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Reclaiming a place: post-colonial appropriations of the colonial at Budj Bim, Western Victoria, Australia
chapterposted on 2018-01-01, 00:00 authored by Louise JohnsonLouise Johnson
After two centuries of systematic dispossession, the Gunditjmara people now have custodianship and formal recognition of an extensive tract of southwestern Victoria, Australia (see Figure 5.1). This has been secured through a set of non-Indigenous systems – native title rulings (which delivered 1,330 square kilometres in 2007 and 6,501 square kilometres in 2011), freehold title, Indigenous Protected Areas, joint management agreements, heritage rulings, and as a Registered Aboriginal Party. Expressing extraordinary community resilience and secured after long periods of political agitation and court action, these outcomes are providing a postcolonial foundation on which the Gunditjmara are securing lands, identity, incomes, and a future. For some, such as Glen Coulthard (2014: 3), these forms of recognition merely reproduce ‘the very configuration of colonialist, racist, patriarchal state power that Indigenous people's demands for recognition have historically sought to transcend’. However, this chapter argues that, while limitations must be acknowledged, the Gunditjmara experience, like many others in Australia (see Porter 2010; Porter & Barry 2016), has involved extraordinary successes. It is a story of survival but also of transformation of the colonial regulatory regime and its use to secure lands, identities, and economic futures. This chapter will detail the ways in which colonisation was enacted 92on Gunditjmara lands but also how these actions, and the associated sites, have become part of a post-colonial settlement. Through resistance to the many colonial technologies of dispossession and displacement, the Gunditjmara actively shaped the broader legislative and legal environment which, in turn, is now allowing them to reassert claims to a place on country. It is on this basis that possible post-colonial futures are being built as further claims, joint management plans, heritage bids, and economic development proposals are developed and enacted.