THE Willum Warrain Aboriginal Association can “dream bigger now” after Mornington Peninsula Shire Council last week adopted a $5.7 million master plan.
The plan will see the Willum Warrain Gathering Place at Hastings transformed with a new entrance building, gathering place, community auditorium, dedicated elders’ area and a community hub with cafe.
The shire is proposing to extend the Pound Road site to 2.4 hectares and commit to a 30-year lease.
“We are absolutely thrilled – we’ve known it was coming, but to get this concession is a complete validation of everything we’ve been doing here for seven years”, men’s business executive officer Peter Aldenhoven said.
“We are helping mobs recover from the trauma of having their communities decimated – lost history – lost culture – lost family – and, at the same time, preserving the local knowledge of those communities by educating the next generation.”
Each year, thousands of visitors come to Willum Warrain for its cultural immersion tours and the bush nursery education programs designed for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people.
“We can now dream bigger; now that we have council permission, we can start to expand our site to meet the need,” Willum Warrain program coordinator Karsten Poll said.
The mayor Cr Despi O’Connor said the shire was supporting Willum Warrain “to achieve self-determination, and we encourage our community to find out more about how the vision can benefit our whole community.”
The association is calling for financial support through social media to pay for the plan’s first stage.
Jono Herrman, of supporters group HG Children’s Foundation, said money would be raised through the bush nursery and cultural tours, as well as donations and government grants.
“Much of the philanthropic and government grant monies are either matched funding or are looked upon favourably if Willum Warrain can show local support,” he said.
An online donation drive to raise $150,000 is at tinyurl.com/FundWW
“This will not only support the grant-seeking attempts, but allow [a start to] phase one which focuses on a new meeting space and a new entrance building, which in turn, will fast track local employment opportunities for local Indigenous peoples.”
Mr Herrman said it was intended that within five years the centre would welcome 10,000 visitors annually and be home to 3000 members seeking “healing and community”.
The shire says it will support Willum Warrain’s grant application to the Aboriginal Victoria.
“As our area grows, so does the need for our local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community to gather and explore identity and cultural heritage,” Cr Lisa Dixon said.
“We support the [association] to realise their funding goals and we hope to see the master plan achieved.”
A statement on the shire’s website says: “We’ve listened to our local Aboriginal community and we’re supporting their self-determination as identified in the reconciliation action plan.
“An investment in Willum Warrain is an investment into a destination for reconciliation and the hope and healing for Aboriginal people living on the Mornington Peninsula.”