Grantmaker Spotlight: Trust for Nature – applying an Indigenous lens to conservation

This post written by Justin Glass, Development Manager, Trust for Nature

Trust for Nature is an independent, not-for-profit organisation established to protect native habitat on private land. Established under the Victorian Conservation Trust Act (1972), Trust for Nature is the only Victorian organisation to protect bushland with conservation covenants that last in perpetuity.

Trust for Nature has conservation covenants on about 1100 Victorian properties covering 46,000 hectares; owns a further 47 properties covering about 35,000 hectares and has transferred a further 67 properties to the State.

Trust for Nature Covenant and Property Locations

Image: Map of Victorian covenants and location of Neds Corner. Download as PDF.

Trust for Nature’s Strategic Plan stresses the importance of stakeholder engagement in private land conservation particularly with local Indigenous and Traditional Owner groups. At the Trust’s largest property, the 30,000 hectare former grazing property, ‘Neds Corner Station’, located 70 km west of Mildura, Trust for Nature has done a lot of work with Indigenous people to concurrently protect cultural assets and native species. It was purchased in 2002 for large scale conservation research and practice with assistance from the Commonwealth Government, the RE Ross Trust, the Cybec Foundation, The Meles Fund, The Limb Foundation and many other generous individuals.

The Indigenous history of Neds Corner Station is as rich as its natural heritage.  It is thought that the patterns of native plants and wildlife found by the first Europeans were shaped by Indigenous use of the region dating from about 13,000 years ago.  The Murray River provided food for large communities of Indigenous people and areas like Neds Corner Station became important sites for trade and cultural ceremonies.  Archaeological discoveries in the area continue to provide us with valuable insights into how the land was managed and the cultural significance it holds for Indigenous people.

Indigenous crew erecting fence Photo: Indigenous crew erecting fences around sensitive sites

At Neds Corner Station many projects have been undertaken to protect Indigenous cultural heritage by Trust for Nature and local Indigenous people including:

  • Completing over 50 kilometres of fencing to protect important Indigenous cultural sites have been built by Indigenous and non-Indigenous fencers in partnership with Mallee Catchment Management Authority Indigenous Advisory Officers;
  • Securing Commonwealth funding to establish a large-scale fence, that builds on earlier work to improve cultural heritage protection and research environmental restoration and cultural heritage protection working in together. Trust for Nature is thankful for further investments by philanthropists that build on this Commonwealth grant and enable additional works to be planned.
  • Trust for Nature has established a partnership with La Trobe University that provides training in the recognition and management of cultural sites to Indigenous and non-Indigenous people;
  • Commenced development of a cultural heritage management plan for Neds Corner;
  • Created a “Keeping Place” for Indigenous cultural items requiring removal as part of the Commonwealth Government’s Living Murray works;
  • Develop a project plan to obtain funding for Indigenous officers in ecology and land management.
Blue and MEEP participant erecting rabbit-proof fence Photo: Blue and MEEP participant erecting rabbit-proof fence

With the recent floods and good seasons the River is again awash with fish, turtles, crustaceans including water mussels. Kangaroos, emus, tree goannas, shingleback lizards and move over earth that is filled with yams, soft root tubers, other edible roots and herbaceous perennials. This currently abundant supply of food, reminds us of how the Neds Corner Station area has provided Indigenous people with food and supplies for millennia. Neds Corner Station and its surrounding areas are believed to contain one of the highest densities of Indigenous cultural objects and burial sites in Victoria.

Trust for Nature recognises the significance of these sites and works closely with the Indigenous people of the Murray region to protect them from potential exposure caused by erosion, rabbit burrowing and other animal or human disturbance. Protection of cultural heritage is often best achieved through the promotion of native plants and the Trust, in partnership with many others has undertaken work to regenerate native vegetation and protection of Indigenous sites synergistically.

The goal of Trust for Nature at Neds Corner is to promote the bond between people and the landscape, a bond demonstrated by Indigenous use of the land for millennia. Achieving closer ties with the Indigenous community will be an important part of our journey.


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For further information on Trust for Nature or Neds Corner Station please contact Justin Glass, Development Manager, Trust for Nature  - (03) 8631 5888,  www.trustfornature.org.au

Jan. 23, 2012

 Tags: topical issues, stories, recommended reading, indigenous, guest post, general, environment

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