Mount Barker marks a milestone with opening of Aboriginal community centre
The Mount Barker Aboriginal Community Centre officially opened its doors yesterday as part of the town’s NAIDOC Week celebrations after a huge effort from the local community.
The Mt Barker Aboriginal Progress Association has been working for decades to see the underused hall on Montem Street transformed into a hub for the community.
Pardelup Prison Farm prisoners and Mt Barker police officer-in-charge Sgt David Johnson have worked over the past 18 months to restore the hall, which has sat dormant for 20 years.
Yesterday, the community came together to celebrate the milestone with a special opening attended by new Corrective Services Deputy Commissioner Michael Reynolds.
Mt Barker Progress Association chairwoman Joy Ugle said the centre would provide a meeting place where the community could relax, host classes and events, and find support.
“It’s important because the late Godfrey Colbung pushed so hard to get the centre running for all of the Noongars and he worked with other agencies to see that people were given equal opportunities,” she said.
“During NAIDOC Week it has come at a good time for us to keep that knowledge and recognition for what he has done for us, and he will always be remembered.
“It’s just giving people a place away from home so they can sit down, have a cuppa, and have a yarn, and it doesn’t matter who you are.”
Pardelup Prison Farm Supt Jodi Miller said the initiative was an opportunity for the prisoners to provide reparation to the community.
“Apart from enhancing our community, these projects allow prisoners to practise their education and training in a meaningful way as they prepare for release to the community,” she said.
Sgt Johnson said he was extremely pleased to see the centre open.
“It was an opportunity to work with Pardelup Prison Farm and (we) were able to start a renovation project that is still ongoing today, and we’ve got a lot of work to do,” he said.
“It is now a meeting place for our locals ... and they can really meet and unite and become a strong voice for their people.”
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