18 August 2023

New 'Waddi' cultural and art centre opens in Darlington Point

| Oliver Jacques
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Three Waddi members in front of Indigenous art

Tamileigh Chirgwin, Waddi tenant Dennis Milgate and community administration officer Julie Schubert. Photo: Supplied.

A new cultural centre celebrating the heritage and art of the First Nations ‘Waddi’ village community has opened in Darlington Point, further expanding a growing tourist trail in the southern Riverina.

The Waddi Housing and Advancement Corporation Ltd, an Indigenous housing provider, has refurbished a dormant community hall it owned and converted it into an information centre alongside a picturesque garden that is now open for public visits.

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The revamped centre features artworks by Allan McKenzie, Owen Lyons and Karissa Undy, weaving by Paula Undy, handcrafted didgeridoos by Ben Curphy, and other items created by local Darlington Point artists.

The back end of the colourful building will be used as a seminar room for visiting consultants to hold workshops.

A crowd outside the Waddi building

The official opening of Waddi Cultural Centre on 9 August. Photo: Supplied.

“The building and its artwork, both inside and outside, is absolutely jaw-dropping and brilliantly showcases the incredible art and culture of the community,” Murrumbidgee Council mayor Ruth McRae said. “This facility is vitally important in promoting and preserving Indigenous culture and heritage.”

Tamileigh Chirgwin, Waddi Housing finance coordinator, said it would be a welcome addition to a local tourist trail that also includes Altina Wildlife Park and Whitton Malt House.

“It’s got a lot of information on the walls for people to read and it features art that can’t be sold,” she said. “You can walk across the road, buy a coffee and you’ve got a really nice space to enjoy it.

“Our vision for the future is to try and get funding for a full-time onsite manager for tourism and community purposes.”

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At present, the centre is run by a part-time community administration officer and volunteers. It is open to the public on Wednesdays and Thursdays between 10 am and 3 pm, but tours and visits on other days may be arranged by contacting Waddi in advance.

An opening ceremony for the centre was held on 9 August, which featured a welcome by Uncle Michael Lyons, a performance by Griffith’s Marrambidya Dance Group and didgeridoo playing by Ben Curphey and River Maxwell.

Aboriginal dance group with painted faces

Griffith’s Marrambidya Dance Group performs at the Waddi centre opening. Photo: Supplied.

Historian and author Peter Kabaila, who has published several non-fiction books recording the history of Aboriginal settlements in the 20th century, was also in attendance. Mr Kabaila has written the history of Warangesda, a former Aboriginal mission site just outside Darlington Point. His storyboards are on display at the Waddi Cultural Centre.

The new facility has been made possible thanks to a $380,000 grant from the NSW Government’s Stronger Communities Funding Program, as well as the support from Murrumbidgee Council.

The centre is located in the heart of Darlington Point at 11 Carrington Street. Enquiries on visits or tours can be made by phoning 02 6968 4390 or by email: [email protected].

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