Hey, my name is Ebony Hickey and I’m a proud Gulidjan Woman, Mother and Sister. My connection to Gulidjan Country comes on behalf of my mother’s family line.
This glorious country in South West Victoria of Colac and surrounds has been that of my families for as long as western history (Caracaramigen – mother of the Co Co Coine and Sharpe family early 1800’s) has been documented and for what I believe to be thousands of years before that. This country is women’s country and I believe my role to protect and advocate on and for Gulidjan Country was established long before my existence and my family’s morals and values engrained deep into the way I practice both culturally and professionally.
The role I’m working in currently is a dual role, both with the Aboriginal Community Development space and full time on development roles on Wathaurong Country in Geelong and Gulidjan Country in Colac. Over the years I have been supported to follow my heart within my position and the voice of the grass roots worker is just as valuable as that of an executive. I work for Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative and have had the opportunity to work on many exiting projects over the last few years spanning from the arts, advocacy, justice, family violence, parenting programs but the establishment of the Colac Aboriginal Gathering Place has been the project that’s really lit a fire in my heart.
I’ve always known that Aboriginal people the world over have been the keepers of the community development practice but I didn’t know how to articulate that – through my role I’ve learnt the way I do it is just fine. Aboriginal people, my people have always known how to support one another and care for the spirit of this land and its longevity. We don’t need to be sold an antidote or to be put into boxes the government and past policies have thrust upon us, we just need to fight for and be given the opportunity to demonstrate this and find the right platforms and way forward for our people.
The Colac Aboriginal Gathering Space is a place that will begin to address the needs of the Aboriginal population of Colac, it has been identified that Aboriginal people living in Colac didn’t have an Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisation or culturally safe space. The lack of advocacy and cultural safety in health, community, family education and a range of other services has lead to a series of issues historically. The local Aboriginal Action Group along with Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative have conducted a 12 month needs analysis and found that not only do the community feel they need access to vital services, it was found that mainstream service providers also need support to navigate the need and best ways to support the community. The Colac Aboriginal Gathering Place opened its doors on the 3rdof November 2017 and aims to be open a couple of days a week until we can obtain further funding. The aim of the space is to increase the advocacy, service delivery and open the door to new opportunities for our Aboriginal Community and broaden community knowledge on Aboriginal issues within the Colac region.
One of the most devastating things that has happened to this country has been the destruction of knowledge and history related to this country, the family connections and collective story of this country’s song. I see the way forward a way of healing, a way of rebuilding and gathering these stories. It’s easy for some to say get over it, move on… but for Aboriginal people this isn’t the case. Our traditions are not simply a show and dance, not a tokenistic part of meetings of your planning. It’s not just my job role, it’s the role I hold within my family and to fulfil my cultural obligations for future generations. There was work in the past that has been done to get where we are now and I’ve got so much work to do for my brothers, for my son, my niece and nephews. It’s the work of reconstructing the traditions lost which must continue and is absolutely vital to be continued in the present.
My hopes for the future are that we set up the frameworks and add the cultural aspects we need into the community, health and education systems and the social fabrics of the Colac region. We managed to become an ‘identifier’ on the Colac Otway Shire Municipal Health and Wellbeing Plan for 2017-2021 however we still have a lot of work to do here in Colac.
I hope that moving forward I’ll be able to challenge the thinking of a few people to be more inclusive and to weave into the Colac community, the histories, oral stories and importance of wellbeing of Aboriginal people and this beautiful country. It’s my role as a Gulidjan woman to work as hard as I can for change or we run the risk of future generations missing out completely. Be it for my children and your own – this Cultural knowledge and way we practice is so important to this country’s story.
Community Development Officer – Koolin Balit Colac Mapping Project
Gulidjan Woman: Colac Region
PO Box 402 | North Geelong 3215
É (03) 52 929 826 or 0449 948 475 | Ê (03) 52 784 123
I take great pride in acknowledging the Wathuarong , Gulidjan, Gadabanud, Djargurd Wurrung and Girai Wurrung People who’s lands I work on. I pay my respects to Elders both past and present and all First Nation’s people of this country. I look forward to working with you to create stronger opportunities for our communities, families and future generations.