Recognising traditional indigenous land management
16 August 2010 | Fact sheet
River Red Gum Parks, Victoria, Australia
The River Red Gum forests along the banks of the Murray River separating New South Wales and Victoria are one of the great iconic Australian landscapes. They have long been loved and lived in by the Traditional Owners and those that continue to visit to relax and play.
The River Red Gum forests and the Murray River have great cultural significance. They are also the base for recreational activities like camping, bushwalking and fishing. They support local economies, bringing visitors to the area. They are also of great environmental significance. They are the world’s largest River Red Gum forests and home to endangered bird species like the Mallee Fowl.
Protecting this precious environment relies on balancing the economic and recreational activities with preserving its natural beauty and conservation values.
This much valued area has now been protected for future generations to enjoy by the creation of four new national parks:
- Barmah National Park
- Gunbower National Park
- Lower Goulburn River National Park
- Warby-Ovens National Park
The existing Murray-Sunset, Hattah-Kulkyne and Terrick Terrick National parks have also been expanded.
Along with the new and expanded national parks, there are other new parks - Gadsen Bend, Kings Billabong and Nyah-Vinifera parks, and the Kerang and Shepparton regional parks in addition to the Murray River Park running along the entire length of the Victorian side of the Murray River. Together, these new parks protect more than 140,000 hectares of River Red Gum forest in Victoria. A most significant component of the Victorian Government’s legislation is the provision for Joint Management of a number of the new parks and reserves with Traditional Owners. This approach will allow the recognised practice of traditional land management techniques and uses in conjunction with the state’s contemporary application of reserve and natural resource management systems.
Joint Management allows an overlay of social equity and relevant recognition of the ancestral use and occupation of the land through co-operative management and consideration of local indigenous community needs and expectations.
View slideshow of the park
Size and Location
Barmah National Park (28,521ha) Barmah National Park in the mid-Murray region, together with the neighbouring Millewa forest in NSW, is home to the world’s largest single distribution of River Red Gums – trees that can live for thousands of years.
Gunbower National Park (8892ha) The wetlands and billabongs of the Gunbower forest are of international environmental importance. When water flows along the little Gunbower Creek, the area is known for its spectacular birdlife.
Lower Goulburn River National Park (12,154ha) Between Echuca and Shepparton, the forests along the lower reaches of the Goulburn River are ideal for camping, fishing and canoeing. The park forms an important ‘bio-link’ to the Murray River, providing shelter and food for bountiful wildlife in the area.
Warby-Ovens National Park (15,899ha) North of Wangaratta, the Warby-Ovens National Park provides a tranquil setting to absorb the sights and sounds of the towering River Red Gum forest, peaceful wetlands and the Ovens River.
Terrick Terrick National Park (5882ha) There’s evidence of a rich human history in this park. On a number of old Grey Box trees you’ll see curving scars from where the Dja Dja Warung Aboriginal people cut the bark to make canoes, shields, carrying bowls and shelters.
Shepparton Regional Park (2786ha) The Shepparton Regional Park is popular with locals and visitors in this large regional town. The park surrounds numerous bends and reaches of the Goulburn River as it winds its way north to the River Murray. The spectacular riverbank trees provide shelter, shade and a serene landscape for park visitors and abundant wildlife that inhabit the area.
Murray River Park (34,685ha) A continuous passage of forest along the Murray River, the park extends from Wodonga to west of Mildura protecting the River’s riverboat heritage.
Kerang Regional Park (1138ha). Some of Victoria’s rarest plants, like the Swamp Buttercup and Spreading Emu-bush, can be found in the in the Kerang Wetlands.
Big Desert Wilderness Park (113,500ha) Walk through a true wilderness and immerse yourself in nature. The Big Desert has been left largely untouched and was Victoria's first declared wilderness area. Home to a vast array of birds, reptiles and small mammals, bird watching and nature study are rewarding activities in this park.
Kings Billabong Park (3535ha) Many of the tracks in this park lead to perfect shady sites along the Murray, great for camping. Once camp has been set up, the days can easily be filled with canoeing, kayaking, fishing or bushwalking.
Murray Sunset National Park (57,172ha) Explore Victoria’s very own outback by four wheel drive, taking a bushwalk, going camping or perhaps all three. The park has a fascinating history, abundant wildlife and beautiful spring wildflowers.
Wyperfeld National Park (356,800ha) This is a place of wide open landscapes and beautiful sunsets. When it rains, Wyperfeld’s semi-arid landscape is transformed by tiny desert plants, carpeting the ground with clusters of flowers.
Hattah-Kulkyne National Park (24,428ha) The park is home to diverse of wildlife, majestic River Red Gums, ancient Bul-oke trees amid rolling sand plains, and the distinctive Mallee for which this region is renowned.
Gadsden Bend Park (1618ha) Located at one of the picturesque bends of the Murray River, near Robinvale, the large sandbars at Gasden Bend Park are perfect for relaxing by the river and doing a spot of fishing.
Nyah-Vinifera Park (1354ha) Nyah-Vinifera Park has a rich indigenous history. Near Swan Hill, the park is on the Country of the Wadi Wadi Aboriginal people. There are many culturally significant sites like middens and scar trees in the park.
Flora and Fauna
The river red gum Eucalyptus camaldulensis lines the Murray River for most of its length. These iconic trees can reach 45 metres and live for more than 500 years. Their trunks are often twisted and patchy with grey bark above an area of brown-black bark. The trees need periods of flooding and can survive inundation for months. Its seeds are washed onto higher ground during a flood and germinate and grow before the next flood reaches them. A useful tree at all stages of its life, its hollows, or broken branches, provide nesting for galahs, cockatoos, cockatiels and various parrots; while fallen branches provide habitat for other animals. Aboriginals used the leaves for its medicinal properties as a linament for aches and pain, and as an inhaled vapour.
The Barmah-Millewa forest is an internationally recognised wetland listed under the Ramsar Convention and represents all of the four freshwater wetland types in Victoria. The forest provides important habitat, particularly for waterbirds, with over 200 species of birds recorded. It is a particularly important waterbird breeding area in Victoria.
The park protects 38 rare or threatened plants including fruit Saltbush and Winged Peppergrass. Yellow and Black Box grow on the ridges.
Wildlife abounds throughout the forest. Grey Kangaroos, emus and koalas are common.
One hundred and ninety-five species of native fauna have been recorded in the Gunbower National Park, with 30 threatened species such as endangered Inland Carpet Python, Silver Perch, Giant Bullfrog, Broad-shelled Turtle and Squirrel Gliders. Kangaroos and emus are common.
The park has over 200 species of birds and is one of the largest breeding grounds for waterbirds in Victoria including some of the 100 breeding pairs of White-Bellied Sea-Eagle remaining in Victoria.
These River Red Gum forests and wetlands are under increasing pressure from climate change, drought and reduced water flows. The new national parks will protect the precious heritage of this area, balancing the needs of local communities and the environment.
While a whole range of activities will continue to be enjoyed in the national parks such as camping, fishing, water sports, horse riding, four wheel driving, trail bike riding and bush walking, these activities need to be provided for and managed in a sustainable way to reduce physical impacts.
The River Red Gum parks will remain much as they have always been - great places to relax and enjoy the great outdoors and a critical habitat for many different aspects of river ecology.
Parks Victoria is working with Indigenous groups, the timber industry, government agencies, community groups and individuals to provide the best possible care to this precious area. Aboriginal people have long been connected with the River Red Gum forests - a connection that has endured for thousands of years. Parks Victoria and Traditional Owners are working together to manage the River Red Gum parks. Together, Parks Victoria and Traditional Owners will implement a combination of both contemporary and traditional park management practices – resulting in benefits to both the environment and to visitors to the parks.
A feature of this approach is the employment of local Aboriginal people from the Yorta Yorta Community for three years to provide skills, learning and the exchange of knowledge in land management practices in close consultation with the local community. At the end of their term, these workers will return to the Yorta Yorta community to apply their newly acquired skills and assist with the development of the next generation of indigenous land managers.
Parks Victoria has developed and is implementing an Active Forest Health Program to improve the health of the forest and increase its resilience to the impact of drought and other stresses. The program involves pest plant and animal management, water management, ecological thinning and planned burning. Ex-timber industry workers are part of the team implementing the program.
Cattle grazing will be banned in national parks to protect their long-term ecological future. Commercial timber harvesting licences will cease in the new national parks.
The Government will endeavour to provide additional water for floodplains within the new national parks. This will be assessed according to water availability across the entire Northern Victorian water system.
Why Protect the Area?
Climate change and drought mean the River Red Gums are in trouble, with estimates that as many as 75 per cent of trees on some stretches of the Murray River are either dead or dying.
Action must be taken to protect this precious heritage, but in doing so a balanced approach that supports local communities and protects and enhances recreational opportunities in these regions must be considered.
This area has been the home and habitat of Aboriginal people for tens of thousands of years and it is imperative that this ancient but still living culture is enabled and encouraged to continue their traditional and ancestral use and occupation of the same land into the future.
Healthy Parks Healthy People
There is growing evidence worldwide establishing a strong connection between access to parks and the physical and mental health of individuals and communities.
All of Victoria’s parks offer what most of us crave – natural settings where we can escape from the stress of our daily lives. Victoria’s River Red Gum parks are a great place to get away from it all. Pitch a tent, take a walk, cast a line or simply sit back and soak in the natural sights and sounds of the River Red Gum forests.