"The Dja Dja Wurrung people define ourselves as victors and not victims. We have broken the shackles of victimhood and see ourselves walking into the light of full and equal rights."- Graham Atkinson, Board Chairperson
In the past, the voices of Traditional Owners have not been recognised in the management of Country. The goal of the Joint Management Plan (JMP) is to enable the Traditional Owner knowledge and connection to Country to be expressed in the planning and management of the lands.
The Dhelkunya Dja Land Management Board is working in close partnership with the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DDWCAC) to produce a JMP that is fully aligned with the goals and aspirations of the Dja Dja Wurrung People as expressed in their Country Plan.
Today, the Dja Dja Wurrung People proudly survive and continue to practice their culture and customs. This ongoing dedication of Dja Dja Wurrung People has kept alive their connections to country, and their invaluable knowledge and practices to support sustainable management.
A Dja Dja Wurrung person is descended through either parent to Apical Ancestors who were associated with Dja Dja Wurrung Country by birth, place of burial, and/or other connection with Dja Dja Wurrung Country at the time of first contact with Europeans.
The DDWCAC has a Board of nine members who are chosen from descendants of those Apical Ancestors who have who have activated their rights and are members of the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation and Dja Dja Wurrung Native Title Full Group. The Corporation is committed to practice and revitalise cultural traditions and customs and represents the Dja Dja Wurrung People in government relations.
Since the European colonisation of Australia, the Dja Dja Wurrung People have endured policies and practices that substantially obstructed their ability to practice their traditional law and customs, and to access their country and resources. For example, Dja Dja Wurrung families recount stories from the mission period of their ancestors being punished for the use of Dja Dja Wurrung language and customs. In the words of Rebecca Phillips:
"The pain, sadness, confusion and unjust hardships they endured and overcame are testament to the residual present day health and wellbeing of our Country and our People, their descendants. What happened during colonisation and the following attempts at genocide challenged and tested our resilience and resistance to the degradation of our land, our culture and our People. We are proud of and honoured by the innovative ways in which they upheld the integrity of our once silenced life ways, traditions and belief systems."- Rebecca Phillips, Board Member
As the representative entity of the Dja Dja Wurrung People, DDWCAC prepared the Dja Dja Wurrung Country Plan, Dhelkunya Dja, to express the Traditional Owners’ aspirations for their Community and Country. Dhelkunya Dja means ‘healing land’ in the Dja Dja Wurrung language, and is representative of the Dja Dja Wurrung’s aspirations for country.
Our Country is now also valued by other people 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.DDWCAC (Dhelkunya Dja Country Plan 2014-2034, p 8)
The aspirations experienced by the Dja Dja Wurrung Community in the Dhelkunya Dja Country Plan are that:
The Country Plan establishes eight goals to guide DDWCAC actions in governance and management and achieve their stated aspirations: