By Tanya Faulkner
Sunshine and culture filled the air in Upper Ferntree Gully, as its local community house welcomed the public to enjoy the opening of their latest project.
Coonara Community House held their Yarning Circle launch on Saturday 28 October, which welcomed approximately 250 people through its grounds to celebrate Indigenous culture.
The Yarning Circle, which received council funding to support the project from the state government’s Suburban Revitalisation Grant, has brought a whole new vibe to the house and the community.
Project Manager Sierra Laird said it was an absolutely beautiful day, and she was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
“The day went so well, we had no idea what the turnout was going to be because we just had it as a Facebook event.
“The page only had about 100 people interested, and 30 people saying they were going, but we actually ended up with around 250 people coming through.
“It was beautiful, there were people of all ages, little ones and older people, of all cultures, coming together,” she said.
The day kicked off at 11am with a range of indigenous market stall holders, children’s arts and crafts with some local elders, a bush tucker lunch, and performances by dance troop Djarlo and didgeridoo player Ganga Giri.
Ms Laird said all of the events were so special for the community.
“The Smoking Ceremony was extremely special and the Elders were invited to join followed by the community.
“When the dancers were dancing, they encouraged people to come and dance around the fire with them.
“With children’s activities, storytime, saltbush popcorn, games and more it was a day filled with community spirit,” she said.
Ms Laird said a lot of people got behind the event to make it what it was.
“Stevie and Abe from Sustainative were cooking up a storm in our Community Kitchen serving Yellow Lentil Curry and Lemon Myrtle Poho and it was delicious.
“Our 10 Indigenous Market stall holders set up to showcase their inspiring Art and craft and it was busy,” she said.
The project has been months of work to bring to life, including a collaboration with Bunnings Scoresby and Yellowstone Landscaping to redesign their bush tucker garden out the front of the house, commissioning a mural with artist Natalie Jade, and weeks of behind the scenes work by the Coonara Community House team.
Cr Meagan Baker – Dobson Ward for Knox City Council and Ms Laird unveiled the Natalie Jade Mural with a red velvet drop and the crowd were wowed!
Ms Laird said Natalie was inspired by the Upper Ferntree Gully area in her piece.
“Natalie used to grow up in the area, but now lives out Bass Coast way.
“She wanted to be part of the event and her artwork is full of gum leaves and things that reminded her of her time in Upper Ferntree Gully.
“It is stunning and represents our area so well,” she said.
Ms Laird said overall the event received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the community.
“I did a post on our Facebook asking for general feedback from the event, and it was beautiful.
“People said it was a great way to connect with the community, and enjoy a relaxed, fascinating day,” she said.
Coonara Community House manager Sandra Romero told Star Mail in previous months that the idea behind the yarning circle was to create a place for indigenous peoples of the Hills to come together and chat (or ’yarn’) and be able to connect with each other, and the wider community for opportunities.
“We are very welcoming, respectful and understanding of indigenous needs, and we provide a safe place for them to come together and chat, connect and develop with various programs held here,” she said.
Coonara Community House helps to connect indigenous peoples of the Knox community with growth and development opportunities, as well as connecting them with employers for jobs, and giving them a space to feel safe.
For more information, or to connect with the house, visit facebook.com/CoonaraCommunityHouse