8 December 2023

New safe space for First Nations’ people

The new safe gathering space will be located near St Oswald’s and its Wominjeka reconciliation garden. Picture: Jenan Taylor

Jenan Taylor

28 June 2023

A new First Nations’ gathering place aims to help strengthen the Aboriginal community in Melbourne’s east.

The Murnong First Peoples’ Gathering Place will launch near St Oswald’s Glen Iris during NAIDOC week.

Wiradjuri man and founding member the Reverend Canon Glenn Loughrey said the centre would connect Indigenous people with each other, and provide safe wellbeing, cultural and education services and activities to help support their mental health.

Mr Loughrey said the area’s Aboriginal community members decided to create the place because there were several Indigenous families in local schools, and a new public housing estate was being finished nearby.

About 1500 people identified as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander in the Boroondara and three surrounding council areas in the latest census.

Read more: Christians must push for change for Indigenous people: Common Grace

Mr Loughrey said they would normally need to travel to Ringwood or Fitzroy to access Indigenous gathering places.

When the Boroondara council identified St Oswald’s Wominjeka reconciliation garden as a significant cultural spot in the area, the community decided that near that location was a prime spot for the venue, he said.

But Mr Loughrey said establishing it was a long-term process that was ongoing and needed discussions about men’s, women’s and family groups and activities, and their funding.

He said the word Murnong in the centre’s title meant yam daisy, and referred to the food that was the staple nourishment of the area’s Indigenous people before settlers arrived with sheep and cattle and endangered the plant.

“So there’s that link to good health. We are looking at developing a garden which will have yam daisies growing and other edible foods,” Mr Loughrey said.

The Murnong First People’s Gathering Place will launch on 6 July at a special mob only event.

Uncle Shane Charles will conduct a smoking ceremony, Aunty Zeta Thomson will welcome attendees, and Mr Loughrey will present the vision for the centre.

For further details please phone 0418 911 712.

If you or anyone you know needs support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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