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Working with Wurundjeri Woiwurrung to protect cultural heritage

More than 2,700 stone artefacts have been returned to where they came from in a reburial ceremony performed by Wurundjeri Woiwurrung Elders along the banks of the Mullum Mullum Creek.


The ancient artefacts, believed to be up to 5,000 years old, were discovered during excavation works. This was part of the Yarra Valley Water Community Sewerage Program that has enabled more than 1000 properties in Donvale to switch from septic tanks to the modern sewerage network.

To mark the significance of the finds, Elders officiated in a ceremony to rebury the artefacts under manna gums lining the creek, an area considered to be of high cultural heritage significance.

They also joined members of Yarra Valley Water’s Community Sewerage Program team to visit the nearby Whitefriars College to showcase the history of the area, agreeing for some of the artefacts to be displayed at the school.

Most of the artefacts were stone flakes and sharp stone tools used by Wurundjeri people for many everyday tasks. This includes shaping objects made of wood, bark and bone or using the tools as spear-tips in hunting and as knives for cutting meat and processing plant material.

Yarra Valley Water Managing Director, Pat McCafferty, said the discovery of the artefacts in Donvale was one of the organisation’s most significant historical finds.

“We know that our work to deliver essential water and sewerage services can disturb sites of cultural significance and we’re committed to working with Traditional Owners to ensure we do all we can to help protect them,” Mr McCafferty said.

“We use trenchless construction methods like micro-tunnelling and horizontal directional drilling to reduce our impact and work with Traditional Owners so artefacts can be reburied.”

Wurundjeri Elders who have worked with the project team said the outcomes of the Community Sewerage Program set good standards for future projects with Yarra Valley Water, and a benchmark for other organisations seeking to work respectfully with Wurundjeri Woiwurrung people.

Wurundjeri Elders view the new display at Whitefriars College as an opportunity to educate students about the local Aboriginal cultural heritage and history. They have said this is an important way to recognise past ownership of the area.

Project manager Dean Anderson said work to protect artefacts in Donvale offered everyone involved rich and rewarding learning opportunities and a special insight into Aboriginal cultural heritage. 

“Engaging deeply with the process and our partnerships has such benefits for our work and the community as we embrace ways to learn more about the caretakers of the land we work on,” Mr Anderson said.

Signs will soon be installed along the popular Mullum Mullum trail highlighting the significance of the area and the finds. Yarra Valley Water will also work with Manningham Council to install a drinking fountain in the nearby Manna Gum playground.