Continuing cultural connections at Ranch Billabong

Barengi Gadjin Land Council and Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners (Victoria)

Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners and Barengi Gadjin Land Council identified cultural connections that support water for the environment objectives. With this information and through collaboration with the Wimmera Catchment Management Authority and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder, environmental flows for the Ranch Billabong became a reality.

Culture, environment and community came together to mark a significant occasion for the Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) and Wotjobaluk Traditional Owners at Ranch Billabong near Dimboola ton the 14th of December 2018.

The first watering was celebrated on the anniversary of the 2005 Native Title determination and was followed by a workshop to map out aspirations for the site going forward.

The Ranch Billabong area has been home to many generations of Wotjobaluk people, long before European settlement and increasingly after Ebenezer Mission at Antwerp closed. The cultural connection to the site remains strong and plans for its management are included in Growing What is Good Country Plan, Voices of the Wotjobaluk Nations.

Image: At Ranch Billabong for the first watering (photo by Greg Fletcher, Wimmera CMA)

Using the Aboriginal Waterways Assessment tool to document cultural values and objectives along the Wimmera River, Traditional Owners and Aboriginal groups highlighted Ranch Billabong as a priority cultural site for rehabilitation.

BGLC Water Officer and Traditional Owner Stuart Harradine said that BGLC are working to restore plants and animals and control weed species — recreating a space for gatherings and events.

“We are hoping to see ‘old man weed’ or ‘sneezeweed’ thriving again; this plant, known as ‘Gukwonderuk’ in our language, is important for traditional medicine and grows when water levels recede. Restoring the area is important for the Wotjobaluk people and we are aiming to improve access and knowledge sharing at the site with tracks and interpretative signage,”

– Stuart

Image: Water for the environment flowing into Ranch Billabong (photo by Barengi Gadjin Land Council)

Creating a strong partnership, BGLC, Traditional Owners, Wimmera CMA and the VEWH worked together to ensure the delivery of water for the environment was a success both culturally and ecologically.

The trial watering of 7 megalitres in December 2018 significantly improved water quality, supporting the surrounding river red gums and aquatic animals. Monitoring before and after water for the environment was delivered showed that salinity levels in the billabong halved, with frogs and waterbirds quickly returning to the area taking advantage of the inviting habitat.

A top-up of 6 megalitres was delivered in March 2019, boosting the wetlands plants and animals in autumn, and again lowering salinity levels to improve the health of the billabong into the future.

The success of these watering events has been cumulative, and in June 2020 the Ranch Billabong had another top-up flow as part of what has now become the regular allocation of environmental water to this important site.  This activity takes place in partnership with Wimmera CMA and the Victorian Environmental Water Holder.

If you would like to stay up to date with the work of the Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGCL), including updates about Ranch Billabong, you can connect with them via the links below: