Lake Condah Restoration Project
Lake Condah is traditionally known as Tae Rak and is the heart of Gunditjmara country. The Kerrup Jmara (People of the Lake) engineered an extensive system of ponds, channels and traps at the southern end at the lake. Lake Condah and the Condah Swamp were subject to drainage works since the arrival of European people to the area.
Following the devastating floods in 1946 that greatly affected the southwest region, a larger drain was constructed along the Condah Swamp from Branxholme to and through Lake Condah. The works were completed in 1954 and connected the drain to the spring at the Lake Condah Aboriginal Mission that flowed into Darlots Creek.
The restoration of water to Lake Condah has been the subject of proposals that commenced in the 1970s and concentrated on the field and game aspects of the area. Alongside the return of the Mission site and neighbouring land to traditional owners in the mid 1980s, the first proposal based on Gunditjmara heritage values was made. Resulting from the heritage values proposal, a trial weir at the north end of the lake was installed to channel water from the drain onto the bed of the lake. The trial was not a success.
In 2004, the LCSDP Lake Condah Water Restoration Business Plan was developed with funds from the Indigenous Land Corporation. The new plan took into account new technologies and an enhanced awareness and appreciation of the Gunditjmara heritage values at the lake. The plan was used to consult broadly and engage with the district community, adjoining land-owners, government agencies and education institutions.
In 2006, the LCSDP, the Department of Sustainability and Environment, the Glenelg Hopkins Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria and Southern Rural Water worked together to facilitate hydrological feasibility and Environmental FLOWS studies.
In March 2008, Lake Condah was returned to Gunditjmara people by the State of Victoria. The Lake Condah Restoration Conservation Management Plan was also completed to ensure that the extensive Gunditjmara cultural heritage values were maintained and enhanced during and after the installation of the new weir.
During 2009, the team worked towards gaining the necessary resources from the Victorian Government to design and construct the new weir. Allivial Consultants were selected as designer for the new weir and Armistad Constructions were successful in the construction tender for the weir.
Work commenced on the weir in January 2010 and completed by May 2010. A vital component of the construction process was the promotion of Aboriginal employment. The Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education and Workplace Relations provided resources to support the employment of local Gunditjmara and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people on the construction team.
In 2010, the Lake Condah Restoration Project was awarded the Civil Contractors Federation Earth Award which acknowledged the following attributes of the project:
its design, which was in keeping with the cultural and environmental sensivity of the site;
the engagement of the local indigenous community in all aspects of the construction; with training and on-site supervision, indigenous workers were recruited to undertake all the construction tasks, as well as some of the administration roles;
an exhaustive community consultation program involving all stakeholders; this enabled the realisation of a united vision for the project and a highly co-operative team for implementation.