Speaking with great warmth and insight about a history filled with “invasion, colonisation and concentration”, Damein Bell, CEO of the Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation spoke to over 65 judicial officers and Koori community members at our final 2020 Koori twilight on VOICE.
In conversation with Justice Michelle Quigley, Supreme Court of Victoria and President Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal, Damein explained the complex journey towards recognition and protection of the Budj Bim cultural landscape in southwestern Victoria.
He acknowledged the strength and resilience of the Gunditjmara people whose perseverance culminated in the Budj Bim landscape receiving World Heritage recognition exclusively for its Aboriginal cultural significance in 2019.
Damein discussed the challenges in working within a white fella system:“…with any rules or legislative change there needs to include that these are expressly not to the detriment of Aboriginal people, Aboriginal Country, Aboriginal Culture”.
With further rains forecast and a new visitor centre about to open (with COVID-safe plans in place) the future looks bright for Budj Bim. When asked about how he felt about white fella pursuits such as fishing and boating on the site, Damein smiled and showed the audience a sign from Aunty Kitty Wallaby: ‘It’s my Country, you’re welcome to stay.’