19 April 2023

Dream becomes a reality as Wollundry Dreaming's Youth Hub opens in Wagga's CBD

| Chris Roe
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Aboriginal dancers

Youth worker Luke Wighton with the Wollundry Dreaming “junior management team” Olivia, Jaydah and Zaliah. Photo: Chris Roe.

It’s been years in the making, but the Wollundry Dreaming Youth Hub has opened its doors and the kids have been pouring into the revamped council space in the CBD.

“It’s all been painted, there’s artworks up, a ping-pong table and the young ones are already coming in, which is amazing,” laughed CEO Leanne Sanders.

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“We were not even officially open but they were coming in every day, not wanting to go home and just wanting to hang out.”

The new space for Aboriginal youth is in part of the seniors centre on Tarcutta Street in the heart of the city and a group of Wiradjuri elders, youth workers, supporters, kids and local MP Dr Joe McGirr gathered on the lawns on Monday for a low-key opening event.

Wollundry Dreaming

The Wollundry Dreaming ”Dream Team” is off and running. Photo: Chris Roe.

Aunty Cheryl Penrith and Uncle James Ingram welcomed the small crowd and spoke of the cultural significance of the location alongside Wollundry Lagoon and the Murrumbidgee River.

Didgeridoo player and cultural worker Luke Wighton led the Gudharraa Giralang (Shining Stars) dancers through a performance in the afternoon sun and concluded by getting everyone on their feet for a traditional Wiradjuri ”stomp”.

“We know that when our people are connected to a country and connected to culture, they go on to be more successful people later on in life,” he explained.

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Luke is well known for his cultural work in the Riverina and he has now joined the Wollundry Dreaming team as a senior youth worker.

“We will have a grand opening at a later date, but this was just a light opening to get the ball rolling,” he explained.

“We want to create a culturally safe place for the youth to come and hang out, whether they need help with homework or they just want to be around some good peers and play some table tennis or touch footy.”

Leanne Sanders

CEO Leanne Sanders aims to help kids to thrive through Wollundry Dreaming. Photo: Chris Roe.

Leanne said they had been welcomed by their fellow tenants at the seniors centre and she was amazed at how quickly the youth had made themselves at home.

“The young dancers have decided that they are our youth management team and they’ve even written out their own job descriptions and what days they will be available,” she laughed.

“The seniors are used to us now too and we look after them, and that’s what it’s all about – relationships with each other and with the community.”

Aboriginal youth centre

Wollundry Dreaming is a safe place for kids to hang out, have fun and be supported. Photo: Chris Roe.

As well as a youth worker, the hub has a growing list of volunteers including elders and local community members.

Leanne pointed out local GP Dr Jonathan Ho, dressed in his trademark waistcoat and taking on some of the boys at table tennis.

“It’s kind of like early intervention, but in a non-clinical way,” she explained.

“It’s not the normal GP clinic, Dr Ho gives up his own time to come and play ping-pong and have a yarn and build that trust.

“We know our mob doesn’t generally talk about things like health and school, so we have volunteer teachers in here as well to help out with a bit of study and then of course we have culture on top of that.”

Wollundry Dreaming

Some of the Wollundry Dreaming team. Photo: Supplied.

It’s still early days and Leanne expressed a sense of ”imposter syndrome” now that the centre was finally operational, but said it was a tribute to a great team filled with positive intent.

“I look forward to seeing hundreds of kids out there dancing and stomping together,” she said.

“I want them to know that this is a place where they can come when life is a bit tough and that there’s no judgment on young ones.

“I want to see kids following their dreams and thriving.”

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