Harbour work in Aboriginal probe

Andrew Mathieson
ABORIGINAL authorities will inspect Portarlington sites of a “high level of interest”, potentially affecting proposed works on the town’s safe harbour project.
Wathaurong Aboriginal Cooperative and Aboriginal Affairs Victoria plan to conduct a field inspection of the Portarlington foreshore, describing it as “an area of high sensitivity”.
Wathaurong chief executive Trevor Edwards responded to a request in April on the safe harbour draft report from project manager Ricky Feldman.
Mr Edwards told him a field inspection would be a minimum response to dealing with cultural heritage issues given existing registered Aboriginal sites on the foreshore.
“I can assure you there are significant sites on the foreshore precinct that are registered sites under legislation,” Mr Edwards said.
“We would certainly hope there are plans to protect those sites. I’m sure they’ll have to work with us with regard to any development there.”
Mr Feldman has flagged a proposed date for the field inspection.
Steeles Rock to the east of the proposed site area was of “particular” interest to traditional land owners, Mr Edwards said.
He said the Steeles Rock area was registered under the 2006 Heritage Act and disturbing it without the cooperative’s approval would be illegal.
“I wouldn’t know what sort of age they (the sites) would be,” Mr Edwards said.
“I’m not sure whether they have been carbondated but they are evidence of our occupation and our history.”
Wathaurong cultural officer Reg Abrahams said an archaeological survey was conducted several years ago at the proposed site. Any proposed environmental effects study would trigger a cultural heritage management plan under the Heritage Act, he said.
Parks Victoria has uncovered at least three archaeological sites on the edge of the study area.

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