UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri Int’l Prize to Gunditjmara Community, Australia

November 18, 2023

PARIS, France – The 2023 edition of the UNESCO-Greece Melina Mercouri International Prize for the Safeguarding and Management of Cultural Landscapes will be awarded to the Gunditjmara community for its long-standing efforts to safeguard and manage the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape, a property inscribed on the World Heritage List since 2019. The laureate will receive $30,000 as prize.

The jury recognized the Budj Bim Cultural Landscape as an outstanding example of human interaction with the environment spanning over 6,000 years. The complex networks of aquaculture systems alongside traditional land and water management practices bear witness to the engineering skills passed on over generations. Cultural and social practices of the Gunditjmara community, including the harvesting of kooyang (short-finned eel), storytelling, dance and basket-weaving continue to thrive, with the preservation of local heritage enhancing both the livelihoods of the local community as well as the biological, cultural and agricultural diversity of the area.

Ancestral solutions to tackle contemporary challenges

The community’s effective management of the landscape shows that cultural and spiritual linkages with the natural environment can offer solutions to tackling contemporary challenges such as unplanned infrastructure development, depopulation, changes in traditional lifestyles and climate change. As the United Nations co-lead agency of the International Decade of Indigenous Languages, UNESCO seeks to make visible centuries-old practices built on indigenous languages and knowledge, testifying to sustainable biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management and living in harmony with nature.

Recognizing the relationship between peoples and their environment

Funded by the Government of Greece and named after the late Greek Minister of Culture and actress Melina Mercouri, the Prize is awarded every two years to an individual, institution or non-governmental organization that has made innovative and outstanding efforts to protect and manage cultural landscapes. Such landscapes are uniquely shaped by both nature and people and embody a long-lasting relationship between communities and their natural environment, serving as a living testimony to the evolution of societies in relation to their habitat. Budj Bim Cultural Landscape now joins previous laureates of the prize including the Public Institute of Kozjansko Park in Podsreda (Slovenia, 2021) and the Cultural Heritage Institute of the Natural Park of Covam Paul & Ribeira de Torre (Cabo Verde, 2019).


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