Learning on and with Country

Learning on and with Country, Uniting Church Australia

By Alison Overeem, Leprena Centre Manager, UAICC

A group of over 70 people gathered for the unveiling of the Cultural Landscape at Leprena, the home of UAICC Tasmania in Glenorchy.

The completion of the playscape was a culmination of over two years planning with community, staff, committee and designers.

We want visitors and family of Leprena to engage in “a story” when they first enter the space at Leprena.

A space that says “come and sit, come and yarn, come share your hopes and your challenges”.

We wanted them to not just see but to feel being on and with country.  With gathering circles, fire pits, bush tucker pods, plants native to country, logs to sit and yarn on, a large sand pit and digging pit, there is a healing space for everyone to engage with.

The project is reflective of our vision as an organisation – to plant the seeds, to grow together and to flourish as First and Second Peoples.  To have Aboriginal culture as our compass, to provide a safe cultural space for all.

Using natural materials, it is as if for a moment we are immersed out on Country.  We seek to give people an experience of the significance and integral role “connection to country” has for First Peoples.

Our hope is that other organisations see the concept and design as a gift, a gift in how they may plan to have similar spaces reflecting the oldest living culture on Earth. A space that says we honour and pay respects to the Traditional Owners of this Country we gather and work on.

I am so proud of team Leprena and all those involved in the concept planning, design and official opening on 5 October.

The inter-generational gathering enjoyed a warm Welcome to Country and story, cultural dance performances, kangaroo stew, and the opportunity to meet up with old friends and meet new ones. The collective immersion in the outdoor environment was a testament to the impact and invitation of the spaces – holding and keeping stories, past, present and future…

The Hon Jacquie Petrusma MP officially opened the project, along with Elder Stan Smith and UAICC Tasmania Chairperson Tim Matton Johnson.

May we all live, learn and walk with and on Country, holding deep within us all the stories of struggle and survival of the First Peoples of this land with dignity, hope, healing and respect.