The Victorian government has announced backing for the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund in order to help Traditional Owners protect the state’s cultural heritage.

The Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council and Dja Dja Wurrung Clans Aboriginal Corporation (DJAARA) were joined by Treaty Minister Natalie Hutchins at Lake Boort, on Dja Dja Wurrung country, to announce more than $5 million in project funding through the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund.

DJAARA chief executive Rodney Carter said: “At a time when processes to protect Cultural Heritage are under pressure and facing challenges, this is a welcome step, which will enable Traditional Owner Corporations to determine how Cultural Heritage is protected.”

Earlier this year, the Victorian opposition withdrew their previously bi-partisan support for Treaty, ostensibly as a result of the state’s Cultural Heritage laws, despite not making a submission to the Yoorrook Justice Commission inquiry into land management.

The funding will support Traditional Owners undertaking initiatives to protect and manage Aboriginal cultural heritage sites across the state, including for the protection of significant Indigenous cultural landscapes or sacred archaeological sites.

The fund will be managed by the Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council, to ensure Victorian Traditional Owners decide how the money is used in the spirit of self-determination.

Victorian Aboriginal Heritage Council chairperson Uncle Russell Mullett said the council looked forward to working with Traditional Owners.

“As custodians and managers of their cultural heritage, to decide on how we best use this fund to protect cultural heritage for future generations,” he said.

Minister Hutchins said the government was “proud to support Traditional Owners” in undertaking the work to “preserve and celebrate culturally significant and remarkable places — like Lake Boort”.

The site is home to a significant collection of scarred trees, as well as occupation mounds, stone artefact scatters, and Aboriginal Ancestral Remains, and is protected by the state’s cultural heritage system.

“Many Victorians may not be aware of the wealth of significant Aboriginal cultural heritage in their local areas,” Ms Hutchins said.

“Whether that’s rock art that is thousands of years old, or fish traps and scar trees like those found at Lake Boort. We encourage all Victorians to learn more about Aboriginal cultural heritage in their region.”

The government said applications from Traditional Owner organisations for the Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Fund will be open in the coming months.

This article is based on a media release from the office of Natalie Hutchins MP.