On the 28 March 2013, after 18 months of negotiations between the State and Dja Dja Wurrung People, the Government of Victorian and the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation entered into a ‘Recognition and Settlement Agreement’ (the Agreement). The Agreement formally recognising the Dja Dja Wurrung People as the traditional owners of the Appointed Lands and acknowledges the history of dispersement and dispossession that has affected the Dja Dja Wurrung People.
The Agreement is the first comprehensive settlement under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) and settles four native title claims in the Federal Court dating back to 1998.
The lands of central Victoria were first home to the Dja Dja Wurrung clans who lived there long before the European colonisation of Australia, practicing their distinct customs, traditions, and way of life.
“Before European colonisation, the natural places within Dja Dja Wurrung Country were well known, had a name and song and were celebrated as part of our culture. We had an economy, we had a political system and we had the resources and the means to take care of our community.”(DDWCAC, Dhelkunya Dja, p 4)
Following the colonisation of Australia, the Crown and foreign settlers created new common law property interests in the land and wrongfully dispossessed the Dja Dja Wurrung of their land.
In the mid-1800s, large deposits of gold were discovered in the region, attracting thousands of settlers and migrants to the land to mine. The miners cut down trees for firewood and building, diverted creeks and rivers and dug holes in the ground, pulling up large volumes of earth. Today, the region is comprised of farmland, residential land, townships and national parks, and is home to diverse communities and tourist attractions.
“Today, the land is valued by diverse communities and cultures. European and Asian cultural heritage is strong, particularly through the gold mining history of our region, which continues to influence the recreational pursuits of prospecting and fossicking that are practiced today. Local industries, including beekeeping, forestry, agriculture and tourism, depend on the natural resources that our Country provides. Dja Dja Wurrung country is a popular place for people to live and work and some towns, including the major regional centre of Bendigo, are growing rapidly. In the southern areas, mining and manufacturing are the main industries, although business, information technology and health sectors are also growing. In the north, farming is a major economic activity and mineral sands, renewable energy and nature-based and Indigenous tourism are seen to be providing new economic opportunities.”(DDWCAC, Dhelkunya Dja, p 9)
Despite the post-colonial history of the oppression and destruction of Indigenous communities by colonising groups, the Dja Dja Wurrung community is still present in the region and has an ongoing cultural and spiritual connection to the land.
In a landmark success for the Victorian community and the Indigenous land justice movement, various parts of the region are now recognised as belonging to the Dja Dja Wurrung People and returned to them. The remainder of the region is not expected to be returned to its Traditional Owners; 87 per cent of Dja Dja Wurrung country is privately owned, with sixty-five per cent of this used for agriculture.
Along with two freehold parcels granted under our Recognition and Settlement Agreement, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation owns a total of 2.8 per cent of Dja Dja Wurrung Country. The Appointed Land are Aboriginal Title lands under Traditional Owner Joint Management for the benefit of all Victorians