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North Burnett


SHARING stories and history will be part of the focus of the new IWC North Burnett Health & Wellbeing Community Centre, thanks to an innovative cultural project.

Working with Traditional Owners and Elders from the region’s townships, IWC has been creating a visual display that will incorporate original artworks to be displayed, and also transformed into aluminium screens to wrap the new centre.

“IWC is committed to bringing together, and empowering, the Voice of our communities, which has led to this screens project for North Burnett,” said IWC CEO Wayne Mulvany, who has been actively involved in the meetings with Traditional Owners and Elders.

“In 2019, when we expanded the IWC Bundaberg Complex, we were able to incorporate a streetscape which captured the history of that region as passed down by the Ancestors to Traditional Owners / Elders. That project won the Premier’s Award in the 2020 Queensland Reconciliation Awards.

“When we designed the new North Burnett facility, which sits on the former YMCA site in Fielding St, Gayndah, we wanted to pay the same respect to the Indigenous peoples of this region.”

The townships of Monto, Eidsvold, Mundubbera, Gayndah and Ban Ban Springs bordering the Wakka Wakka Tribal lands area west of Biggenden each have a dedicated artwork and external screen. The screens are layered along the ramp that leads into the centre, IWC Gym and indoor sports stadium and each measures approximately 2m x 2m.

A sixth screen, which shields the ambulance bay at the front of the centre, captures the importance of the Burnett River and its connection to all of the townships.

“The artworks, created by Jacky Poulter who delivered the paintings for the Bundaberg project, are hanging in the centre ready for the opening. IWC is now working with the Traditional Owners / Elders to create plaques that will sit under each of the individual pieces,” said Mr Mulvany.

IWC North Burnett Assistant Manager Cynthia George and Indigenous Health Practitioner Clem Shadford have been working closely on the screens project.

Mr Shadford, a Wakka Wakka Traditional Owner / Elder, said: “Bringing together the townships’ stories, totems and histories in this screens project is an important step in our region’s journey towards Reconciliation in Action.

“This is something that hasn’t been spoken about – when I was young you weren’t allow to talk about our past because there was pressure by the Europeans to move away from it. There have been a couple of generations where knowledge has been lost. But these days the younger generation wants to know about our heritage. This project is important because to go forward this community needs to look back and show respect for our history and the Ancestors. We want to learn all about our culture.”

Ms George, of the Wakka Wakka tribe, said: “The IWC North Burnett centre is a place of community, of healing and progress towards better health and wellbeing for all in our communities, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. I am proud to be part of this whole project.”

The IWC North Burnett Health & Wellbeing Community Centre will be officially opened on Thursday 16 September. The official event will be strictly invitation only, due to COVID restrictions, but from 1pm-2pm that day the community will be invited to take a short tour of the new centre, including viewing the artworks and screens.

“The plaques are still under way, but we will have those in place as soon as possible,” said Mr Mulvany.

Aunty Roslyn Dodd, one of the Traditional Owners / Elders consulted around the screens project, said: “We already go into the school with the language program. This project is an important part of how the Wakka Wakka people are sharing culture. We want the young people to come out and support culture and we hope this can help us to encourage that.

“We are still on our spiritual journey and we draw strength from our ancestors and are proud of our heritage. Our young people are our future, and part of our ongoing journey.”

Aunty Yvonne Chapman said: ““It’s raising awareness that the spirit is still strong for the Wakka Wakka people as well as other Aboriginal people and want that to carry on through a ripple effect.”

The new, purpose-built IWC centre has clinical and community facilities, and a transformational gym, and IWC also is upgrading and re-opening the indoor sports stadium which was donated by the Robinson family in the 1990s but which has been closed since the Gayndah YMCA shut its doors in late 2016.

Services and programs to be delivered from the Centre are for all people across the North Burnett, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, without discrimination or barriers. The Indigenous Land and Sea Corporation (ILSC) has contributed $980,000 to the $2.43m project, co-funded by IWC.

ILSC Group CEO Joe Morrison said the organisation’s significant contribution toward the construction of the centre would assist the IWC to continue to provide health and wellbeing services to more than 500 Indigenous community members.

“We know that Indigenous community-controlled health provision is a fundamental vehicle to Closing the Gap, while we also understand that owning assets provides a cultural, social and economic base for our communities,” he said

“Assisting Indigenous groups to develop their land assets to deliver culturally appropriate services and life-changing outcomes is what the ILSC is most proud of.”