Introduction – Baan Marram-Nganjin Dilbadin (We protect our water)

Taungurung Recognition Settlement Agreement area (and Registered Aboriginal Party area) is bounded by the Campaspe River (south of Rochester) in the west, the Great Dividing Range in the south, and extends a long way east of the north central region. Our Country includes the upper reaches of the Goulburn River and its tributaries, east to the Ovens River, the northern boundary running between Rochester, Euroa and Everton.

Taungurung buk (people) have managed their land, forests, rivers, wetlands and floodplains for thousands of years. We relied heavily on a healthy Country; our traditional knowledge and management practices shaped our cultural landscape for us to thrive. Despite the ongoing effects of settlement and removal from our lands, our people have maintained their ancestral connection to Country. In the heart of the Taungurung identity, we find our land, forests, rivers, stories and songlines; we are an intrinsic part of Country.

Currently, water management and governance in Victoria exclude our cultural landscape and our traditional knowledge and practices; an unsustainable extraction of resources drives land and water management. Our valued species were often found lining waterways and billabongs. With the increased water demand and the effects of grazing and cropping, the habitat conditions for these species has decreased dramatically. Harmful land-use and water extraction profit from Country’s degradation; and has interrupted years of accrued ecological knowledge and practices.

Before contact, an essential aspect of Taungurung culture was the maintenance and harvest of food and fibre plants found in abundance along floodplains of the Campaspe, Goulburn River, Ovens, and tributaries; the mountains and caves of our high Country and in places of habitation and ceremony. These same species have been widely used for generations as knowledge has been passed along family lines throughout the colonial period. In particular, knowledge of our medicines aided our ancestors to survive, both physically and through the continuing practice of Cultural Lore.

The settlement aftermath is one of despair; our Country is sick and requires attention and healing. As custodians of our land and waters, we feel there is no other time for action. The future of the catchment is at risk due to the accrued impacts of past water management decisions, river flow regulation and land use transformations within Country which have been detrimental to riverine ecosystems.

But the past cannot be accounted for as a past event yet; we can still feel the effects and impacts of the historical social and political exclusion. Our lack of water rights highlights the flaws of water management and recent water reforms. Today, there is no equitable water use and ownership, and we have been historically denied the opportunity for commercial water use that would enable our economic growth. We can’t benefit from water reforms as others due to the lack of Taungurung water and the constraints to participate in the water market.

Taungurung has recently gained legal and political recognition to exercise relative self-determination with the Recognition of Settlement Agreement signage. The agreement allows us to be involved as equal and valued partners in all matters of planning and decision-making instances regarding our land and waters and to look for our economic independence through caring for Country. Furthermore, it enables the opportunity to raise awareness of Taungurung culture as a Nation and redefine our relations with the settler society.

However, the competing contemporary land uses put enormous pressure on the ecosystems, now managed for a different set of values. A context of water scarcity and climate change configure a more complex scenario to incorporate our aspirations. In this more competitive scenario, whose water values are prioritized is not merely a technical discussion but a socio-political one, one of environmental justice. Our Catchment Management authorities are in a highly challenging situation today where they must navigate between State and Basin guidelines, community aspirations and Traditional Owners priorities and perspectives.

The recent droughts and bushfire events have violently and brutally impacted our region, along came COVID-19. These extreme events are examples of how the future would look if we don’t address the issues from the past and present. From our perspective, river flow regulation and the water market have perverse effects on the catchment and the community, not exclusively to Taungurung. Their effects are mostly unperceivable because of their delayed effects; and compared to the acute shocks, they get little attention from the community. At the core of the Regional Catchment Strategy the discussions should be about whose water objectives are prioritized and what is genuinely sustainable for our rivers, our catchment and our community.

As stewards of Country, culturally and legally obliged to look after our land, we feel water management not only requires avoiding the mistakes from the past or merely the redistribution of water allocations but to prioritize the river health and its connections over other uses and practices. Today, the lack of Taungurung water rights is not merely an impediment to control water resources or benefit from them. It is a denial for future Taungurung generations to heal Country and heal traditional knowledge and practices, and exercise our culture which is undeniably linked to our land and water.

To inform RCS renewal, TLaWC representing Taungurung Traditional Owners, were engaged. As for other Traditional Owners of the region, we have sought to reflect Taungurung values and aspirations in this RCS, at a high level. For more specific information, RCS partners should engage directly with TLaWC and reference their Taungurung buk dadbagi, Taungurung Country Plan, which is a living document, updated as needed.

All Traditional Owners engaged for RCS renewal were asked if they would like to identify values, including places of value in the RCS. We also discussed a range of concerns and aspirations for the future. Those identified by Taungurung representatives engaged for RCS renewal are outlined on this page, noting that text in italics was written and provided by TLaWC. Together these have informed the development of priority directions and outcomes for all Traditional Owners, as outlined on the Traditional Owners page.

TLaWC Planning Framework

Taungurung Land and Waters Council (TLAWC) planning framework consists of the whole of country government arrangements for their nation, which are currently partially embodied in Taungurung policy documents like the Taungurung buk dadbagi Taungurung Country Plan and the Baan Dhumba-Dji-Ngan Murndak Gunga (water chapter). TLaWC is working on the review of their Country Plan and consequently the development of sub strategies (references, quotes and links to the current Country Plan will be updated here once it has been renewed). This is part of a new emerging Taungurung Cultural Natural Resource Management strategic framework, that allows Taungurung to be the land and water managers of our Country.

The Taungurung buk dadbagi, Taungurung Country Plan communicates Taungurung vision and aspirations for Country, Culture and People… to educate and guide those making decisions about Taungurung Country, Culture and People…

The Country Plan identifies six key areas for action, aspirations and goals for each:

  • Identity, Recognition and Rights
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Cultural Heritage
  • Taungurung Traditional Knowledge
  • Caring for Our Country
  • Economic Independence

Goals relevant to the RCS were identified through discussions with TLaWC representatives. The TLaWC, with direct participation of Baan Ganalina water knowledge group, have developed a more detailed water chapter for the Country Plan – Baan Dhumba-Dji-Ngan Murndak Gunga which was also referred through our engagement with them.

Cultural values

Water itself is sacred to us, let alone our places

All waterways are all very high significance culturally

Rivers of our Country are the veins of our bodies

River boundaries bring groups together, spiritually important.

As highlighted in the Federation of Victorian Traditional Owner Corporations’, Cultural Landscape Strategy (soon to be launched), “Australia forms as a tapestry of interwoven cultural landscapes that are the product of the skills, knowledge and activities of Aboriginal land managers over thousands of generations. Cultural landscapes are reflections of how Aboriginal people engage with the world and are the planning unit of choice for Traditional Owners.” Through RCS implementation, TLaWC are committed to continuing to work with RCS partners to understand these cultural landscapes and to provide that greater opportunity to have common understanding of our visions and objectives.

TLaWC representatives identified the Campaspe River as  significant within the north-central region, partly because it is a boundary, but added that all waterways are an essential part of Country. The Taungurung people have been the custodians of Country for countless generations, undertaking our cultural obligations to care for Country and ensuring the health of Country as if she is one of our own kin.

Upon the invasion of Aboriginal Territories, which began in 1788, the role of the Taungurung Nation as it relates to the management of Country started to change. With that came competing contemporary land uses that put pressure on the ecosystems, managed for different set of values.

Taungurung culture relied heavily on healthy waterways to thrive; our valued species were often found along waterways and billabongs. It is critical for Taungurung to protect all the water related values and the spiritual connection with our rivers. Our medicinal, food and fibre plants, were found in abundance along floodplains of our rivers and their tributaries, in the mountains and caves of our high Country and places of habitation and ceremony. Even in contemporary times these species have been used as a means to generate an income and share part of our rich history, culture and deep knowledge of Country that our people have with non-indigenous peoples.

Concerns and considerations for the RCS

Through engagement with TLaWC we heard:

  • Most of the current access points to the Campaspe are outside Taungurung Country. Gaining access to the Campaspe River from Taungurung Country is very important.
  • Concerns about water quality in the upper Campaspe following recent discharges from treatment plants.
  • Regarding the traditional (holistic) versus Western (divided) way of looking at Country; there is an overlap between water rights/custodianship, water management/governance, cultural outcomes and economic outcomes. In the RCS, there is an overlap between themes.
  • While ecological and cultural objectives are probably most relevant to the RCS, Taungurung participation in planning processes is essential. From a Traditional Owner perspective, various things need to be considered concerning Country. If Country is not cared for, the economic opportunities for Traditional Owners are eroded.
  • RCS partners must commit to developing a long‐term sustainable relationship based on the true principles of self-determination and respect Taungurung’s cultural protocols, goals and rights.
  • We seek equity in decision making, a reasonable timeline and an opportunity for resourcing at the outset of any engagement process, to allow us to engage with our Taungurung community members appropriately. RCS partners should make a genuine effort to share power, and to partner in developing agreed conflict resolution processes and create transparency around decision making.


Taungurung buk dadbagi Taungurung Country Plan goalPriorities related to goals
2.1 Gather and record Elders’ stories about Country, including language, songlines, traditional ecological knowledge, cultural practice, and knowledge about significant places, people and eventsThis includes to uncover what stories mean, and check this still aligns to place  

Language revitalisation is important, interested in renaming and naming waterways  
2.6 Establish a Taungurung Cross Cultural Awareness Package that embraces the broader community, including agenciesWe need capacity building, both ways
-Raising cultural awareness in organisations
-Improving Taungurung understanding of how government works  

Cross cultural awareness includes training, work placements, joint project delivery  
3.1 Establish ongoing support and investment for a major audit – cultural mapping activity – on Taungurung Country – from the tops of our mountains to our waterways and tributaries, including tangible and intangible heritage.Cultural mapping is in progress  

Plan to include cultural layers in mapping tools and in the future add stories, photos, diagrams  

Want to increase cultural signage and consider using new technology such as QR codes and virtual reality to enhance the experience with stories and visuals  
Important to Taungurung that they can access the Campaspe River from their Country to undertake cultural mapping, to build on AWAs  

CMA and other partners to enable opportunities for Taungurung to undertake cultural mapping via/on private land through landholder engagement  
5.3 Establish a Taungurung skills pathway program from entry level (on-ground) to business management for Caring for Country roles, and other contract works that Taungurung People could benefit fromSome examples of this:
-Secondees in both directions and particularly in water management.
-School age apprenticeships / traineeships
-Immersions where both groups work on a particular issue
-Youth leadership program
-Build capacity through AWA implementation and increased participation in developing SWPs etc
5.6 Be the leading group in monitoring our threatened speciesTaungurung leading the monitoring of biodiversity and water quality
5.7 Participate in climate change forums at a State level and in Taungurung Country specific forums to improve our understanding and capacity to influence decision-making about climate change strategiesTaungurung role in relation to climate change is outlined in the RSA  

Learning how to include at the Board level down to the project level – support building capability together  

Interested in carbon offset opportunities  
6.3 Secure rights to access and use natural resources for sustainable commercial uses such as water, timber, flora and fauna on public landsPartnership and stakeholder agreements to enable access – this is in Water for Victoria.  
6.8 Acquire freehold property as part of building the Taungurung economic base i.e. land that can be use for private enterprise such as agri-business, cultural tourism, accommodation, and healing services. These could be existing viable business operationsAssistance to identify suitable land would be appreciated

Interested in building relationships with farmers, agricultural opportunities  

Education of owners to improve knowledge and stewardship – including collecting and distributing good stories  

Actions and Outcomes

TLaWC support the priority directions and outcomes defined for all Traditional Owners of the north central region, as outlined on the Traditional Owner page, and accept they will apply differently to each Nation. TLaWC have identified priority actions and outcomes here, which broadly align with those, but articulate Taungurung’ s priorities more specifically.

The Taungurung Country Plan is being refreshed over the next period. The following are Taungurung current emerging strategic priorities:

Goal: To heal and strengthen knowledge and practice and, through its application, heal Taungurung culture and Country.

Action Themes:

Healing Knowledge

  • Re-activating Taungurung systems of knowledge and practice transfer and management
  • Healing practice: cultural fire and forest gardening (for land management), cultural and environmental flows (for water management), management of culturally important species.
  • Research programs (including monitoring).

Healing Country

  • Cultural landscape management: healing and management of important landscapes, places and species.
  • Reading Country (explained below): the assessment and development of cultural objectives to guide management of water, forests and biocultural diversity.
  • Training in cultural practices and conservation and land management.
  • Management of Parks and Reserves in partnership with Council and the State.

Cultural and Natural Resource Management (CNRM) based economic development

  • Private land conservation and management.
  • CNRM enterprise development (agriculture, forestry, fisheries).
  • Contract services on the public and private land estate.

Embedding Taungurung knowledge and practice

  • Activation of legal rights in the Aboriginal Heritage Act (2006, Vic), Traditional Owner Settlement Act (2010, Vic).
  • Supporting development and revision of government legislation, regulations, local laws, plans, strategies, policies and procedures, in partnership.

We feel confident that we will continue working together as equal partners, following the principles of self-determination enabling us to achieve two major outcomes. The outcomes being sought for us are:

  • To develop two-way capacity between RCS partners and Taungurung Nation to apply On-Country knowledge and practice in contemporary settings.
  • Taungurung are managing and governing our Country