Exploring Aboriginal cultural heritage in Box Hill

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Important archaeological investigations have been underway in Box Hill Gardens, in preparation for the start of construction of SRL East next year.

A small team of archaeologists and members of the Wurundjeri Council have been on site searching for signs of Aboriginal artefacts or other items of cultural heritage.

While it is not a registered place of Aboriginal cultural heritage, the gardens have largely retained the natural landscape. It means soil in the gardens is likely to pre-date European occupation – increasing the likelihood of artefacts remaining.

Local archaeologist Laura Cross said this is the first time the area around Box Hill Gardens has been explored in this way.

"Our research has led us here to Box Hill Gardens, because it remains relatively untouched in its natural state, but it’s really only by getting on site and exploring below the surface that we can test our theories and look for vital clues about the site’s rich history and cultural heritage,” Laura said.

A series of around 20 small pits is dug by hand – each only a square metre wide. The grass is cut and lifted, and the soil carefully sifted. Once the results are recorded, the soil and grass are returned to ensure no trace of disturbance.

The 26km twin tunnels for SRL East pass through land of the Bunurong people from Cheltenham to Monash, and through Wurundjeri land from Glen Waverley to Box Hill. All investigations are conducted in consultation with the Wurundjeri Woi Wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and the Bunurong Land Council Aboriginal Corporation.

Other areas along SRL East will be explored soon – with further investigations in Burwood, Clayton and Monash happening over summer.

The investigations will help protect and manage any potential impacts to Aboriginal cultural heritage. However, because SRL will be largely underground, and any above ground work will be in urban areas, it’s likely any impact will be minimal.

SRL East will help shape Melbourne’s future, while celebrating Victoria’s rich cultural heritage - creating vibrant communities that reflect the area’s strong Aboriginal history stretching back 60,000 years as well as creating jobs and training opportunities for the next generation.

Suburban Rail Loop Authority (SRLA) is also working with Traditional Owners on opportunities to embed and reflect Aboriginal knowledge, culture and values in station and precinct design.

Construction on SRL East will start next year, creating up to 800 direct early jobs. The contract for the first phase of works has been awarded and includes opportunities for Aboriginal Victorians to be part of this city-shaping project.

The Environment Effects Statement (EES) for SRL East also explores cultural and heritage in more detail. The EES is now open for public submissions until Thursday 16 December.

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