Speak up

Aboriginal cultural heritage

Where the Murray River meets the Barmah Lakes in the south-east of this continent, you’ll find the largest river red gum forest in the world.

This is Yorta Yorta country – cared for by traditional custodians since time immemorial.

But recent actions by a pro-feral horse group, enabled by Victorian government agencies including Parks Victoria, have caused significant damage to protected Aboriginal heritage sites and ecosystems in the Barmah Forest.

Without consulting Yorta Yorta Traditional Owners, the group dumped vast amounts of hay through the national park to feed feral horses during recent flooding.

Our government, and agencies like Parks Victoria, are supposed to protect our national parks and Aboriginal heritage sites. This means managing invasive species and protecting and regenerating ecosystems – and importantly, listening to Yorta Yorta Traditional Owners.

We’re representing the Yorta Yorta people and calling on the Victorian government and Parks Victoria to:

  • Immediately investigate the damage caused in Barmah Forest
  • Commit to a joint review of emergency responses, and
  • Continue to implement the joint management plan between Parks Victoria and the Yorta Yorta people.

Invasive plants and animals cause significant harm to protected Aboriginal heritage sites, and to internationally protected Ramsar wetlands in the Barmah region.

Traditional Owners, scientists and environmental experts all agree that managing invasive species is vital for the long-term health of the national park, and for the protection of irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage sites.

Feral horses are a particularly serious threat to the Barmah National Park. The recent actions of pro-feral horse groups were damaging to cultural heritage and fly in the face of established plans to humanely remove feral horses from the area – which is essential to caring for the Barmah forest and wetlands.

That’s why we’re calling for an immediate investigation into the hay dump, a commitment to review emergency responses to ensure cultural heritage is protected, and for full, ongoing implementation of the joint management plan between Parks Victoria and the Yorta Yorta people.

Will you email Parks Victoria, and call on them to immediately commit to protecting the Barmah National Park and investigate the management of feral horses during recent foods?

The Yorta Yorta people have cared for their country for tens of thousands of years. Their knowledge and leadership is vital for cultural heritage protection and restoring the ecological health of the Barmah National Park and beyond.

In the hands of Traditional Custodians, Country and Culture can thrive again.

Thanks for speaking out.

Frequently asked questions

  • Invasive species pose significant threats to Aboriginal cultural heritage sites, and weaken the health of ecosystems.
  • Feral horse are the most damaging threat to the Barmah National Park.
  • There are an estimated 500 feral horses in the Barmah National Park after their numbers have increased across several decades.
  • Under the joint management plan that exists between Yorta Yorta and the Victorian Government, removing feral horses is a key action to protect Aboriginal cultural heritage and regenerate damaged ecosystems.
  • The Barmah Forest is Yorta Yorta country, lived on and cared for by Traditional Owners since time immemorial.
  • The National Park includes internationally significant Ramsar Wetlands
  • It’s home to the largest river red gum forest in the world.
  • Yorta Yorta country includes land and water within the Barmah Forest and extends across the Victorian and New South Wales’ border