By Evelyn Leckie

AN Aboriginal gathering place is high on the agenda for Whittlesea Reconciliation Group in addressing the needs of Aboriginal people in the community.

Group members met with Shadow Minister for Families and Social Services Linda Burney, Federal Member for McEwen Rob Mitchell and City of Whittlesea Mayor Lawrie Cox and Cr Emilia Sterjova to discuss the Aboriginal community’s increasing population and its community-controlled services.

Whittlesea Reconciliation Group raised with Ms Burney and Mr Mitchell the need for an Aboriginal gathering place within the community, which would act as conduits to other services.

The group believes a gathering place would have positive impacts on the wider non-indigenous community and would be a pivotal service to develop cultural connections.

Other key initiatives that were discussed were the Bubup Wilam Children and Family Centre, Dardi Munwurro Indigenous leadership and coaching programs, the debate surrounding changing the date of Australia Day and Victorian Aboriginal Health Service’s new satellite clinic in Epping.

Cr Lawrie Cox, who attended the meeting as a Whittlesea Reconciliation Group member, said the meeting allowed the group to speak directly with politicians rather than through council process.

“We have been strengthening the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group for the past two years – we want to keep that engagement going,” Cr Cox said.

“We’ve got to sit down and have some respect for each other – that’s why I’ve changed my stance on the change the date.

“Mr Mitchell said he was pleased to introduce Ms Burney to the members of Whittlesea Reconciliation Group

“The City of Whittlesea has the fastest growing Aboriginal population in Victoria, and that illuminates another issue we spoke on – that it is vital to remember that Aboriginal communities exist outside of rural parts of the country, and their experiences and needs must always be part of the conversation,” Mr Mitchell said.

“It was particularly helpful to hear from Whittlesea Reconciliation Group about their vision and plans for a local gathering place, something that is completely lacking in the north of Victoria.”

Co-chair of Whittlesea Reconciliation Group and Gunditjmara man Andrew Morrison said the group was looking forward to more opportunities to stand up for Aboriginal communities and drive reconciliation across Whittlesea and beyond.

“It’s great to see the Federal MPs listening to our communities and we look forward to more of it,” Mr Morrison said.