Increasing awareness to Close the Gap

Staff from West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority (WGCMA) and Gippsland Water spent a day learning about Gunaikurnai culture and history, as part of a Cultural Heritage training program.

The session lead by Grattan Mullett Snr from the Gunaikurnai Land and Waters Aboriginal Corporation (GLaWAC), included a visit to the Krowathunkooloong Keeping place and cultural sites at Howitt Park. The group was also taken on a tour of the Gippsland and East Gippsland Aboriginal Cooperative (GEGAC) facility in Bairnsdale.

On the eve of this year’s Close the Gap day, Martin Fuller, Chief Executive Officer of WGCMA, stressed the importance of increasing the knowledge and understanding of Indigenous culture.

“As part of our partnership with GLaWAC, we developed a staff cultural awareness training program, to help us work together more effectively,” said Mr Fuller.

“Having a better understanding and a willingness to listen and to adapt is the best way to close the gap between our organisations.”

Over ninety per cent of WGCMA staff have taken part in Cultural Heritage training.

Mandy Leggett, WGCMA’s Aboriginal Cultural Heritage Officer, said the recent session covered historical as well as recent traumas suffered by the Gunaikurnai people.

“Some people were surprised to hear of the more recent incidents and came away with a deeper understanding of the difficulties faced by the Aboriginal community,” said Mandy.

“Grattan also spoke of the importance of proper Recognition as First Australians for all Indigenous peoples in this country.”

Grattan, GM Culture at GLaWAC, said: “It’s important for our partner agencies and the broader community to have a much better understanding and awareness of Aboriginal culture and history in order to build meaningful and respectful relationships.”

Developing Cultural Heritage training is part of the WGCMA’s Indigenous Partnership and Participation program. The program provided a unique approach to working with Traditional Owners and has transformed the way the WGCMA protects and manages the natural environment.

A recent review of the program revealed significant benefits for all the organisations involved. These include developing strategies and protocols in conjunction with GLaWAC and the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation (BLCAC) and working together on the ground.

Mr Fuller said he was incredibly proud of all that has been achieved through the Indigenous Partnership Program to date and is excited about the future.

“A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with BLCAC is due to be signed in April this year,” said Mr Fuller.

“We will also be renewing our MoU with GLaWAC, which was originally signed in 2013.

“Formalising these relationships allows us to provide support for the Traditional Owner organisations.”

A new brochure – In Partnership – outlines the achievements and ongoing aims of the program. Copies are available from the WGCMA or online at

All projects in the Indigenous Partnership and participation Project have been delivered and supported by WGCMA through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare program.

National Close the Gap Day on 21st March, is an annual awareness event that aims to close the health and life expectancy gap between the Indigenous and the non-Indigenous communities in Australia.


Details of Close the Gap Day events are available from

Group of staff at Cultural Heritage Training
Learning about a canoe tree at Howitt Park and the historical uses of the area. Back (L to R): Shannon Dwyer and Fiona Pfiel (GW), Grattan Mullett (GLaWAC), Lucy Rhodes (WGCMA), James Allen (GW), Brad Missen and Rhain Bateman (WGCMA). Front (L to R): Christine Bingham (GW), Jemima Milkins and Taryn Price (WGCMA).