Ancient History and Aboriginal Heritage video (5:10) examines the various impacts experienced by First Nations people from occupation and colonisation, through to the construction of the Scheme.

Episode 4

Warning – Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander viewers are warned that the following video may contain images and voices of deceased persons.


The Snowy Mountains region has supported and sustained human life for tens of thousands of years and the traditional owners have utilised the abundance of natural resources these lands have to offer. The Snowy Hydro Scheme is located across a number of traditional lands. The Ngarigo, Walgalu and southern Ngunnawal people, are the traditional owners of different regions on which the Scheme is located.

Talea is Wiradjuri Ngunnawal woman who cares for Country as an employee of National Parks and Wildlife. Talea explains how the Snowy region is of significant cultural value to local Aboriginal people.


So we're up at Yarrangobilly Caves today and we're in Walgalu country, and this for Aboriginal people and our neighbouring Aboriginal people, so the Wiradjuri and the Ngunnawal, this was very spiritual area. Being up high for Aboriginal people we're closer to our ancestors in the sky that have passed. So up here, we've got ceremonial spots all throughout including the rivers, the caves and both for the men and women through here.


Across the region, there is evidence of campsites, stone toolmaking workshops and burial sites and sites of cultural significance like the Yarrangobilly Cave dating back thousands of years. The first Europeans explored the Snowy Mountains in the early 1800s, often aided by Ngarigo people who knew the best trails.

From here like in much of Australia, Aboriginal people were gradually dispossessed as Europeans began to occupy the region which had devastating impacts on Aboriginal lives, culture and connection to Country. Construction on the Scheme began in 1949 and the Scheme's infrastructure was constructed on traditional lands. At this time however, the government did not recognise Aboriginal connection and ownership of the land due to discriminatory government policy. Regardless, construction of this Scheme changed the circumstances for our traditional people.


Traditional people would actually travel along the river system as a pathway but not only as a pathway, but we would actually camp along those rivers. And those rivers actually provided things like bush food, medicine, shelter, all those types of things.


The creation of huge dams and reservoirs resulted in the flooding of thousands of hectares of land. Beneath the waters of these large reservoirs, thousands of years of Aboriginal history are now hidden. Today we could expect the lengthy consultation process with local Aboriginal communities before such a development could or should occur.

In 1949, however, the various Aboriginal groups were not consulted and did not typically work on the Scheme. At this time in Australia's history there existed discriminatory government policies that significantly restricted Aboriginal peoples' rights. Australian society acknowledges that in the past much of the government actions and social behaviours were not right. And we are trying to move to a more culturally respectful place.

Best place to start is with education. Education about the past wrongdoings, accurate accounts of history from a variety of sources and the recognition of the strong cultures that exist in spite of the devastation past. Shane, a Wiradjuri- Walgulu man shares with us the importance of education to the conservation of culture and place.


Traditionally people would actually travel along the river system up into our part of the country. So up into Walgalu country. Ceremonies would happen here. The story that everybody's familiar with is the migration of the bogong moth. And then Aboriginal people would come with that migration. And then that would be the food source for the people up on country for ceremony.


There is no doubt European occupation of the region changed the way local Aboriginal groups live forever. The construction of the Snowy Mountains Scheme was done in an era where consultation with traditional owners was not common but it's construction nevertheless has had lasting impact. Education and cultural awareness will help build a better future for all Australians and give respect to a proud and beautiful ancient history and Indigenous peoples.

[End of transcript]

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