society to a society that practiced husbandry of fresh water fish (Builth 2002, 2003). This resulted in high population densities represented by the remains of stone huts clustered into villages of between two and sixteen huts (Coutts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992; Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Clark 1990a). It also provided the economic base for a stratified society ruled by chiefs with a form of hereditary succession to this office (Dawson 1881; Clark 1990a).
 
Many of the sites in Western Victoria where eel husbandry was practiced have been destroyed by farming (Clark 1990a). Of the systems that remain, Mt Eccles/LakeCondah is a better representative of this Western Victorian system than other examples such as Toolondo (Lourandos 1980) and Mt William (Williams 1988; Clark 1990a). The latter areas have a limited range of the features associated with eel aquaculture, mainly channels and fish traps.

Criterion A Events, Processes
The landscape of the Tyrendarra lava flow in the Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area is of outstanding heritage value because it provides a particularly clear example of the way that Aboriginal people used their environment as a base for launching attacks on European settlers and escaping reprisal raids during frontier conflicts (Clark 1990a, 1990b; Builth 2003).
 
Conflict between Europeans and Aborigines was endemic on the frontier of European settlement (Reynolds 1976). Aboriginal people often used parts of the landscape that Europeans found difficult to access as a base for their resistance to encroaching European settlement. Many of these landscapes of resistance centered on areas where vegetation made access difficult and some of these landscapes have been altered since European settlement.
 
Gunditj Mara used the Tyrendarra lava flow as a base from where they launched attacks on white settlers. Because the lava flow is uneven and rocky, Europeans and their horses found it difficult to penetrate the area. This allowed Aboriginal raiders to escape from attempted reprisals and to continue their resistance to European settlement for nearly a decade (Clarke 1990a: 238-250, 1990b; Builth 2003).
Criterion B Rarity
The Lake Condah mission is of outstanding heritage value because of the legal process under which it was returned to the community. It is a rare example of the Commonwealth using its constitutional powers to provide benefits for a specific Aboriginal community. Following the proposal by Alcoa to develop an aluminum smelter at Portland, the Victorian Government decided to return the Lake Condah mission to the Aboriginal community. However, the Victorian Government was unable to pass the enabling legislation through its Upper House and turned to the Commonwealth for assistance (Context 2000). Under the constitutional power to make laws for Aboriginal people granted to the Commonwealth under the 1967 referendum, the Commonwealth passed the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Act 1987.The only other examples is the return of Framlingham Forest under the same Act.
Criterion F Creative or technical achievement
The system of ponds, wetlands, channels, weirs and fish traps in the Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area are of outstanding heritage value. Gunditj Mara people constructed the channels to manipulate water flows and the weirs to modify and create wetlands that provided ideal growing conditions for the shortfinned eel and other fish (Coutts et al 1978; Lourandos 1980; Williams 1988; Clark 1990a; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Builth 2002, 2003). This system is confined to Western Victoria and shows a high degree of creativity not found in freshwater fish traps in other parts of Australia. Unlike other places in Western Victoria like Toolondo (Lourandos 1980) and Mt William (Williams 1988), the Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area contains all the elements that demonstrate the functioning of this system.
Criterion I Indigenous tradition
The link between the eruption of the volcano and Budj bim is of outstanding heritage value as a demonstration of the process through which ancestral beings reveal themselves in the landscape. This process of revelation has been documented in other parts of Australia where they involve Aboriginal people recognizing (or having revealed to them) the form of an ancestral being in a feature of the landscape (Merlan 1998).
There are two areas in Australia where Aboriginal people witnessed volcanism: the area of the younger volcanics of the Atherton Tablelands; and, the younger volcanics in Victoria, which includes Mt Eccles,. The Aboriginal stories about volcanism on the Atherton Tablelands are cast within the framework of transgressions and reprisals by ancestral beings. They also provide a clear description of the volcanic activity (Dixon 1996; Toohey 2001). While Aboriginal people also witnessed the eruption of Mt Eccles, their stories are very different to those on the Atherton Tablelands. Mt Eccles is an ancestral creation being Budj bim and the scoria cones are described as tung att teeth belong it (Clark 1990a; 1990b; Builth 2003). It therefore demonstrates the process through which Aboriginal creation beings reveal themselves in the landscape.
Description
The story of the Gunditj Mara people of Western Victoria is intimately related to the eruption of the Mt Eccles volcano, which was active between 30,000 and 20,000 years ago (Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993: 35).
 
Mt Eccles and the other Western Victorian volcanos are amongst the youngest in Australia.  It dates to the Pleistocene with the most recent Tyrendarra lava flow occurring about 20,000 years ago.  This means that Aboriginal people would have witnessed the eruption of Mt Eccles.
 
The Tyrendarra lava flow altered the drainage in the area and helped to create Lake Condah and its associated wetlands.  These and other wetlands in Western Victoria were used and modified by Aboriginal people who developed a complex system for growing and harvesting fish, particularly eels (Builth 2002, 2003).  This system is markedly different from the contemporary, historical and archaeological record of freshwater fish traps (Sutton 2004) recorded in other parts of Australia.
 
Aboriginal people dug channels to carry water from streams to low lying areas where a system of weirs was used to pond the water (Coutts et al 1978; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Lourandos 1980, 1983; Clark 1990; Williams 1988; Builth 2002, 2003).  The ponds and wetlands allowed Aboriginal people to practice a form of aquaculture in which they grew the fish and eels and then harvested them by draining the water through woven basket that trapped the fish (Builth 2002, 2003). Early descriptions and recent scientific evidence indicates that eels were preserved by smoking them in the hollows of mana gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) trees (Builth 2002).
 
In one part of Western Victoria, the area between Mt Eccles and the sea, this system of channels ponds, weirs and traps is associated with the remains of circular stone huts (Couts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992; Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders Aboriginal Corporation 1993; Builth 2002, 2003).  These huts can occur singly but generally occur in clusters of between two and sixteen huts (Clark 1990; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992).  The material from the stone huts indicates they are Aboriginal (Coutts et al 1978; Van Warden and Simmonds 1992) and the spatial association between the huts and the fish traps indicates they are part of the same cultural complex.
 
This system of eel aquaculture provided an economic base that supported large numbers of people organised in a form of stratified society ruled by chiefs (Dawson 1881; Clark 1990a; Builth 2002, 2003). 
 
Permanent European settlement in the area began in the 1840s with the arrival from Tasmania of the Henty Brothers.  There was conflict as European settlement expanded into Gunditj Mara lands.  Gunditj Mara used the Tyrendarra lava flow as a base from where they launched attacks on white settlers.  Because the lava flow is uneven and rocky, Europeans and their horses found it difficult to penetrate the area.  This allowed Aboriginal raiders to escape from attempted reprisals (Clarke 1990: 238-250).  After a number of attacks on pastoral properties native police were dispatched to the district.  By 1849, the native police had broken Gunditj Mara resistance (Clarke 1990: 238-250).
 
In the 1860s, Victoria began developing a system of Aboriginal Reserves.  Gunditj Mara living in the Portland and Heywood areas refused to move to the mission at Framlingham so a new reserve and mission was created at Lake Condah in 1868 (Clark 1990: 232; Context 2000). In 1919, after the First World War in which many Gunditj Mara served, the Victorian Government closed the Lake Condah mission. Ironically, much of the land was sold to the Closer Settlement Board to provide land to returned soldiers.  Although attempts were made to settle Aboriginal people on the lake Tyers Reserve many remained or returned to the Lake Condah mission area.  The last of the reserved land was revoked in 1959 and the church was demolished.
 
The proposal by Alcoa to develop an Aluminium smelter near Portland led to protests and court actions by Gunditj Mara who wanted to protect their heritage.  Following negotiations between Gunditj Mara, the Victorian Government and Alcoa, it was agreed that the old Lake Condah mission would be purchased and returned to the Aboriginal community (Context 2000).  However, the Victorian Government was unable to pass the enabling legislation through its Upper House and turned to the Commonwealth for assistance (Context 2000).  Under the constitutional to make laws for Aboriginal people power granted in the 1967 referendum the Commonwealth passed the Aboriginal Land (Lake Condah and Framlingham Forest) Act 1987.
 
History Not Available
Condition and Integrity
The system of eel aquaculture within Mt Eccles/Lake Condah area has been affected by natural decay over the last one hundred and fifty years, which has resulted in the loss of wood and clay features that formed part of the weirs, fish traps and huts.  However, the stone bases of these structures are still intact.  Some of these structures may have been dismantled by Europeans to construct the dry-stone fences that are ubiquitous in this area.  There is a small modern quarry on the Alambie property which may have destroyed some of the Aboriginal huts in the area. These processes have not altered the legibility in the landscape of the Aboriginal settlement and aquaculture system.
Location
About 7880ha, 6km south west of Macarthur, comprising Mount Eccles National Park, Stones State Faunal Reserve, Muldoons Aboriginal Land, Allambie Aboriginal Land and Condah Mission. Not included is the quarry located on Brians Road being Lot 1 LP138567.
Bibliography
Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Aboriginal Corporation.  1993.  Lake Condah: Heritage Management Plan and Strategy.  Melbourne: Aboriginal Affairs Victoria.
 
Builth, H.  2002.  The Archaeology and Socio-Economy of the Gunditjmara: a Landscape Approach.  Unpublished Doctoral Thesis.  Adelaide: Flinders University.
 
Builth, H.  2003.  Tyrendarra Property: Plan of Management.  Unpublished Report to Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation and Environment Australia.
 
Clark, I.D.  1990a.  The People of the Lake, Lake Condah, Victoria, Australia: an Information Manual.  Unpublished Report by Koorie Tourism Unit, Victorian Tourism Commission.
 
Clark, I.D.  1990b.  Aboriginal Languages and Clans: An Historical Atlas of Western and Central Victoria.  Monash Publications in Geography, 37.
 
Context.  2000.  Lake Condah Mission and Cemetery: Conservation Management Plan.  Unpublished Report for Aboriginal Affairs Victoria and Kerrup Jmara Elders.
 
Coutts, P., Frank, R. and Hughes, P.  1978.  Aboriginal Engineers of Western Victoria.  Records of the Victorian Archaeological Survey, 7.
 
Dawson, J.  1881.  Australian Aborigines: the Language and Custom of Several Tribes of Aborigines in the Western District of Victoria, Australia.  Melbourne: Robertson.
 
Dixon, R.M.  1996.  Origin legends and linguistic relationships.  Oceania, 67: 127-139.
 
Lourandos, H.  1980.  Change or stability?: hydraulics, hunter-gatherers and population in temperate Australia.  World Archaeology, 11: 245-264.
 
Reynolds, H.  1997.  The Other Side of the Frontier.  Crows Nest: Penguin.
 
Sutton, M.  2004.  A Comparative Study of Indigenous Fresh Water Fish Traps.  Unpublished Report to Indigenous Heritage Assessment Section.
 
Toohey, E.  2001.  From Bullock Team to Puffing Billy: The Atheron Tableland and Its Hinterland.  Rockhampton: Central Queensland University Press.
 
Van Warden, N. and Simmonds, S.  1992.  Regional Archaeological Summary.  Unpublished Report by Victorian Archaeological Survey.
 
Williams, E.  1988.  Complex Hunter-Gatherer: A Late Holocene Example from Temperate Australia.  British Archaeological Reports, International Series, 423.
 

Report Produced  Thu Jul 31 16:17:37 2014