Phillip Island property to be returned to Traditional Owners
The first land handback to Bunurong Traditional Owners in 180 years is on track to happen at Rhyll, Millowl, or Phillip Island as it is more commonly known.
The eight ha property will be transferred to the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, who are working with Trust for Nature to conserve, restore and maintain the land.
The land, which was donated to Trust for Nature in 2020, is part of the unique, richly biodiverse Rhyll Inlet—one of the most significant sites for migratory birds in Australia and recognised as a globally significant wetland under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
The Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation are the Registered Aboriginal Party over an area that includes Phillip Island.
An agreement between the Land Council and Trust for Nature includes 12 months access and management rights followed by a title transfer in 2023.
Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation’s Board of Directors Chair, Kelly Lehmann said, “This is an amazing opportunity for Bunurong people. Through this land we can further support our future generations in learning culture and Caring for Country.
“The Bunurong Land Council is proud to be able to support Bunurong people now and into the future, so we can thrive to establish a better future including opportunities like this for our mob.”
The property also has a conservation covenant on it which ensures that, no matter who owns the land, the plants and animals on the property are protected forever.
Trust for Nature Chair, Gayle Austen said the transfer helps to deliver on land justice, which goes hand in hand with reconciliation.
“Trust for Nature is committed to contributing to a just, equitable and reconciled Australia,’ Ms Austen said.
“This property is not large, but it is a gem, rich with birdlife and with cultural significance for Traditional Owners. We are proud to be working alongside the Bunurong people, including both elders and young Bunurong environmental land managers, to complete the 12 month transition and return this important piece of Rhyll Inlet to its Traditional Owners.”
Trust for Nature Port Phillip Manager Ben Cullen said this moment has been a long time coming.
He said, “With a close partnership with the Bunurong People, we have been able to create an opportunity that will give title back to Traditional Owners and protect the site forever.
In May this year Trust for Nature also announced a plan to transfer its largest conservation reserve, Neds Corner Station west of Mildura, to the Registered Aboriginal Party for that area, the First People of the Millewa Mallee.
The transfer of Neds Corner is expected to be completed in 2024.
Kelly Lehmann, Chair, Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation, 0488 112 726
Kathy Cogo, Communication and Media Manager, Trust for Nature, 0466 015 183 firstname.lastname@example.org. Please contact Kathy for images and video footage.