DROUIN’S refurbished Memorial Park was officially opened at a ceremony [in July].
Above: Kurnai elders Cheryl Drayton and Sandra Mullett with Drouin ward councillor Tricia Jones during the smoking ceremony. Photos by William PJ Kulich
First published in the 10 July 2015 edition of the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
New entrances, pathways, landscaping, artwork and assembly spaces have been created at the park, which dominates the heart of the town’s CBD.
The existing war memorial, already central to the park, has been given even more prominence in the revamp, which had largely been finished before Anzac Day earlier this year.
Members of the Kurnai community, the Baw Baw Shire and the state government attended the opening, as well as other people from the community and around 10 members of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club.
Proceedings began with a smoking ceremony conducted by Kurnai elders, followed by traditional dancing and speeches.
Representing police minister Wade Noonan, parliamentary secretary for justice Ben Carroll spoke at the opening event.
“This is a place in the middle of Drouin that means a lot to everyone,” he told the strong crowd which had turned out for the opening.
“I am glad to see all the different communities come together – Kurnai [and] war veterans – combining the indigenous history with the digger.”
Mr Carroll went on to congratulate the council on its planning documents, including the Baw Baw 2050 project.
Above: traditional dancing during the opening ceremony
Memorial Park’s facelift was funded by both the state government and local government. $250,000 came from the state, while Baw Baw contributed over $81,000.
One of the key reasons for the changes was safety. In a media release, Mr Carroll said the changes made the site more usable.
“Drouin Memorial Park is now a more inviting and vibrant space,” he said.
“The new lighting, upgraded paths and community art display opens up the park and will encourage more people to use the park, deterring potential crime.
“Drouin residents can now feel safer in their own park.’”
Several reports from council staff and councillors suggest the improvements have already had a positive effect – people are now seen eating lunch and gathering around the newly paved area of the site.
One of the most frequent positive comments was the changes had opened up the park a lot more, making the space seem safer at all times of day and better connecting the park to the town.
The new artwork at the park, designed by the Kurnai elders and executed by Drouin-based artist Craig Fison, includes two free-standing images of fairy wrens and a larger depiction of the clans attached to the front of the toilet block.
Elder Sandra Mullett explained the significance of the imagery to the Warragul & Baw Baw Citizen.
“They are male and female [wrens],” Ms Mullett said.
“Yeerung is the male, which is the bright fairy wren, and the other one is the female, Djeetgung.
“Why they’re so significant is that before they go through initiation to become a teenager, they have to go through that ceremony. Then they get a totem, and it’s a different totem altogether.
“The reason why is the wrens, when you see a whole group of wrens together, well they protect each other very much like a tribe, and that’s why we symbolise with them.
“Females and males all look after each other.
“Up the back is our five clans, and the shields represent each clan.”
Mr Fison said the works had been a “collective effort” and “it was really lovely working with [the elders.]”
Above: Members of the Vietnam Veterans Motorcycle Club after the official reopening of the park
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