Community

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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 a legitimate 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)

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%
Struggling along22%20%7%10%3%22%
Moving forward63%50%73%47%41%31%
Rolling along15%30%17%30%48%31%
Trail blazer0%0%0%10%7%16%

Table: 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 – working together to improve public spaces and recreational and visitor facilities

Current State
(2021)

Landcare community is working on several projects to improve visitor facilities and achieve beneficial environmental outcomes.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

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

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

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

Landcare are integral to the collaborative approach with land managers and partner agencies.

Theme - Communities

Community – Working together to improve public spaces and recreational and visitor facilities

Current State
(2021)

Community is involved in discussions and decisions with land managers and partner agencies in the management of fire, land health, vegetation protection and improving waterway health.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Community and Landcare Groups are collaboratively working with land managers and other partner agencies to be involved in fire and environmental management.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Community, partner agencies and land managers working seamlessly together to achieve environmental outcomes.

Landcare are integral to the collaborative approach with land managers and partner agencies.

Theme - Communities

Community – promoting awareness of, and participation in, management of the lakes

Current State
(2021)

The broader community are currently informed and engaged through the Love Our Lakes platform including a dedicated website, social media profiles and targeted traditional media and events.

Community groups are able to participate in the management and improvement of the lakes environment through volunteer and community grants programs.

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

By 2027 the Gippsland Lakes communities 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.

By 2027 local community driven groups will be focused on achieving the long-term objectives for the lakes and maximizing opportunities to align and collaborate with Traditional Owners, and land and waterway managers.

By 2027 regular opportunities to implement community priority project will be provided.

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

Gippsland Lakes communities are well informed about the condition and threats to the biodiversity and habitats of the lakes. 

Community priorities are well integrated into the broader implementation of programs of works to improve the health of the Gippsland Lakes.

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

On-ground projects continue to be delivered in priority areas across the lakes.

Theme - Communities

Community – partnering with Traditional Owners to maintain the health of East Gippsland’s landscapes

Current State
(2021)

The relationships with Aboriginal groups are developing and there have been examples where government agencies have worked with Moogji Aboriginal Council to deliver on-ground works

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

By 2027 constructive working relationships are built between all Traditional Owner groups within the local area with land and waterway managers and community groups.

By 2027, mechanisms are in place supporting the involvement of Traditional owners in natural resource management across the local area, including the incorporation of traditional ecological knowledge into management practice. 

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

By 2040 there are many sites across East Gippsland where the Moogji Aboriginal Council work in close partnership with government agencies, jointly planning and managing invasive pests at these locations. This protects both the cultural and natural heritage of the area.

Theme - Communities

Community – supporting community and landholder participation

Current State
(2021)

Emerging awareness of local native vegetation and participation in protection programs. There is also growing interest in alternative farming practices aimed at improved soil and land management (e.g. Landcare, Regeneration Ag Alliance, Soils for Life, Soil Ambassador). 

Medium-term
Outcomes (2027)

Community actively involved in agricultural and Landcare groups.

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

Long-term
Outcomes (2027)

High awareness of local native vegetation and active participation in protection programs with increased numbers of groups and landholders actively involved and measured levels of awareness improved.