Connected to country

Stan Smith, Tim Matton-Johnson and Jacquie Petrusma.

Stan Smith, Tim Matton-Johnson and Jacquie Petrusma.

A new landscape project at the Uniting Aboriginal and Islander Christian Congress (UAICC) Leprena Centre in Hobart aims to immerse visitors into the First Peoples’ cultural connection to country.

Over 70 people gathered to launch the Cultural Land and Playscape in the Hobart suburb of Glenorchy earlier this month.

Tasmania’s Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jacquie Petrusma officially opened the project on 5 October along with Elder Stan Smith and UAICC Tasmania Chairperson, Rev Tim Matton-Johnson.

“We wanted visitors and family of Leprena to engage in ‘a story’ when they first enter the space,” Leprena manager Alison Overeem said.

“We wanted them to not just see, but to feel being on and with country.  With gathering circles, fire pits, bush tucker pods, plants native to country, logs to sit and yarn on, a large sand pit and digging pit there was a healing space for everyone to engage with.”

Alison said that stage one of the cultural land and playscape project is reflective of Leprena’s vision of being an organisation that plants seeds for the First and Second Peoples to grow together and flourish.

“We want to have Aboriginal culture as our compass, to provide a safe cultural space for all, a space that says ‘come and sit, come  and yarn, and come share your hopes and your challenges’,” Alison said.

“We are seeking to give all an experience and a connection with Aboriginal culture, to demonstrate the significance and integral role “connection to country” is for First Peoples.

“I have no doubt the design concept, with its calm tranquillity, natural materials, and circles of cultural safety will be an inspiration to all our UCA and UAICC families.

“Our hope is that other organisations see the concept and design as a gift, and that they may plan to have similar spaces reflecting the oldest living culture on Earth.”

The inter-generational gathering enjoyed a warm Welcome to Country and story, cultural dance performances, Kangaroo Stew, and the opportunity to meet up with old friends and meet new ones.

The completion of the “Learning on and with Country” was a culmination of over two years planning, involving Leprena community and committee members, staff and designers.

“We worked holistically with our UCA Property personnel to bring together the project outcomes,” Leprena manager Alison Overeem said.

“I am so proud of team Leprena and all those involved in the concept planning, design and opening.

“May we all live, learn and walk with and on Country, holding deep within us all the stories of struggle and survival of the First Peoples of this land with dignity, hope, healing and respect.”

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