The Ballarat and District Aboriginal Co-operative was first established 40 years ago, and today, new initiatives are ensuring it will continue long into the future.
Amongst them is the push for a treaty with the state government - elections for the First Peoples Assembly close Sunday.
The organisation has slowly grown over the years, and now has more than 110 staff members and a new medical centre on Armstrong Street North.
Aunty Vi McPherson, now 91, remembers going to one of the very early meetings to form the co-operative.
"It's being accepted, that was the biggest thing, and I'll never forget the night we came to the meeting - we had the Ballan supermarket, and my daughter and I came to the meeting and we sat in front, we did not know anyone," she said.
"It was two strangers, wanting to be accepted.
"This (organisation) has created a wonderful environment in Ballarat city, people talk about it, the Ballarat co-op, how it's expanded and what it's offering, this is just wonderful."
This week, the co-op has invited community members to a workshop stitching together a possum skin cloak, with funding from Family Safety Victoria.
Made from 50 ethically-sourced skins from New Zealand, the project has brought elders and youth together to learn from artists and create a tangible artefact.
Artists Bronwyn Razem and Esther Kirby led the workshops, cutting sections to shape and burning designs onto the skins.
It will be worn for events and celebrations - possum skin cloaks are an important part of Indigenous culture, especially in western Victoria.
Aunty Vi has worn cloaks at Federation Square for events, and said it's a "powerful" feeling.
"I've done it for the last four years or so, and when you put your foot on the sand to walk out, knowing thousands of people are looking at you - well, the first time I'd done it, I wished the sand had gobbled me up," she said, laughing.
"It was just beautiful."
The co-operative's chief operating officer, Jon Kanoa, said it was remarkable to see the effect of the project.
"The beauty of having these workshops, like the possum skin cloak workshop, is bringing those conversations around the table, and it's a powerful conversation - I was only just talking to an Aunty in there before about the trauma, the intergenerational trauma our people have been facing for a very long period of time," he said.
"Workshops like this bring out those conversations, and it's an informal way of speaking with each other on that same level, but it's also how we debrief as a community - we don't do that often."
One of the major strengths BADAC has is welcoming Indigenous people from across the district, and outside of it - people who may have links interstate or from other parts of Victoria.
"People have moved to Ballarat from across the country because of our services," Mr Kanoa said.
"This community has been so accepting of other mob from other Country
"My country is back in Gunditjmara in western districts of Victoria, and for us to move here - I was just a young fella back in those days - knowing we had an organisation that supported our young people, supported our mob going through the justice system and out-of-home care, all of that basically because we weren't invited to be a part of different organisations, we had to establish something for our own community, so we could support each other."
Another elder, Aunty Ann Cooper, said the workshop was the first time she had seen so many young people jumping in to help.
"Sewing those pieces yesterday, I can't explain it but my heart just bubbled," she said.
"I felt really, truly comfortable - I love teaching my grandchildren stuff like this, I've got two beautiful little girls down in Melton (who love joining in) and sharing culture."
The openness is a welcome change, she added - too much culture had been lost after the Stolen Generations, and there needed to be efforts to reclaim it.
"I felt like I was losing my culture, and losing the respect to my land, my tribe, and everyone around me - it was always, why should I try? But, if I keep persevering, it is going to happen, and it's happening," she said.
"We're doing it for everyone else to come in, see what we're actually doing, and enjoy what we're doing, because we want you to understand that we've lost this, so what we're doing is making sure our children and grandchildren are going to be the ones that keep pushing."
As well as passing on cultural practices and respect to younger generations, Mr Kanoa said it's also an opportunity to talk to non-Indigenous people, and invite them in to learn more.
"It's us engraining our bloodlines, our songlines - for 80,000 years this is what our people have passed down from generation to generation," he said.
"If we can promote that and discuss that with our community, especially our non-Indigenous brothers and sisters, then the ignorance and racism, the people that don't understand our culture - come along and we'll be able to teach you, we'll be able to educate people."
The empowerment is leading to a "buzz" around treaty, Mr Kanoa said.
While voting closes on Sunday, several candidates from western Victoria had been consulting with elders at BADAC, and volunteers had been manning a voting booth for some weeks.
"It's really a discussion for us, because we've never done it before," he said.
"We can't say 'this is how it should be' or 'this is how it's supposed to operate' - once we get the First Peoples Assemblies established, I think we have three in each regional area, and our three representatives will be our voice from the community to go and negotiate the treaty authority, and put together the treaty framework to take to the state government to say this is what we want as a state, here's our community's voice.
"I'm not sure what that's going to entail, but at least we've got a voice sitting at the table, and that's really important because we haven't had one before, not in an established body."
Mr Kanoa is also focusing on self-determination - he wants to make sure BADAC can help get community members skilled up to get and retain jobs, and eventually move into running sustainable businesses.
"In Gippsland, and Mildura, they're in solar energy and that should be a conversation we're having down here as well," he said.
"At the end of the day, self-determination for me means this organisation doesn't have to rely on government funding because we're generating funding from our own assets.
"If that's something we can look at within that 10 to 15, maybe 20 year project, then they're the conversations we need to start having now."
That's why projects like the possum skin cloak workshop are good ways to get everyone in the room together, and keep culture at the forefront.
"These workshops really bring out some of those really hard things a lot of our mob are still holding back from," Mr Kanoa said.
"It's difficult to have a conversation about it, but when you've got culture involved, it makes it a lot easier for our mob to sit down and have those yarns, have a cup of coffee and walk out thinking a weight has been lifted off your shoulder because it's such an informal way of doing business.
"This is the way we've been doing business for 80-odd thousand years, it's about those conversations and these workshops do bring our mob together to do that.
"If we've got strong culture, we've got strong families - which is what this program's actually titled."
Aunty Ann said she hoped it would all lead to more respect and pride in the community.
"Get across that barrier, walk with your head held high, and never look down at your feet - unless you're clumsy," she said with a smile.
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