Dja Dja Wurrung to take lead in Strathdale, Castlemaine bushland improvement bid

GRAND PLANS: Harley Douglas in Strathdale bushland the Dja Dja Wurrung are about to take a key role managing for the future. Picture: TOM O'CALLAGHAN
GRAND PLANS: Harley Douglas in Strathdale bushland the Dja Dja Wurrung are about to take a key role managing for the future. Picture: TOM O'CALLAGHAN

INDIGENOUS Australians will take the lead managing Strathdale and Castlemaine bushland during a four-year project breathing new life into forests.

They are partnering with Parks Victoria to improve visitor experiences and environmental protection in Wildflower Drive, Strathdale and the Kalimna Park, Castlemaine.

"My ancestors have been absent for 200 years from the landscape and not allowed to lead things," Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clan Aboriginal Corporation CEO Rodney Carter said.

"So for us to be supported to employ a Dja Dja Wurrung person and allow Dja Dja Wurrung to understand what we do in modern landscape management ... adds a unique value that we would not expect a consultant to be able to do."

The DCWCAC and Parks Victoria will work closely together on the project.

They will seek input from people living in nearby communities, Park Victoria regional director Dan McLaughlin said.

"It could mean focusing on paths or day-use areas but we haven't locked anything in yet," he said.

One focus could be a fresh look at illegal activity in the Wildflower Drive area, Parks Victoria's Dja Dja Wurrung ranger team leader Trent Nelson said.

"This park is close to the centre of Bendigo and it gets a lot of use. We face issues like can see vandalism, damage, wood cutting and theft as well as illegal rubbish dumping," he said.

The more people understood the cultural significance of land like Strathdale's the less problems are seen in parks, Mr Nelson said. So education would likely be key.

The Dja Dja Wurrung would also like to see the land reused for traditional purposes.

"There's an important question here about how we use this as our modern 'garden'," Mr Carter said.

Gardening the environment is something his ancestors likely did, he said.

"We can use that thought and bring it forward to think about how we might do that today. There's endangered species like the pink-tailed legless lizard in this area that is extremely threatened," Mr Carter said.

"We can think about how we can contribute to its survival."

The reclusive pink-tailed lizard has only been found in the ACT and public land around One Tree Hill.

It is particularly exposed because it lives underground in an area encroached by urban sprawl.

Indigenous leadership in Strathdale parkland could also influence cultural burn practices.

Mr Carter said cultural burns benefit plants and animals and reduce fuel loads close to houses.

"Funnily enough, when we talk about endangered food and fibre plants we understand they often need human cultivation for the plant to recruit the environment," Mr Carter said.

"As modern people - and in the absence of the Dja Dja Wurrung - we've locked up those plants. We don't interact with them.

"If a plant needs a cultivated soil that would suggest you need to go out and do something to allow it to recruit. Take the yam daisy or kangaroo grass, there are so many plants I think we can look after."