Balancing cultural heritage conservation with water needs at Lake Victoria

An Aboriginal heritage impact permit has been issued by the NSW Government to protect conservation efforts at Lake Victoria, a vital water storage facility in the Murray–Darling Basin.

Dry northern shoreline and the waters of Lake Victoria, NSW

The natural freshwater lake 75 kilometres west of Mildura is crucial for water management in New South Wales and South Australia. The area around the lake contains Aboriginal burials and archaeological sites and has extraordinary cultural significance dating back at least 28,000 years.
The permit is a modernised version of the previous one, forged by close collaboration between key parties balancing water-management needs and the protection of Aboriginal cultural heritage values.

The lake is operated by the South Australian Water Corporation on behalf of the New South Wales, South Australian and Victorian state governments. It is surrounded by lands which have undergone substantial development over the years, including the construction of regulators, channels, and levees.

After concerns were raised about impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage, Aboriginal cultural heritage management measures were put in place, culminating in an Aboriginal heritage impact permit being issued in 1998.

Following collaboration between the Aboriginal community, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, South Australia Water, Water Infrastructure New South Wales and Heritage NSW, a new Aboriginal heritage impact permit was issued to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority.

This ensures ongoing conservation and protection actions for Aboriginal cultural heritage through partnerships with the Aboriginal community and Heritage NSW. It also mandates minimising impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage values.

Heritage NSW issued the permit to the Murray–Darling Basin Authority in December.

Quote attributable to Heritage NSW’s Tim Smith OAM, Director Assessments

'Lake Victoria is rich in Aboriginal heritage sites, including burials, middens, stone artefact scatters and heaths.

'Heritage NSW’s approval of the permit enables ongoing protection of the remarkable cultural landscape, safeguarding its irreplaceable Aboriginal heritage, whilst allowing continued water storage uses.

'It was a privilege to sign the permit on Country with the Aboriginal community and all key stakeholders.'

Quote attributable to Andrew Reynolds, Executive Director, River Management, Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) 

'The MDBA is proud to continue to work with our partners in preserving Lake Victoria's Aboriginal cultural heritage.

'The permit reflects our commitment to ongoing protection and conversation of this significant cultural landscape in collaboration with the Aboriginal community.'

Quote attributable to Tamika Smith, Barkindji-Maraura Elders Council

'Lake Victoria is such a special place to the Barkindji-Maraura people. This is the place where my great grandmother grew up, so this is very much like my home.

'It’s a sacred place as one of the biggest cemeteries in Australia. I am so pleased our community has been heard in developing the Aboriginal heritage impact permit to further protect our cultural heritage for future generations.'