Walliabup Cultural and Visitors Centre

Published on Wed 16 June 2021 5:07pm

There’s no doubt that Australia has a lot further to go and so much to gain from working with First Nations Australians on the path of reconciliation. That requires effort and energy on many fronts. It’s not a task that can be usefully separated into practical and cultural measures, because they’re logically intertwined.

Mr Wilson (5:07pm) – I was very glad to get an update last week from the City of Cockburn about the creation of a new Aboriginal, and indeed cultural and business, centre to be sited at Bibra Lake, or Walliabup, a site of great significance to the Beeliar Noongar people, and an area in which there is evidence of Indigenous cultural practice that reaches back 55,000 years.

It’s a project that has been driven by Cockburn’s Indigenous reference group, comprised of Aboriginal elders, traditional owners and community members, with the current design being a collaborative work guided by the award-winning Officer Woods Architects.

The structure will draw upon and express the form of the southwestern snake-necked turtle that lives in Walliabup. The centre’s purpose will be to promote and share the area’s rich Noongar history and to strengthen the living culture through stories, language, music, dance and art.

There’s no doubt that Australia has a lot further to go and so much to gain from working with First Nations Australians on the path of reconciliation. That requires effort and energy on many fronts. It’s not a task that can be usefully separated into practical and cultural measures, because they’re logically intertwined.

Fighting discrimination, securing constitutional reform, increasing cultural understanding and knowledge across the Australian community and delivering on the enormous goodwill, hard work and promise that is represented by the Uluru Statement from the Heart—all these things go hand in hand with the vital effort to close the gap when it comes to education, workforce participation, income, housing and health.

In recent years, the city of Fremantle has established the Walyalup Aboriginal Cultural Centre and will soon open the new town hall and administrative complex in the renamed Walyalup Koort, or the heart of Walyalup.

I want to recognise and applaud the efforts being made by traditional owners and other Indigenous members of the community in Cockburn and Fremantle to lead this delivery of Indigenous cultural infrastructure and to see the wider use of Noongar language in place naming and other aspects of civic life.

They have spoken, and the councils in Fremantle and Cockburn have listened.

But there’s certainly scope for such work, in the roller-coaster from one budget to the next, to be better supported by the federal government. We need to better protect our Indigenous heritage. We also need to invest in new forms of cultural capital: investments that will connect the past to the present and revitalise First Nations stories, language, and deep understanding of our environment.

There’s no doubt that Australia does not yet sufficiently benefit from and pay respect to our unique heritage, which is of unparalleled scale and richness.

We should have a national centre of First Nations culture, and there should be an institutional presence of that kind in every part of Australia.

Perhaps in the future there’ll be an opportunity to link outward from that high-level national culture framework to a network of local centres like the one that has been established in Walyalup and that will soon be established in Walliabup.

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