Victoria’s largest conservation reserve to return to Traditional Owners
Victorian conservation organisation Trust for Nature has committed to enabling the transfer of ownership of the iconic Neds Corner Station conservation reserve to its Traditional Owners—the First People of the Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation.
Neds Corner Station is a 30,000 ha private property in the far north-west of Victoria, bordering Murray-Sunset National Park and the Murray River.
The property, an important cultural landscape on Ngintait Country, was run as a grazing station from the 1840s until Trust for Nature purchased it with the help of donors and the Federal Government in 2002.
Trust for Nature has transformed the formerly degraded land, restoring native vegetation and wildlife habitat. Threatened species such as the Australian Bustard, Growling Grass Frog and Tall Sneezeweed have recovered or returned to the property, which is part of the National Reserve System.
In recent years the First People of the Millewa Mallee (FPMMAC) have been working with Trust for Nature to locate and protect the significant cultural heritage sites on Neds Corner.
These iconic heritage values include ancestral burial sites, scar trees that provided bark for canoes, shields and weapons, oven mounds, fireplaces, stone tool artefacts and shell middens.
At the same time, FPMMAC and Trust for Nature have worked together to undertake significant conservation works with planning underway for the reintroduction of regionally extinct plants and animals.
Trust for Nature has agreed a target timeline to transfer Neds Corner to FPMMAC in February 2024.
Before this date, FPMMAC and Trust for Nature will work together to achieve the successful and sustainable divestment of Neds Corner from Trust for Nature to its Traditional Owners.
Importantly, Trust for Nature and FPMMAC will co-design a unique conservation covenant for the land, which will protect its conservation values for perpetuity as well as facilitating FPMMAC’s broader initiatives to promote the rights, interests, aspirations, and economic and cultural sustainability of the Traditional Owners of the Millewa-Mallee.
The Chair of FPMMAC, Norman (Tinawin) Wilson said, “The handback of our traditional lands is an historic occasion for our people. Our lands were stolen, and our people killed, but we are still here today. Having our land back will allow us to restore our cultural practices, and care for the land and river properly.”
Chair of Trust for Nature Gayle Austen said the transfer will be momentous. “This will be the largest parcel of privately-owned land to be transferred to Traditional Owners in Victoria.
“We feel this is part of a natural cycle for Neds Corner—from degraded agricultural land to our dedicated care and rejuvenation of the land over the past 20 years, to the care and ownership of the original owners and Traditional Custodians, the Ngintait people.
“We are honoured to play a role in reconciliation and self-determination for the First People of the Millewa Mallee, and look forward to working with and for them, to protect this amazing property.”
Ms Austen said that FPMMAC has agreed to place a conservation covenant on the property, in line with Trust for Nature’s charitable and legal responsibilities.
“Significant funding will also be required to ensure the ongoing stewardship and management of Neds Corner.”
Sally Woulfe, Communications, First People of the Millewa Mallee Aboriginal Corporation, 0499 322 532.
Kathy Cogo, Media and Communications Manager, Trust for Nature, 0466 015 183, firstname.lastname@example.org