“It is important and vital that Aboriginal people continue to share stories and traditions” says local Aboriginal leader Corrina Eccles a Wadawurrung woman who has worked with Nathan Patterson a Torquay Aboriginal Artist in delivering an Aboriginal Art program across Geelong and the Surf Coast.
The program was originally founded with the support of the Rory McCaffrey Foundation with 15 students from Northern Bay College in Geelong participating in May 2014. Rory was a young Non-Aboriginal boy whose life was taken too short at the age of 17. Rory was inspired and loved learning about Aboriginal culture, his family started the foundation to honour his legacy with the focus of the foundation being reconciliation.
When Ian and Leanne Neeland, owners of the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie heard of the program, they knew they wanted to support such a wonderful opportunity in being continued.
“We’ve had this project in mind since we opened in Sept 2016 and we’re so glad to see it come to fruition to bring a powerful, engaging experience for our many thousands of visitors,” says Leanne Neeland, Managing Director of the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie & Ice Creamery.
The Corroboree Garden Program has seen Aboriginal students in the region work alongside Corrina and Nathan as mentors to paint totem poles that express their individual life stories and connection to the land.
The program helps connect Aboriginal young people to each other and art. The students feel proud that they can share their story through art, their story spreads the message and educates the wider community.
In June 2017 twelve Grovedale Secondary College students participated and their artwork is now installed as a permanent – and growing – installation amongst the 15 acres of grounds at the Great Ocean Road Chocolaterie.
At the end of each program the students plant their bollards into the Corroboree Garden, with a traditional ceremony hosted by Corrina Eccles.
Ian and Leanne look forward to engaging with many indigenous students and schools and to have hundreds of bollards in the Corroboree Garden.
The original founder Fiona Reidy, says this artistic project provides a special opportunity for Aboriginal children to be culturally connected to a community: “The best journey of an Aboriginal child is for them to be enriched in culture, be able to feel proud of their identity and to know their identity.”
The Chocolaterie also have created a Coastal Bush Tucker Range of chocolates featuring bush tucker and native Australian ingredients with packaging designed by Nathan Patterson and proceeds from the sales fund the Corroboree Garden program.