Moving On

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St Kilda is a place people come to from the suburbs to meet and share a drink. It has always had a diverse community. Tourists and artists are drawn to creative and tolerant attitude that has nourished being different. Aboriginal people used to come to St Kilda from all over Australia to meet and share a yarn.

The vicnet website has a map of historical sites that document important sites that include a gum tree that Koori people used to meet for their Corroboree. The Albert Park Lake was once a natural lagoon and the original people used to gather there, they sang, yarned and cooked. It was a simple life before they were moved on. The Gum tree still stands today.

The map also marks a small triangle of land called Cleve Gardens. It was an important meeting place for indigenous people and they came from all over Australia to share. When the Grand Prix came to the area the amenities that had an Aboriginal flag painted on it was bulldozed down and the Aboriginals were moved on.

I asked Alan Thorpe, from Ngwala Willumbong Co-Op why Aboriginal people like to meet outdoors? He said;

“The best yarns happen outside because you are connected to the country, traditionally this is where it all happens not indoors….you feel the air, you feel the earth, you feel safe…this is where we feel at our best, if you take that away we have nothing”

In the urban environment we can witness traditional life as the original people gather outdoors just as we gather indoors. Renowned photographer Ricky Maynard was one of the St Kilda group that used to gather there. He documented some of these meetings with a camera in his Urban Diaries series. It was an important meeting place.

Local development is currently a contentious issue in St Kilda. Mr Thorpe claimed that it was becoming difficult to find a place due to all of the development. He felt that they were running out of space and he said:

“When you find a space they move you on”.

Local worker and artist Bea Edwards commented that the Tasmanian and Victorian indigenous communities were the most disrupted and have suffered from a lot of interference. She said many local Aboriginal people “are tired and worn out”. She said that “they try to build pride but it keeps getting knocked down and they wonder why there is substance abuse.”

She said that there is always a police presence when an aboriginal bunch gathers. She asks;

“Why are we always being moved on?”

Ms Edwards attended the conference that was held in Forge Creek last week. At the conference indigenous people gathered to find solutions for the substance abuse that has been poisoning their community.

When Aboriginal people discuss their meetings they always use the word ‘important’. A Corroboree is the meeting of community. St Kilda known by the original people as Yuroe Yuroke has been a meeting place for thousands of years. Part of the reconciliation process is to learn to understand these cultural needs and to have a consultative relationship with community leaders so they can have a say in the way they are treated.

The St Kilda Mayor Rachel Powning said that the “Council has a Reconciliation Action Plan out for community consultation”

The healing process of reconciliation includes tolerance and understanding. When you see a mob gathering, feel safe, they are just having a yarn and a laugh.

By April Forward Nelson

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