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State and Traditional Owners

1980 – present

The Barmah Forest wetlands gained world recognition in 1982 when they were declared ‘wetlands of international importance’ under the Ramsar Convention (adopted in Iran, 1971).

Forest tourism increased and vigorous debate continued on the use of public land, sustainability of natural resources and the impact of human activities on the environment. The new Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands in 1983 continued state control of grazing and logging, its officers working with numerous local industry and community associations at this time.

A major land claim, which included the Barmah Forest, was lodged in 1994 by the Yorta Yorta people under the 1993 Native Title Act. The claim and subsequent appeals were unsuccessful.

However, the Yorta Yorta Co-operative Management Agreement was signed in 2004 by the Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation and the Victorian Government. Traditional Owners now had a powerful new voice to advise on the management of public lands and waters.

A severe drought, from approximately 1997 to 2010, and concerns about climate change caused national alarm about the health of the Murray River ecosystem.

The Living Murray Program was launched in 2002 as an initiative of combined state and federal governments, coordinated by the Murray Darling Basin Commission (now Authority). It recognised the Barmah-Millewa Forest as one of six icon sites requiring urgent attention.

The Barmah National Park was established by the Victorian Government in 2010, to be jointly managed with the Traditional Owners, the Yorta Yorta people. The declaration followed an extensive investigation into River Red Gum forests by the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council. Timber harvesting ended with the declaration, with grazing phased out.

Parks Victoria manages the day-to-day operations of the park. Yorta Yorta Nation are involved in the planning and strategic direction of the park through the Joint Management Agreement.