CORRESPONDENCE

A new World Heritage site for Aboriginal engineering

Gunditj Mirring Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Victoria, Australia.

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University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia
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University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia

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For many thousands of years, the Gunditjmara Aboriginal people have been re-engineering their landscape at the top of the Newer Volcanics Province in southeast Australia in response to volcanic eruptions and changes in climate. The Budj Bim site was last month designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization as a World Heritage site (see go.nature.com/2yg5krt).

After Budj Bim erupted between 36,000 and 42,000 years ago, the Gunditjmara built a system of weirs, channels and ponds to manage water flows across the 120-square-kilometre Tyrendarra lava flow to harvest Kooyang eels (Anguilla australis). They maintained these networks over generations, preserving and modifying the infrastructure as needed. This aquaculture system is thought to have supported one of the largest population settlements in Australia before Europeans arrived.

The Gunditjmara continue to use these traditional mechanical and engineering practices. Their resilience, relationship with and management of the landscape are a striking example of adaptation to changes in climate and land use.

Nature 572, 32 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-02315-y

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