Lake Bolac - With the 10th Lake Bolac Eel Festival to be held this weekend, the Festival Healing Walk, traditionally held in the lead up to the Festival, got under way last Thursday.
This year the walking group is camping on Lake Bolac's east beach for six nights and undertaking day walks to places of particular interest.
A traditional smoking ceremony, performed by Indigenous elder Ted Lovett, sent the walkers off safely on their first trek. This first walk took in a cluster of wetlands to the west of Lake Bolac with property owners joining the walking group to talk about the history of the area.
The walkers will also visit wetlands to the east of Lake Bolac and the Mt Hamilton Caves. They will walk a stretch of the Hopkins River, the length of the Bushy Creek and explore the headwaters of the Wannon River.
School students and other members of the public are invited to join the group for a circumnavigation of Lake Bolac today - the last day of the walk.
It is particularly relevant to the 'Return to Country' theme of the 2014 Festival that several of these walks will take in soldier settlement areas.
This year the Festival is looking at Indigenous service, particularly during WWI, as well as taking a look at soldier settlers 'returning to country' from both World Wars.
The requirement for soldier settlers to clear their blocks as part of their contracts has contributed to many of the land management issues faced by current generations of farmers.
Many of today's farmers who are addressing these problems are descendants of soldier settlers.
These issues will be discussed at the Festival Forum on Saturday from 11am. Keynote speaker is Hamilton historian Peter Bakker who has studied the history of Indigenous service men and women from South Western Victoria.
Mr Bakker has prepared an exhibition of photographs and other items which will be on display at the Festival Art Exhibition.
Mr Bakker has also published a booklet, 'Fighting for Country: Honouring Aborigines from South West Victoria who served Australia during war time' which records much of this history. The booklet has been supported by an Anzac Centenary Grant and will be available at the Festival to interested people.
Rob Youl is the second keynote speaker at the Forum. Mr Youl will look at issues of land management in relation to soldier settlement and to the achievements of the Landcare movement in addressing many of the environmental issues on farming land.
The Indigenous service theme will be carried through to the Twilight Celebration with the premiere performance of 'Flayed Identities'.
This work, which is supported by Australia Council funding, includes narration by Indigenous elder Ted Lovett about his family's extensive military history, accompanied by music composed by Associate Professor Thomas Reiner of the Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music at Monash University.
The main festival day is Saturday from 11am to midnight. Tickets are available on line at www.trybooking.com/75040 or at the gate on the day.
More information can be obtained from the Festival website www.eelfstival.org.au.