It started out as a safe place for local youth to hang out and grab a free feed three months ago, but Walawaani Garindja has become much more.
Every Wednesday afternoon as many as 36 kids, ranging from age five to 16, gather at the Gundary clubhouse to share Aboriginal culture, engage positively with community leaders and police, and learn a few life skills while they’re at it.
An initiative of Far South Coast Police, Campbell Page, Eurobodalla PCYC and Eurobodalla Council, Walawaani Garindja translates to ‘safe journey to our youth’ in Dhurga Aboriginal language.
The program has been embraced whole-heartedly by the community, with children, their parents and Aboriginal community leaders participating in different activities every week alongside local police, youth workers, and volunteers.
Council’s Community Development Officer Jordan Nye, who facilitates the program, couldn’t be happier with its progress.
“The best thing is seeing the kids grow and develop,” he said.
“We want them to all have a voice and know that they can achieve great things if they put their mind to it.
“They’re starting to call me Uncle, which tells me that we are starting to build great relationships.
“Aboriginal culture, and respect, is a theme in everything we do. We teach the kids that if you disrespect our culture, others and our community, you disrespect yourselves.”
Jordan said the fact so many parents had become involved was incredibly heart-warming.
“Most of these kids come from challenging home lives so it’s really good to have the older generations getting involved - they can then step up to be leaders and provide guidance in our community, which is something that’s really missing.”
Uncle Ron Callaghan has been involved since day one, teaching the kids guitar lessons as a volunteer. He said it was really good to see the kids “getting something out of life again instead of sitting around doing nothing”.
South Coast Police District District Inspector Angela Burnell said the group provided an opportunity to connect with the community in a positive way.
“Policing is not just about locking up crooks anymore, it’s about being with our community and fostering relationships early on,” she said.
“These youth are our future leaders and adults of our society and Walawaani Garindja enables us to make great connections that will last years to come.”
Campbell Page’s Casteo Lole hopes the program will continue.
“I’ve seen the respect in these kids grow, which is a really big plus,” he said.
“It’s awesome to see the kids following directions and just coming together as one.”
Walawaani Garindja is held at the Gundary Oval clubhouse on Campbell Street, Moruya, every Wednesday from 3.30pm-5pm.
All are welcome to attend, it is completely free and no bookings are required. For more information contact Council’s Community Development Officer Jordan Nye on 4474 1289 or visit Council’s website www.esc.nsw.gov.au/youth
Above: Aboriginal Affairs NSW General Manager Jason Ardler (left back) and Aboriginal Affairs languages team Project Officer Koorinya Moreton were special guests at Walawaani Garindja on Wednesday 14 November.