Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place advisory group member Karen Bryant is hoping State Government funding will come to fruition so work can begin on the project.

The City of Whittlesea’s Aboriginal Gathering Place is one step closer to reality following council’s endorsement of a business case.

The business case outlines a $10 million-plus project, with the City of Whittlesea seeking a $5-million contribution from the State Government towards the gathering place.

Subject to funding support, construction is expected to start in 2023.

Developed in partnership with the Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place Advisory Group, WAGPAG, the Aboriginal Gathering Place is proposed be located on an elevated plateau in the Quarry Hills Regional Parkland in South Morang.

A distinct community centre will embrace the surrounding natural environment with indoor and outdoor activity spaces including multi-purpose rooms and a kitchen, outdoor areas for cultural ceremonies and gatherings, community education, as well as external active play and discovery areas.

City of Whittlesea administrator and Whittlesea Reconciliation Group, WRG, representative Peita Duncan said she was pleased with council’s partnership approach to such a landmark project.

“This project will not only help to strengthen identity and wellbeing for Aboriginal people in our community, it will also provide a space for the non-Aboriginal community to learn about, engage with and celebrate Aboriginal culture through knowledge sharing, cultural events and structured programming,” she said.

“This will be the only gathering place of this size and scale in the broader northern metropolitan region and it’s important we acknowledge the sustained advocacy efforts by the WRG and community members on this issue over many years.”

Latest census data shows the Aboriginal population in the City of Whittlesea has more than doubled in the past 10 years – the second largest population of Aboriginal residents in metropolitan Melbourne.

Aboriginal Gathering Places provide a safe and welcoming community centre for both the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community to reflect, celebrate and connect to Aboriginal culture.

Activities at a gathering place can include sharing food, performing ceremonies, exchanging knowledge, and creating supportive networks to ensure continuity of culture and traditional practices.

They promote the importance of culture in supporting positive health and wellbeing for Aboriginal people and may also act as a conduit for local Aboriginal people to access services and programs.

Council will now work collaboratively with the WAGPAG to co-design the facility and engage with the Aboriginal community and the broader community on the programming and activities on the site.

“We are so thrilled we are able to bring this vision to life to celebrate our rich Aboriginal heritage, empower Aboriginal people to thrive and bring the broader community along on our journey toward reconciliation,” Ms Duncan said.She said council was committed to supporting the WAGPAG to transition over time to an incorporated Aboriginal Controlled Organisation, leading decision-making and operation of the gathering place.

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