The environment movement Defining Moments, 1960s–present
Investigation 1: Thinking about environmentalism
1.3 Can you create a new World Heritage area?
2019 Budj Bim
You are on holiday in the Western District of Victoria.
You have made friends with a local family. They are from the Gunditjmara people, the traditional custodians of the area. They invite you and your family to visit Budj Bim with them, an area special to the Gunditjmara people for its cultural significance.
You look around. There you see:
- Volcanic stones arranged to create channels
- More stones shaped into small stone semicircles
- The remains of a church and housing
- Old volcanoes in the distance
- A hall, with a plaque commemorating men from the district who volunteered to fight in two world wars
- A small monument to ‘the soldier settlers of the district’
- Cattle, sheep and farms
- A creek, with eels and fish in it
- Plenty of native bushland
- Barbed wire fencing.
It feels like the area is telling you a story. There is evidence of who has lived here and what they have done. You can see that features of the landscape have changed over time.
The kids are proud to tell you that their family is working on getting this area recognised as a World Heritage Site.
Your task is to work out what is needed for the Budj Bim area to be recognised for its World Heritage value. For a place to be accepted as a World Heritage Site it needs to fulfil at least one of these ten cultural and environmental criteria:
World Heritage Listing Criteria
- to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius;
- to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
- to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
- to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history;
- to be an outstanding example of a traditional human settlement, land-use, or sea-use which is representative of a culture (or cultures), or human interaction with the environment especially when it has become vulnerable under the impact of irreversible change;
- to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance. (The Committee considers that this criterion should preferably be used in conjunction with other criteria);
- to contain superlative natural phenomena or areas of exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance;
- to be outstanding examples representing major stages of earth's history, including the record of life, significant ongoing geological processes in the development of landforms, or significant geomorphic or physiographic features;
- to be outstanding examples representing significant ongoing ecological and biological processes in the evolution and development of terrestrial, fresh water, coastal and marine ecosystems and communities of plants and animals;
- to contain the most important and significant natural habitats for in-situ conservation of biological diversity, including those containing threatened species of outstanding universal value from the point of view of science or conservation.
UNESCO, The Criteria for Selection, https://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/
To help you decide if this place is so special that it should be given World Heritage status and protection you need to follow these steps.
1. Choose one of the different features of the area that you have discovered — these are listed on the Budj Bim / Lake Condah World Heritage Site Research Guide.
2. Research that area, using sources from the Research list, keeping in mind what the World Heritage criteria are.
In your online search enter terms such as:
- Lake Condah soldier settlement
- Lake Condah stone houses
- Lake Condah stone channels
- Lake Condah mission
- Lake Condah volcanoes
- Lake Condah settlement
3. Now decide which World Heritage criterion, if any, the area you have researched applies to.
4. Present a persuasive argument that the feature you have researched satisfies one or more of the World Heritage criteria.
Remember — not all aspects of the area might be so special that they satisfy one of the criteria; AND, that you only need to satisfy ONE of the criteria for the site to be accepted for World Heritage status.
Good luck — the future of the Budj Bim / Lake Condah area might be in your hands!
Budj Bim / Lake Condah World Heritage Site Research Guide
1. Area of investigation:
2. Key information about the aspect:
3. Most relevant World Heritage criterion:
4. Best argument to support inclusion as a World Heritage Site:
National Museum of Australia Lake Condah in Gunditjmara Country
The Gunditjmara Land Justice Story
Lake Condah: The past, present and future of a life force of the southwest
The detective work behind the Budj Bim eel traps World Heritage bid
Engineering works of the Gunditjmara at Lake Condah
Protection of Aborigines Report 1872
Decolonising agriculture: Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu
After your research: The decision
Budj Bim was accepted as a World Heritage site in 2019. Read the ABC’s report of Budj Bim becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site and then review UNESCO’s reasons for their decision.
1. How close were your reasons and arguments to those accepted by the UNESCO committee?
2. What would you expect to happen to the area now that it has been added to the World Heritage register?
You can find out more about Lake Condah and Budj Bim and its special story in this Defining Moment of Australian history at: 2019: Budj Bim Cultural Landscape given World Heritage status
You can also complete the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape interactive on this website at: What defining moments happened at Budj Bim?