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South East Water has demonstrated its support for National Reconciliation Week  by taking action to heal Country after a major sewer project in Mt Eliza.

South East Water gathered with the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) and Mount Eliza Association for Environmental Care (MEAFC) at Mount Eliza’s Ranelagh Beach on 25 May 2021.

A smoking ceremony and planting activity completed a major sewer pipe renewal project at the site. 

The three organisations came together to plant over 1,500 native plants sourced from the Willum Warrain Aboriginal Gathering Place, Seawinds Volunteer Nursery and Advance Nursery.

To acknowledge the cultural significance of the site, South East water also engaged BLCAC’s CEO, Dan Turnbull, to engrave beautiful Aboriginal designs onto eight marker posts to tell the story of the area. The artwork on each marker post took between 14 and 25 hours to complete.

South East Water worked closely with BLCAC from the start of the renewal project, understanding that the site has high cultural sensitivity for Bunurong Traditional Owners.

South East Water sought approval of a Cultural Heritage Management Plan (CHMP) from BLCAC to undertake the work. 

South East Water also worked with an archaeologist and BLCAC representatives to salvage shell midden material and artefacts at the site that were uncovered during the works.

Mr Turnbull (pictured below) shared the stories of the marker posts with volunteers on the day, which represent Bunurong tradition and culture. 

“It was great working with South East Water,” Mr Turnbull said.

“This project is a really special one because this place is of great significance to us and the relationship with South East Water is a strong one, and it’s an important one for us.

“It’s important to us that we have a great relationship with South East Water so that we’re sharing culture, so they’re learning a little bit about Bunurong culture and the cultural landscape that they work within.

“It’s important for us too because together we can do some really significant things that assist with the healing of Country.”  

South East Water’s Managing Director, Lara Olsen, said the event was a great way to complete the sewer renewal project, and to celebrate the opportunity to partner with Traditional Owners to work together on projects like this.  

“While we regularly engage Traditional Owner groups whenever our works may impact a culturally sensitive site, this project is a great example of how we can do more than just engage or consult our Traditional Owners,” Ms Olsen said. 

“We can co-create projects together that recognise and celebrate the history of the land in which we operate.

“We do our best to reduce our impact on the environment wherever we can, but where our works do have an impact, it’s really important that we heal Country by revegetating parts of this coastal environment.”

Reconciliation Australia endorsed South East Water’s first Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) in October 2020. The organisation’s RAP seeks to provide opportunities to create connections and build trust, respect and understanding of First Nations history, and create employment and procurement opportunities for First Nations people. 

Note: This event took place on 25 May 2021, prior to new COVID-19 restrictions coming into place in Victoria. 

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