Raymond Island Gippsland Lakes Reserve is one of the jointly managed parks within Gippsland. The Joint Management agreement recognises the fact that the Gunaikurnai people hold Aboriginal Title and maintain a strong connection to Country. As custodians of the land, they are the rightful people who speak for their Country. These parks and reserves are cultural landscapes that continue to be part of Gunaikurnai living culture. For more information on Joint Management, please visit the Gunaikurnai Traditional Owner Land Management Board and the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation.
Gunaikurnai people lived and camped on this Island, which they called Gragin, for thousands of years. It was particularly important for collecting swan eggs, and evidence of scar trees, burial sites and artefact scatters have been found in the area. It is in a strategic location in the lagoon system, providing a line of sight to many of the other important places on the water. Our old people would have used this place to keep an eye on what was going on in the surrounding area.
Gunaikurnai Creation Story
The story of our creation starts with Borun, the pelican, who traversed our Country from the mountains in the north to the place called Tarra Warackel in the south.
As Borun travelled down the mountains, he could hear a constant tapping sound, but he couldn’t identify the sound or where it was coming from. Tap tap tap. He traversed the cliffs and mountains and forged his way through the forests. Tap tap tap. He followed the river systems across our Country and created songlines and storylines as he went. Tap tap tap.
He walked on alone and when he got down into the deeper inlets near Tarra Warackel (now known as Port Albert) he put down his canoe and, much to his surprise, there was a woman in it. She was Tuk, the musk duck. Borun was very happy to see Tuk, and they married and became the mother and father of the five clans, the creators of Gunaikurnai.
The creation story is about the origin of our people. It helps to explain the bonds we have to our Country and reminds us that our ancestors are still watching over the landscape today.
It is important for us to be able to walk in their footsteps and follow their journeys from thousands of years ago – it is a powerful, spiritual aspect to our cultural heritage, and fundamental to our recognition and respect. We are guided by the spirits of our ancestors when we walk through this Country.
Preserving the past is important to better manage our cultural landscapes. Patrick Mullett is a proud Gunaikurnai man working on Country to manage Aboriginal cultural heritage. He assesses sites and provides advice under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 2006 on how to best protect cultural heritage.