Budj Bim Ranger Depot Opening
On Thursday 20 April, Winda-Mara Aboriginal Corporation (WMAC) held our official opening of the Budj Bim Ranger Depot located at 598 Henty Hwy Portland. We were welcomed into the space with a smoking ceremony followed by a performance from the Koondoom Yarkeen dance group.
The Depot has given us a permanent base for our Budj Bim Rangers thanks to a funding injection from the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) and supplemented by our own funds.
This permanent base will allow us to extend our ranger training, enhance operational efficiencies, and provides a permanent home for our rangers and tour operations. We also have a view to creating an art space as well as a café in the future.
Our CEO Jason Walker gave a brief history of our time in the building, which we purchased in June 2022 after leasing it the 12 months prior to gauge whether it was a good fit for us and the future we envision for the Ranger Program. Jason also acknowledged all the partnerships Winda-Mara have developed from across the region over the years and the important work we do together.
Our Chairperson, Uncle Michael 'Mookeye' Bell shared stories of Winda-Mara’s early beginnings with no money but a lot of energy from our community and the work we were doing in building an Aboriginal economy.
Building self determination to create our voice is at the core of what Winda-Mara does.
Uncle Mookeye made mention of our long-standing relationship with the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) dating back to the late 1990s when they assisted us in purchasing our first land beginning out work of caring for country.
This growing ownership and management of Gunditjmara Country, in particular the Tyrendarra Indigenous Protected Area has made sure that Aboriginal people have access to land locally (whether Traditional Owners or not) and gives them the opportunity to walk on country and get connected.
“The purchase of the property for the use of Budj Bim Rangers as a Depot and the future opportunities offered by this site is an exciting development for our community,” said Uncle Michael Bell.
“The development of Indigenous businesses on the site will form a place where community members can obtain employment and training to improve their career opportunities.”
We were lucky enough to be joined by Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation Group CEO, Joe Morrison who spoke about the importance of their relationship with Winda-Mara and their work across the country in developing and maturing the country and the revitalisation of our culture. The blending of old knowledge and western technology coming together and being put into practice to uplift and amplify Indigenous voices.
Joe said the ILSC’s focus was allowing First Nations peoples to realise the benefits of owning and managing country.
"The facility will assist the WMAC secure the future of the ranger group and importantly, secure the Gunditjmara people's connection to country for future generations," he said.
"The building is not just somewhere to house equipment. It's a space for bringing community together, where they can share knowledge and culture and create new enterprises."
“It’s this sharing of knowledge that will lead to greater Gunditjmara self-determination”.
Thank you to everyone who came along to celebrate the opening, with particular thanks to the Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation who support our vision for the space and have amplified Winda-Mara’s passion for caring for our country as well as all our partners and supporters locally.
See more coverage below
New base to boost profile of one of Victoria’s World Heritage sites (Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation)
Budj Bim Rangers have new home after Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation funding (National Indigenous Times)
Winda-mara Budj Bim Rangers secure their future place in Portland (ABC South-West)
New base to bring opportunity for rangers (Border Watch)
A home for the rangers (Portland Observer)