Of course, all of Australia is indigenous land, including the Alps. Despite colonisation and dislocation, Aboriginal communities have maintained connections with the Alps and have been re-asserting that connection in recent years.
Traditional owner groups have been involved in reclaiming of language, and this includes advocating for landscape features like mountains being re-named with their original or other relevant names.
This happened in the case of The Jaithmathangs, a rocky peak on the western side of the Bogong High Plains, which had previously been called The Niggerheads. They were renamed in 2009, after consultation with the Indigenous community. The Jaithmathang are an indigenous group with connection to the High Plains. This renaming has happened extensively in The Grampians in western Victoria, which are also known as Gariwerd in one of the local languages, either the Jardwadjali or Djab Wurrung language. Peter Gardner has recorded the extensive range of indigenous names to be found in the Victorian Alps.
There has been a long conversation about the name of our highest mountain, Kosciusko. There have been proposals for dual naming – using the current name in conjunction with a traditional name (as happens with Uluru/ Ayers Rock).
It would appear that the push is gaining momentum.
Victoria has signed the largest native title claim in the state’s history, recognising the Taungurung as traditional owners in across large sections of northern and north eastern Victoria and awarding a settlement of more than $33m. The agreement covers sections of the high country and Alpine National Park, including Mt Buller, Mt Cobbler and the Buffalo Plateau.
The Gunaikurnai and Taungurung Traditional Owner groups have connection to the Victorian Alps over thousands of generations, and in recent years they have been reasserting that connection.
Recently they have sought support form the Victorian government’s Right People for Country program to help clarify the boundaries between their respective countries. The Right People for Country Program supports Traditional Owners groups in the process of making agreements:
between groups – about boundaries and extent of Country
In general terms in this part of the Alps, Gunaikurnai country is in the catchments south of the Great Dividing Range while Taungurung country is on the north side of the divide. This process allowed the groups to clarify the boundaries for a section of the divide between Warburton and Mt Hotham.
Additionally, Taungurung and Gunaikurnai agreed to seek shared joint management of the Alpine National Park, valuing this as an opportunity for both groups to have increased involvement and greater influence over the management of Country.
Mountain Journal has previously written about the die back of eucalypts that has been occurring on the Monaro tablelands on the eastern side of the Snowy Mountains.
The dieback has affected a massive area, leaving a sea of “dead, standing trees” across the tablelands.
No one is, as yet, certain about the causes. It has been suggested that climate change is an underlying cause because background warming may have helped the spread of the weevils and stress on the ribbon gum trees that have died.
There has long been discussion about the trail that once linked the south eastern coast of NSW to the Snowy Mountains. It is called the Bundian Way. Prior to the invasion, Indigenous people moved between the coast, the Monaro Tablelands and the higher mountains. There are other similar stories from elsewhere in the mountains: for instance, the fact that early Gippsland settlers followed established trails from the Gippsland Plains to what is now Dinner Plain and Mt Hotham, and gold prospectors followed tracks up the Howqua Valley towards Mt Howitt.
Sadly, so much of this story has now been lost. In some good news, a book is due to be released shortly that looks at the Bundian Way.
The following excerts come from an article on the ABC website by Greg Muller about a recent survey in north eastern Victoria. The survey was a collaboration between Parks Victoria, Museum Victoria, community members and 4WD clubs. Check here for an earlier post about this survey.
Areas explored included the Upper Buchan River and Davies Plain.
A key message is at the end of the story: climate change poses a grave threat to many alpine and sub-alpine species.
In a wild corner of north-east Victoria, more than 80 researchers have just spent two weeks counting and documenting rarely seen alpine wildlife.
The remoteness of the region means there is limited knowledge of the area—an issue Museum Victoria and Parks Victoria are now attempting to rectify.
‘There’s good news. We’re delighted we found alpine tree frogs because that’s one species vulnerable to a deadly fungus which has been attacking the frogs,
During the two-week bioscan, 21 species of reptiles were found, including the endangered Kosciusko Water Skink, Glossy Skink and the Mountain Skink.
Two listed species were found, the Broad Tooth Rat and the Smokey Mouse.
There were also two species of Antechinus (a small marsupial mouse indigenous to Australia) found, but at this time of year the population consisted only of females.
Roger Fenwick, the regional manager for Parks Victoria, was instrumental in organising the bioscan and worked to bring researchers, park rangers and locals together for the project.
‘No one group knows everything and it’s great to share the knowledge and get better results as land managers,’ said Mr Fenwick.
‘We invited four wheel drivers to be involved and this means the scientists can get on with doing their work, the Parks staff can concentrate on managing the program, and the four wheel drivers can get everyone around nice and safe.’
Museum Victoria’s senior curator of entomology, Dr Ken Walker documented 400 nests of native bees during the study.
‘What you find is a pile of dirt which looks like a chimney which goes down about 30 centimetres underground,’ he said.
Also at the bioscan was a member of the local indigenous community, Katherine Mullet, who was representing the Gunnai/Kurnai and Monero communities who used to occupy this area.
Ms Mullet was looking for cultural sites, including traditional walking routes, many of which are now 4WD and bushwalking tracks.
Dr Norman explained that climate change is a major threat to alpine wildlife species, which are already living at the edge of their environment.
‘The challenge worldwide with changing climate is if you are at the top of your limit or as far south as you can go, there’s nowhere else to go.’
The following comes from the Australian Alps national parks Co-operative Management Program.
“The Australian Alps Education Kit is designed for students, teachers and anyone else keen to learn about this spectacular region of Australia. These educational materials form an organised resource focusing on iconic, awe-inspiring and accessible areas within the Australian Alps.
The contents range from the resilient yet fragile plant communities that grow in the harsh alpine environment, to thecultural impact of the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electricity Scheme; and from the First People’s connection with the mountain landscape to the Alps’ cycles of weather and climate”.