A TRADITIONAL smoke ceremony marked a significant moment for the indigenous people of Ballarat yesterday – the official opening of the Dreamtime cemetery project.
The project, which will see the biggest Aboriginal commemorative place in Victoria constructed at the Ballarat New Cemetery, was officially opened by Minister for Aboriginal Affairs Jeanette Powell yesterday.
The $160,000 project is expected to take nine months to complete and will be constructed by clients of Finding Futures, a disability services organisation.
In will also see 10 workers, most of whom are Aboriginal, gain a Certificate II in conservation and land management.
Although it is a Finding Futures project, it will not be impacted by the recent announcement of federal government funding cuts to the organisation.
Wadawurrung Aboriginal Co-operative chairman Bryon Powell said it was a hugely important moment for Aboriginal people in the Ballarat region and beyond.
He presented Ms Powell with the branch of a cherry ballart plant that is traditionally used for smoke ceremonies and pieces of ochre, which is used as body paint at indigenous ceremonies.
“Aboriginal people don’t have a lot of land these days but we have had land for thousands of years,” he said.
“To me this is a special project. It is a place to bury our loved ones and a place to bury our friends in places that is special to us.”
The project will include 170 metres of stone wall and will cover an area of 75 x 35 metres.
Finding Futures chief executive officer Bryan McCormick said a tremendous amount of work had already gone into the project since its idea was first spawned in April, 2011.
“I can’t remember being involved in a project in my time that had universal support like this one,” he said.