Aboriginal gathering place for Moreland

The Aboriginal community in Moreland and Hume fought hard in 2010-11 to stop the state government closing down the Ballerrt Mooroop College in Glenroy. This was the only Aboriginal school in Melbourne.

Both Labor and Liberal state governments have opposed the school, first closing down the primary school and then years 11 and 12. Then they turned it into a pathways school for kids who couldn’t stay in mainstream schools. Then they stopped accepting enrolments in the school and used the resulting low enrolments to justify closing the school.

In September 2011, the Ballerrt Mooroop College community thought they had won agreement from the state government to keep the school open. But the community was sold out when the government closed the schoolin early 2012.

There is a spirit tree and ceremonial ground on the remaining Ballerrt Mooroop site. The old BMC school buildings are still standing. The Aboriginal pre-school is still there, and the remainder of the site could be turned into parkland and a community space.

The Aboriginal community and the Ballerrt Mooroop College Support Group are campaigning to have the site returned to the Aboriginal community for use by the whole community as a community hub rather than being sold off to a developer.

At the moment, there’s no Aboriginal gathering place on the western side of the Hume Highway in the northern suburbs, and almost no Aboriginal community services.

I have raised this issue with Moreland Council and it is supporting the plan for the Ballert Mooroop site to be returned to the council and the Aboriginal community as parkland and a community hub. The council is particularly concerned that the Spirit Tree and the Ceremonial Ground are protected.

It is also vital to win this campaign to restore parkland which was stripped away from the local residents by the state government.

This community hub is sorely needed because there is a lack of youth services in the northern part of Moreland, in particular for young people who are disengaged from school.

Now, earthmoving equipment has started digging on the site again, digging very close to the Spirit Tree and the Ceremonial Grounds. The Ballerrt Mooroop Support Group will need community support to stop the state government selling off this land to greedy developers. By digging up the BMC site for its carpark, the government has snubbed the Aboriginal community and the council.