Port Phillip Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Project

In 2012 Heritage Insight Pty Ltd conducted Stage 2 of the Port Phillip Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Project for the Department of Sustainability and Environment (now the Department of Environment and Primary Industries) in collaboration with the Wurundjeri, Boonwurrung and Wadawrrung Traditional Owner organisations. This was an innovative project with three broad objectives:

  • Assessing the potential impacts of climate change, particularly sea level rise and extreme weather events on Aboriginal sites situated on the Port Phillip Coast;
  • Providing training to Traditional Owner representatives in the recording and registration of Aboriginal places;
  • Seeking funding to conduct stabilisation works on coastal sites selected by Traditional Owners.

A sample survey of previously registered Aboriginal places on the Port Phillip Coast was carried out as part of the study, as well the Mud Islands situated near the heads of Port Phillip. The survey found that many coastal sites, including some protected by sea walls, were already at risk from erosion, urban and recreational development. GIS modelling of sea level rises of between 0.5-1.0m by 2100, combined with a storm surge of up to 1.2m, indicated that many sites on coastal landforms would be adversely impacted or destroyed, particularly if action to mitigate existing damage was not taken.

Three sites at Point Nepean, Werribee South and Point Lillias, were selected by the Traditional Owner groups as places for trial programs to stabilise or document cultural places. Funding applications have been lodged for salvage works or site stabilisation works. Recommendations were also made for the adoption of an integrated coastal management strategy in Port Phillip for Aboriginal heritage places.

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