Barongarook Creek Repatriation Memorial

Nestled within the eastern gateway to Colac sits an unassuming landscape overlooking Barongarook Creek.

Infrastructure, public realm improvements and regenerative design comprised the original brief; however, with the discovery of First Nation human remains amidst construction, the scope evolved into balancing between economic, ecological, and equitable outcomes whilst restoring a highly significant and culturally sensitive place.

Hansen’s Landscape Architecture team developed a methodology to allow for the project to continue while simultaneously acknowledging and respecting the values of the Traditional Owners and enabling repatriation. Through genuine collaboration, knowledge-sharing and negotiation with the Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation (EMAC), new relationships were developed.

With a new approach established, construction and ongoing management of the site proceeded with the intention to serve as a precedent for future projects within culturally sensitive places – reaffirming that the cultural values of place should be understood, respected, advocated for, and upheld. Together, the elemental and experiential components of place were incorporated into a holistic concept plan for a repatriation memorial site.

The Traditional Owners’ connection to Country is intrinsic, deeply valued, and inherited. It was imparted upon the design team by the Eastern Maar that to be able to design on Country, we first must develop our own connection to Country by building meaningful, ongoing, and visceral relationships with Country, community, and culture.

The design team designed a memorial site that was truly dedicated to the place’s natural and cultural elements. With a focus on environmental conservation, paths, and park amenities were thoughtfully positioned to minimise disturbance. In addition, a new bridge was constructed to provide safe and separated access for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, with considered balustrading settling it within the ecologically sensitive environment.

Following completion of the construction works, John Clarke visited the site. Whilst being on Country, John said “It looks and feels perfect for what it is meant to be”.

Project Team

Eastern Maar Aboriginal Corporation

VEC Civil Engineering Pty Ltd

Colac Otway Shire Council

Major Road Projects Victoria