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Tour of Benalla's Indigenous Garden to celebrate NAIDOC week

The garden is the work of more than 100 people and has taken more than a decade to complete. Aboriginal community devleopment worker Chris Thorne shared stories of Benalla's Indigenous heritage.

MONIQUE FREER July 18, 2014 3:50am

Central Hume Primary Care Partnership Aboriginal Community Development Worker Chris Thorne led a tour of Benalla's indigenous gardens as part of NAIDOC Week celebrations.


The Benalla and district community honoured Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders who fought in defence of Australia last week during NAIDOC Week.

Benalla Rural City Council hosted two events last Thursday to celebrate NAIDOC Week, which is held every year across Australia to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A morning tea was held at Benalla Town Hall, followed by a tour of the Indigenous Gardens, led by Central Hume Primary Care Partnership Aboriginal community development worker Chris Thorne.

‘‘NAIDOC Week is a chance to share our culture, and when we share our culture we preserve life,’’ Mr Thorne said.

About 20 people attended the garden tour and heard Mr Thorne share stories about Indigenous heritage and Benalla residents who had been moved by the site during a visit.

‘‘I never get sick of it, I’m so passionate about it and what we’ve been able to achieve since the beginning,’’ he said.

‘‘Nobody comes here and doesn’t walk away being affected in some way.

‘‘This is going to be the jewel in Benalla’s NAIDOC events.’’

Located in Moira Reserve, the garden is the work of more than 100 people, including volunteers, across 11 years.

Mr Thorne was awarded the Dame Phyllis Frost individual award at the National Tidy Towns Awards in 2007 for his involvement in the development of the garden, his role in promoting the history of the local Indigenous culture to Benalla Rural City schools and his ongoing passion for working with young people.

‘‘It is important to be able to make the Benalla Rural City community aware of its Indigenous heritage, its cultures and its historical significance through activities like NAIDOC week,’’ Mr Thorne said.

‘‘We now have more than 140 people living within the Benalla Rural City with an Indigenous heritage and I’m pleased to know these people are feeling more comfortable to proudly identify with their cultural background.’’

Ahead of the Anzac centenary next year, this year’s theme was ‘Serving Country: Centenary and Beyond’. Indigenous Vietnam War veteran Graeme Pickering was the guest speaker at the morning tea.

Aboriginal Affairs Minister Tim Bull said NAIDOC Week could be traced back to the 1920s when Aboriginal groups raised community awareness of the issues facing Aboriginal people.

‘‘Victoria has a young and growing Aboriginal population and it is important that we continue to support strong Aboriginal communities,’’ Mr Bull said.

‘‘NAIDOC Week is an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the significant contribution Aboriginal people and culture make to building a stronger Victorian community.’’

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