Wettenhall, Gib, contributions from the Gunditjmara people

This updated and revised edition with two new chapters covers the story of Australia’s first Indigenous community-led nomination bid for World Heritage listing of their cultural landscape. In 2019, the Gunditjmara were recognised through World Heritage listing for their demonstrated technological ingenuity in engineering water flows and managing food resources across the Budj Bim lava flows in south-west Victoria over many millenia. In the face of a varying climate as the last Ice Age ended, the Gunditjmara sustainably adapted their fish trap systems through to the present day, also demonstrating to the satisfaction of the World Heritage Committee, a continuity of culture into the deep past.

In 2009, radiocarbon dating scientifically proved that one of the Gunditjmara’s most iconic fishtrap systems is an incredible 6,600 years old, more ancient than the pyramids and at a time when Western civilisation was not even a glimmer on the horizon. An abundant supply year-round of eels, fish and water plants meant that the Gunditjmara could lead a settled life inhabiting stone house villages adjacent to their aquaculture complexes – an experience without parallel in Australia and one worth proudly celebrating.

In the Second Edition of The People of Budj Bim, the Gunditjmara with Gib Wettenhall recount how they persisted over 17 years to gain World Heritage inscribing. In a final added chapter, they talk about the steps they are taking to heal their Country, culture and people from the traumas of the recent past.

The fighting Gunditjmara never gave up their connection to Country. At first contact, the rough and broken ground of the lava flow acted as a fortress. It became the setting for what Robbery Under Arms author, Rolf Boldrewood, called the Eumeralla War, a six year battle fought by Gunditjmara clans against squatters taking over their land.

In 2007, and once again in 2011, the Gunditjmara won Native Title to much of their land, with such access allowing them to make significant archaeological gains in piecing together the patterns of their widespread fishtrap systems and associated settlements. World Heritage recognition in 2019 has given an added boost to the Gunditjmara’s cultural rediscovery, as well as validation on the world stage that has aided in restoring their confidence and identity.

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Em Press, June 2022.   92 pages,  paperback, colour throughout.