Traditional owners have welcomed the renaming of the now former Canadian Regional Park during a smoking ceremony on Wednesday morning.
Aboriginal leaders performed a welcome to country during the ceremony, to announce the Woowookarung Regional Park, which means place of plenty.
Wadawurrung elder Uncle Bryon Powell said the park was a state government gift to the entire Ballarat community.
“Remember you are not walking Aboriginal land – you are walking on our land – everyone’s land,” he said.
“It is a gift to the community, so it is not just Aboriginal land, it is everyone’s land.
“If you stay in Ballarat, if you live your life in this region, you will be able to say to your kids and your grand kids, you were here the day this land was given back to the community.”
The 641-hectare park already caters to walkers, mountain biking and horse riding.
It also provides a cultural experience for visitors.
Parks Victoria undertook community consultation before it finally settled on Woowookarung Regional Park as the new name.
A state government press release said the park would protect plants and animals such as Yarra Gums and koalas.
Uncle Powell said the Woowookarung Regional Park had always provided for Aboriginal people.
“This piece of land here behind us provided Wadawurrung people with food, shelter, medicine and everything we needed to survive,” he said.
“Hopefully from today on it will also provide all the users and residents here with everything they need in their lives. It is a great place, a great day - I’d like to welcome you all here to country.”
Energy, Environment and Climate Change Minister Lily D’Ambrosio said it was a remarkable, significant and momentous occasion at the official renaming.
“Its renaming to a name that really does reflect the traditional ownership of this land,” she said.
“It also marks an acceptance, an embrace right across the community of a renaming of this park to its rightful place, symbolising the traditional ownership of this land we are gathered on today. It is an agenda of program, a vision for what it means for us to work in partnership with traditional owners on crown land across Victoria.”
- More photos – page 14.