Sportized Landscapes

Most Sundays, I join my running club, the earnest Richmond Harriers on a trip out to Lysterfield Parkin the southeast of Melbourne.

This park, managed by Parks Victoria, was used as the site for the mountain biking events during the 2006 Stolenwealth (Commonwealth) Games.

By 8am each Sunday morning, the carparks are already brimming with mountain bikers and runners. The members of these sporting cults gather by their automobiles and chit chat before venturing forth into the landscape which has been largely designated for sporting and recreational purposes.

Paths of varying widths criss-cross throughout the park. Sometimes bikers hurtle down hills and at others they make their way achingly slowly up steep inclines. At such moments, runners pass them.

Bikers and runners oftentimes make friendly nods or brief ‘g’days’ as they pass each other by on the tracks. There are sometimes comments which suggest empathy: ‘steep hill this one’ or ‘doing well’. At other times there are more neutral and general comments: ‘good day for it’, ‘great spot, eh’.


Lysterfield Park is on the lands of the Boon Wurrung people who are a part of the Kulin Nation. There may be a sign at the park ‘acknowledging the Traditional Owners’ but there are no specific details. I don’t know how the land is managed and what the interaction is between Traditional and Non-Traditional Owners. The Bunurong Land Council may be involved in the management of Lysterfield Park.

A YouTube video by Parks Victoria states that there are ’30 sites of cultural importance’ at Lysterfield Park. The maps at Lysterfield Park itself, however, do not provide any clear information about them. This knowledge may well be protected. This may be done to prevent the sites from being vandalised or damaged. Perhaps their value or worth is being negotiated.

Parks Victoria have a program in place called Managing Country Together. Out of their 10 key guiding principles, principle no.9 is: ‘Traditional Owner control of cultural heritage’. This is indeed an ideal. Elsewhere, tensions are already clear in the permitting of horses to be used on beaches inWarrnambool. In this case, what is at stake is the hooded plover. Indigenous Cultural Heritage is largely an afterthought – if actually considered at all.


Sportized landscapes. The sportization of the landscape of what is known as Lysterfield Park is one of the outcomes of colonisation. It is unclear how or whether the use of the Park would change if there was greater clarity about the Traditional Ownership of the land. I imagine that the outcome would be something similar as to what is happening regarding rock climbing in Gariwerd – The Grampians: much would change the same and a few places would be designated as being off limits.

For me, a tension seems to exist between the will to develop the park for sporting purposes and the will to protect its heritage value. My presumption is that many of the sites of cultural importance are already greatly damaged or at least greatly reduced in number. I wonder if Lysterfield Park could also its cultural heritage, which belongs to the First Nations peoples, could become a reason for tourist visits, as well as its sporting amenity.

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