The timing of the announcement is significant as NAIDOC Week is currently being celebrated across the country under the 2021 theme, ‘Heal Country’.
Administrator Ms Peita Duncan said the Aboriginal Gathering Place would be a welcoming, inclusive and culturally safe space with a strong emphasis on self-determination and environmental sustainability.
“A gathering place in the City of Whittlesea will be a first for northern metropolitan Melbourne. It will invite Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people to enjoy a sense of belonging while accessing activities, programs and services that strengthen culture and enhance wellbeing,” Ms Duncan said.
The project will be developed in partnership with local Aboriginal communities, the City of Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place Advisory Group (AGPAG) and the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group (WRG), who have been advocating for a local gathering place for 20 years.
“Gathering places increase connection to culture and facilitate healing for Aboriginal people, as well as enhancing health and wellbeing,” Ms Duncan said.
“The City of Whittlesea’s Aboriginal Gathering Place will be pivotal to our reconciliation efforts from both a health perspective and in building the broader community’s understanding of Aboriginal culture.”
Gunditjmara woman Karen Bryant, a member of AGPAG, said the Gathering Place will be for Aboriginal people but equally it will be a place for non-Aboriginal people to enjoy, learn about and experience Aboriginal culture.
“This project has been a long time in the works, a vision many of our Elders in community have held for 20 years in one way or another, and we are excited to see it progress to this point,” Ms Bryant said.
“The vision is for a place that serves the broader community, providing lots of opportunities for non-Aboriginal community members to learn and engage with local culture and history. We envision activities like school tours and workplace cultural competency training and education programs.
“I want to thank Council – Lydia Wilson, Peita Duncan and Chris Eddy – for its support, as well as CEO Craig Lloyd. Without strong support from leadership, this project would not be possible.”
Other Aboriginal Gathering Places in Victoria can be found in Croydon – Mullum Mullum Indigenous Gathering Place and in Hastings – Willum Warrain Aboriginal Gathering Place. A final Business Case for the City of Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place will be presented to Council by March 2022.