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Sparking Koori inclusion in CFA
Last week, CFA members from the Volunteer Support Program and staff from District 20 in Loddon Mallee Region met with the Kerang Local Aboriginal Network.
The meeting was the first formal opportunity for CFA and the Kerang Local Aboriginal Network members to come together to explore pathways for engagement and exchange locally.
“This is the first of many flagship activities planned to underpin the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan, which is in the early stages of development,” said Debra Salvagno from the Volunteer Support Program.
“We will be facilitating new relationships and documenting and supporting engagement activities between CFA volunteers and Koori communities around the state over the coming months.”
The broad support for the Koori Inclusion Action Plan is demonstrated by the enthusiasm and interest from District 20 and the local community.
District 20 Operations Officer Peter Taylor said the culture of fire is something we share and by coming together we create opportunities to learn from each other.
Local Aboriginal elder Esther Kirby agreed. “We should bring our elders, youth and CFA members together to explore country and learn how Aboriginal people used fire in traditional land management. This sort of thing will also help us keep our culture alive," Esther said.
CFA was invited to attend the meeting by Deborah Webster, Indigenous Community Development Broker with Department of Planning and Community Development. The Kerang Local Aboriginal network is one of seven local Indigenous Networks in the Loddon Mallee Region.
“Our Kerang Local Aboriginal Network is a voice for local Aboriginal people,” Deborah said. “We identify issues and priorities and seek pathways for our community. This meeting is a great opportunity to develop a partnership with CFA and also raise awareness about local Aboriginal culture”.
District 20 Community Education Coordinator Kevin Sleep also touched on this, giving details of how CFA members have engaged with the Koori community over the years. He said further cooperation would help raise awareness about Koori cultural practices throughout the Lodden Mallee Region.
The meeting, which was held at the Kerang Aboriginal Community Centre, was well attended by local Aboriginal elders and community members who discussed a range of community and cultural issues including a proposal to dry out some of the lakes in the Kerang Lakes region.
The CEO of Gannawarra Shire Council, Jason Russell, touched on some of the areas where the Shire and the Kerang Local Aboriginal Network work together.
Community Preparedness Project Manager Maxine Sleep said the council was excited about developing these relationships.
“We’re pleased that Loddon Mallee was the launching pad for a range of activities that will inform the CFA Koori Inclusion Action Plan around the state,” she said.
At the close of the meeting, CFA was given a round of applause by the Kerang Local Aboriginal Network members.
Tracey Mastropavlos, Volunteer Support Program, said the meeting was really the start of something special. “The enthusiasm is contagious. We’re keen to discover ways that will support volunteers in their engagement with Victoria’s Koori community,” she said.
Colleen Scriven said suggestions of community safety education programs being offered to the Kerang Local Aboriginal Network members leading up to the fire season, were enthusiastically accepted by the group.
“It was a very positive meeting whereby strong partnerships are expected to evolve” Colleen said.