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Aboriginal Gathering Place

The City of Whittlesea is planning to build an Aboriginal Gathering Place in the heart of Quarry Hills Regional Parkland in South Morang.

Our vision

The City of Whittlesea’s vision is to create a welcoming, inclusive and culturally safe space where all Aboriginal people have a sense of belonging and have access to activities, programs and services that strengthen culture and enhance wellbeing.

About the Aboriginal Gathering Place

The City of Whittlesea is committed to reconciliation and supporting opportunities for improved cultural, social and health outcomes for local Aboriginal people and communities.

The Aboriginal Gathering Place will be a welcoming, inclusive and culturally safe space where Aboriginal people can enjoy a sense of belonging, with access to programs and services that strengthen culture and enhance wellbeing.

There are approximately 14 Gathering Places in Victoria. This space will be the first of its kind in the City of Whittlesea.

The Aboriginal Gathering Place will be located on Wurundjeri Country within the Quarry Hills Regional Parkland in South Morang, creating an invaluable connection with the landscape, including local flora and fauna, and picturesque views east towards the Yarra Ranges.

The location and design of the Aboriginal Gathering Place has been established through collaboration and consultation with the Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place Advisory Group.

Objectives

The Aboriginal Gathering Place has been co-designed with the Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place Advisory Group to:

- Improve the health and wellbeing of Aboriginal communities

- Provide a safe and inclusive space to connect

- Support the sharing of knowledge

- Empower people through social and cultural activities

- Foster reconciliation and healing

- Improve access, equity and opportunity

Frequently Asked Questions

An Aboriginal Gathering Place provides a culturally safe and inclusive space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to come together to feel socially and culturally connected to community.

It supports and facilitates a variety of cultural activities and programs that incorporate art, music, language and storytelling that strengthen culture and enhance wellbeing.

The Aboriginal Gathering Place will cater for all ages and all abilities.

It will be a space designed to incorporate reconciliation, truth telling and educational services to the wider community to foster reconciliation and community healing.

The Aboriginal Gathering Place will be located in the Quarry Hills Regional Parkland in South Morang.

The hills and ridges are rich in Aboriginal cultural heritage, with the parkland used as an east-west and north-south movement corridor.

The site's relative remoteness offers compelling open views east towards the Yarra Ranges and the presence of local flora and fauna help to connect this place with country.

Minimal topographical change is proposed in order to maintain the integrity of soil composition and enhance the local native flora to reaffirm the site's already strong connection to country.

The City of Whittlesea's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population is the third largest within Melbourne and its surrounding suburbs, and has grown 38 per cent since the 2016 census.

Aboriginal people living in the City of Whittlesea have limited local access to culturally appropriate services that respond to their immediate and long-term cultural needs.

While about 14 Aboriginal Gathering Places exist across Victoria, currently there is no stand-alone Aboriginal community-controlled gathering place programming in the northern metropolitan region.

Aboriginal people are 2.7 times more likely to feel high or very high levels of psychological distress. Additionally, life expectancy is about 10 years less and hospitalisation rates for circulatory disease are almost twice as high than for non-Indigenous people.

An Aboriginal Gathering Place is critical to improving the complex health and wellbeing deficits faced by our Aboriginal community.

The benefits of an Aboriginal Gathering Place include:

- Increased sense of belonging and connection to culture

- Increased self-determination

- Increased health and wellbeing outcomes

- Increased mainstream awareness and valuing of Aboriginal culture

- Increased opportunities for reconciliation activities between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal people

The City of Whittlesea consulted with more than 67 community members and the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group in compiling its 2018 feasibility study.

The Whittlesea Aboriginal Gathering Place Advisory Group (formerly the Aboriginal Gathering Place Governance Group) has met on more than a dozen occasions since 2021 to workshop project needs and refine the community vision, operating model and governance model.

Preliminary discussions have been undertaken with subject matter experts from government departments, Aboriginal Victoria and the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group to establish relationships and seek advice on partnership and funding opportunities and planning requirements.

Initial discussions have also been undertaken to ensure this project aligns with the Victorian Government's policy commitment to gathering places and self-determination, including the Korin Korin Balit-Djak policy, Treaty process and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for Aboriginal Australians.

Consultation with the local Aboriginal community and the broader community will continue during the project's design and delivery phases.

The gathering place will offer a combination of regular, structured and planned activities, as well as unplanned activities, such as:

- Cultural strengthening and knowledge through arts, language, dancing, woodwork and other crafts, healing programs and storytelling

- Aboriginal cultural events and observance of days of cultural significance, including Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week

- Men, women and Elder-specific programs

- Sports and recreation programs and activities for people of all ages

- Youth programs such as homework clubs, afterschool programs and life skills workshops

- Aboriginal-focused meetings such as the Whittlesea Reconciliation Group and Local Aboriginal Network

The expected capital cost of the Aboriginal Gathering Place is estimated at $10 million.

The construction of the facility is contingent on a minimum $5 million investment from the State and/or Federal Governments, as outlined in Council's business case endorsed at the July 2022 council meeting.

Council will continue to advocate to the State and Federal Governments to support this invaluable initiative.

The Quarry Hills Regional Parkland has been identified as the ideal location to establish the Aboriginal Gathering Place.

In November 2022, the City of Whittlesea released a draft Quarry Hills Regional Parkland Future Directions Plan developed in partnership with the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation - outlining a long-term vision for the area.

This vision includes the Aboriginal Gathering Place and plans for the Granite Hills Major Community Park.

Construction is expected to start in early 2024, with the facility expected to open in 2025, subject to funding.

How will the Aboriginal Gathering Place affect local flora and fauna?

Minimal topographical change is proposed for the construction of the Aboriginal Gathering Place to maintain the integrity of soil composition and local native flora.

The building has been designed to consider the impacts to the natural landscape, including the retention of several significant manna gums.

The existing road network, shed and depot areas all represent disturbed land. These areas will be rejuvenated to provide suitable access and convenient parking without the need for significant disturbance beyond the existing footprints.

Timeline

Concept/detailed design: December 2023

Design available for community to view: Early 2024

Construction to begin: Early to mid-2024

Facility opens: 2025