Revamp inspired by Yagan

Toby HusseyAlbany Advertiser
Jon Doust and Lester Coyne at the Mokare statue in the Alison Hartman Gardens.
Camera IconJon Doust and Lester Coyne at the Mokare statue in the Alison Hartman Gardens. Credit: Laurie Benson/Picture: Laurie Benson, Laurie Benson Albany Advertiser

The Mokare memorial at Alison Hartman Gardens is central to proposed renovations to turn the area into a space with terraced seating, public art and native plants.

Alison Hartman Gardens is the grassed area north of Albany Visitor Centre and, after considering the views of more than 700 residents, the City of Albany has proposed to redesign it into a Noongar-centric space similar to Perth’s Yagan Square.

Proposed in the $700,000 project are upgrades to the park’s Mokare memorial that would include granite paving and boulders, engraved artwork and native plants.

That would be one part of a gardens revamp to install a performance and play area, stepped amphitheatre seating, jarrah decking, public art, shade and water fountains.

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There has also been a proposal for a commemorative garden at Mokare’s burial site, believed to be near the corner of Grey and Collie streets, at a later date.

Mokare was a Minang Noongar man who played a key role in indigenous Australian-settler relations in the region in the early 1800s, favouring non-violence, informing British settlers about the customs and beliefs of his people, and guiding settlers throughout the region.

Albany resident Jon Doust, who has for years campaigned for greater recognition of Mokare in the region, said he would like to go one step further and have the town centre renamed. “It has no name, it’s ‘the town square’,” he said.

“It’s essential to the cultural life of this region.

“If it were named after Mokare I reckon that would be appropriate respect for a good man.”

Noongar elder Lester Coyne supported the idea of renaming the town centre in Mokare’s honour.

City of Albany Mayor Dennis Wellington said, if approved by the council at its July 24 meeting, the project would bring life to an unused part of the CBD. “The whole proposal is to make the square more interactive, like we did with the town square,” he said.

“It makes the whole area more useable rather than just having an open garden at the moment.”

Call for jobs, not tourist attractions

However the renovation will do little for Aboriginal people in Albany if it doesn’t give them jobs, Southern Aboriginal Corporation’s Oscar Colbung says.

Mr Colbung said jobs for Aboriginal people, not tourist attractions, should be a City priority.

“A lot of the stuff (in the proposal) is to benefit mainly the City of Albany,” he said.

“At the end of the day it’s just beautifying the place for the City of Albany’s benefit, nobody else. “I’d like to see these people be given opportunities, jobs that will lead them further.”

The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander unemployment rate in Albany is above 16 per cent — three times higher than the norm for the region.

He called for more programs that help Aboriginal people find work, like the Community Development Employment Program which was scrapped in 2011.

A City spokesman said, “The City’s procurement and internal recruitment practices encourages the participation of Aboriginal people through either direct or indirect employment in projects and more generally across City services.”

The City said the project would consult closely with the Aboriginal community.

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