Ponnun Polgi (First Nations Resting Places)
Aboriginal Burial Sites in the semi-arid zones and sand dunes in the north-west of Victoria are at risk of being uncovered and exposed due to damage caused by erosion, introduced species (rabbits and cattle) and visitors to the area (predominantly 4WD). Many burial dunes – some dating back 10,000 years – have already been damaged, and the exposure of remains has caused great distress to the Traditional Owners – First People of Millewa Mallee (Ngintait, Latji Latji and Nyeri Nyeri).
The pilot program involved remediation of site B16, with the collaboration of the private landowner, and with a majority of the work being undertaken by members of the local indigenous community. This site was largely restored by September 2018, with many lessons and techniques learned from the initial activity.
High quality project infrastructure and processes are necessary to effectively manage the roll out of remediation activity to dozens of further sites over the coming years. This foundational work was largely completed in 2019/20, and the structures and governance required to integrate support from Federal and State governments with the indigenous communities, agencies, local government, landowners and other stakeholders who will be involved in the project are now in place.
The Project Steering Group has now been formed, the resting Places Coordinator has been appointed, and the program of works has been prioritised. The B16 and First Dune sites have now been completely remediated, and Cultural Values mapping has been completed along a 120km stretch of country between Lindsay Island and Mildura.
The third stage of Phase 2 of the project commences in 2020/21. This will see remediation work being undertaken on a number of other prioritised sites using an array of techniques and equipment that has been refined through the experience of the B16 and First Dune work.