CDC Presents Its Latest Collaboration: Connect to Nature & Culture Event

On a crisp spring September morning, 30 young and enthusiast leaders from Western Bulldogs Youth Leadership Program tracked up to Ballarat’s Woowookarung friendly forest and sensory park for an outdoor experience of a lifetime. The name Woowookarung means ‘place of plenty’ and is part of the traditional lands of the Wadawurrung Aboriginal people. The name mirrored the day’s theme of plentiful activities starting with a smoking ceremony by Uncle Barry Gilson from the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation to welcome us, a hike through Australia’s first Dementia-friendly sensory forest trail, and a tree planting session. It was indeed a ‘place of plenty’ bringing about discovery, adventure, and a community spirit that felt like it reconnected us to the rich culture of the land.

CDC Victoria pulled together one of its biggest collaborations to date; connecting its environmental partner Parks Victoria, community partner Western Bulldogs Community Foundation, and Uncle Barry Gilson from the Wadawurrung Aboriginal Corporation; to welcome young aspiring leaders from Ballarat, Melbourne’s inner west, and Melton regions on a cultural exploration journey through nature.

The event also brought together young Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islanders leaders to learn and reconnect with the rich cultural history of the land from which the Wadawurrung ancestors came. Uncle Barry provided an unforgettable cultural education session, through storytelling and hiking along the sensory trail; discovering indigenous flora and fauna that were used for ancient food or medicinal remedies. Park rangers also provided context about varied species of plants, having the young leaders plant local and indigenous seedlings in the newer fields of the park. Overall, this outdoor learning opportunity gave the young leaders a new way to ignite their curiosity, appreciation, and team spirit and further cultivated their leadership skills.

“As young aspiring leaders, we hope you get to feel strongly reconnected to culture and nature through today’s activities and be inspired by it. Everyone was welcomed to explore the rich cultural history of the parklands, whilst appreciating the luscious natural forests and sensory points at the beautiful and award-winning ‘Friendly Forest & Sensory Trail’, making it Australia’s first Dementia-friendly sensory trail, which was another passion project that CDC Victoria funded a portion of back in 2020.”

– Michelle Ho McKersey, CDC’s Manager, Community Engagement & Sustainability

CDC Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we met on 17th September, the Wadawurrung people of the Kulin Nation, and pay our respects to Elders past, present, and emerging.