The ‘community’ of this Regional Catchment Strategy aims to capture the profile of our community and their involvement in the management of our natural values. The partnerships we form across our region are the key to delivering successful environmental outcomes for us all. 

Our community… a snapshot

East Gippsland is relatively sparsely populated compared to other regions in Victoria, however the population has continued to grow to almost 48,000 people in 2020. The increase in population has not be evenly distributed across the region. Large centres such as Bairnsdale and the coastal communities in the west of the region continue to support more residents than the far east. 

The Aboriginal community in East Gippsland is represented by GunaiKurnai, Bidwell, and Ngarigo Monero. 

Aboriginal people have a strong connection to country in East Gippsland. Aboriginal people have an aspiration to participate in the management of the region’s natural resources, and this aspiration is acknowledged by natural resource management agencies. 

The communities of East Gippsland are resilient. The past years have been some of the most challenging our community have faced. An extended period of drought followed by widespread bushfires and the impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic have impacted on the health and well-being of many people and communities across the region. 

Impacts of the experiences of recent years have been significant, and communities are concerned about the challenges we may face into the future.

Some of these challenges include the future management of our environment and fire, the impacts of climate change, caring for the Gippsland Lakes, and water security and water availability.

Agencies and community in East Gippsland are committed to working with Aboriginal people to learn from each other, care for Country, and deliver on priorities through the GunaiKurnai Whole of Country Plan and the GunaiKurnai and Victorian Government Joint Management Plan. 

In October 2010, the Federal Court made a determination (FCA1144) that native title exists over much of Gippsland and is held by the GunaiKurnai people. The court recognised the GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation as the sole holder and representative body of these native title rights and interests on behalf of all GunaiKurnai people.

At the same time, the State of Victoria entered into a recognition and settlement agreement with the corporation under the Traditional Owner Settlement Act 2010. The agreement includes:

  • a number of cultural recognition and strengthening initiatives
  • the transfer of 10 parks and reserves to the GunaiKurnai as ‘Aboriginal title’ and establishment of a Traditional Owner land management board for joint management with the state
  • rights to use crown land for traditional purposes, including hunting, fishing, camping and gathering 
  • funding for economic development to meet their obligations under the agreement.

The GunaiKurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation is also the appointed Registered Aboriginal Party under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 for the GunaiKurnai native title area.

GLAWAC team tree planting
GLAWAC team conducting riverbank restoration

Within the East Gippsland region, natural resource management is undertaken as a partnership between government agencies and the community. The size of the region, its large areas of remote and inaccessible public land, and its relatively small population have highlighted partnerships as being the most effective approach. Many issues requiring management act at a scale which is beyond the ability of individuals, or individual agencies, to address.

In East Gippsland we pride ourselves on our ability to work together. Effective management of threats to natural values can involve working across and beyond organisational and regional boundaries. As a result, the East Gippsland community and relevant agencies maintain strong relationships with neighbouring regions.

Considerable experience in integrating works among multiple partners on a landscape scale has been gained through initiatives such as the Gippsland Environment Agencies (GEA).  These groups include representatives from natural resource management agencies from across East Gippsland. The groups work collaboratively on strategic priorities, leadership in the region and support each other.

Number of partnerships

Figure 1. Number of partnerships established, modified, or maintained in the East Gippsland region.
Source: internal EGCMA community engagement database (ACE2)

Graph: Number of partnerships in the East Gippsland region.
click figure to view full size
Echidna at a workshop
Getting together for regional workshops

There are many community groups across East Gippsland that undertake volunteer work to improve the health of the environment. Some examples of the groups that are supported in East Gippsland include Landcare, Coastcare, specific interest groups focussing of species or guilds, and angling clubs.

Landcare in East Gippsland is organised into three networks: East Gippsland Landcare Network, Far East Victoria Landcare and Snowy River Interstate Landcare Committee. The area covered by these networks is approximately 742,000 hectares. The enthusiasm and activity for groups ebbs and flows, and likewise volunteering efforts vary with the ability and motivation of the community to participate in on ground projects or planning related to the natural resource management.

Table 1. Percentage of Landcare Group Health Scores in each category for each year, East Gippsland region.

Health Score2012-132013-142014-152015-162016-172017-182018-192019-20
Just hanging on0%0%0%0%0%0%3%0%
Struggling along22%20%7%11%3%22%21%18%
Moving forward63%50%73%41%38%31%34%50%
Rolling along15%30%17%41%41%31%34%26%
Trail blazer0%0%0%7%17%16%8%6%

Figure 2: Total number of Landcare Group members and non-member volunteers in East Gippsland.

Graph: Total number of Landcare Group members and non-member volunteers in East Gippsland
click figure to view full size
Tree planting
Community tree planting activity
Theme - Communities

Community Regional Outcome Targets

These regional outcomes relate to the community theme within the RCS. They set out the long term (to 2040) and medium term (to 2027) outcomes as they relate to the region’s community values. The outcomes include those aligned with the statewide outcomes framework (in italics) as well regionally specific outcomes developed in collaboration with RCS partners.

The RCS outcomes framework can be found here, and more detailed outcomes addressing each  theme of the RCS and linked closely to each of the local areas can be found here.

Outcomes (2027)

Mechanisms are in place providing for the involvement of Traditional Owners in natural resource management across East Gippsland, including the incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge into management practice.

Communities are actively involved in agricultural and Landcare groups, reflected in the maintenance of Group Health Scores at 2020 levels.

Community volunteering groups are collaboratively working with land managers and other partner agencies to improve public spaces, visitor facilities and recreational opportunities

Communities around the Gippsland Lakes will continue to have a single point of reference of the most up to date condition and on ground program delivery information for the Gippsland Lakes.

Communities are invited to participate in citizen science programs, such as bird, frog, turtle and water quality monitoring.

Outcomes (2040)

There are many sites across East Gippsland where Traditional Owners work in close partnership with government agencies, jointly planning and managing shared priorities at these locations that protects both the cultural and natural values of the region.

Public spaces, visitor facilities and recreational opportunities are discoverable, in good condition and suitable for the needs of users.

Communities are well informed about the condition and threats to the biodiversity and habitats of the Gippsland Lakes

Active citizen science programs will help inform the long-term monitoring of ecological condition ecological assets.

Management DirectionCurrentFuture OpportunityPartners involved
Continue to work with Traditional Owners to understand and share knowledge to protect and enhance Country and cultural sites of significance.All partners
Provide support to Traditional Owners to realise the goals of the Joint Management Plans, including enabling a self-determination to priority setting, project involvement and project delivery more broadly across the Gippsland Lakes (and other areas identified by Traditional Owners).GLaWAC, Traditional Owners, EGCMA, DELWP, Parks Victoria
Work collaboratively with regional partners to develop education and awareness campaigns on key issues, values and opportunities related to natural resource management in East Gippsland.All partners
Participate in adaptation planning and emergency management activities related to bushfire and floods in regional communities.EGSC, DELWP, Parkes Victoria, EGCMA, SES, BoM, WSC
Identify new recreational opportunities appropriate landscapes and improve the condition of environmental recreational assets and infrastructure.DELWP, GLaWAC, Parks Victoria, EGSC, EGCMA