At its hub Our Future in Our Hands is a world-class Aboriginal Cultural Centre that includes a museum, gallery, theatre and conference facilities, designed by internationally renowned architect Bruce Henderson.
Two new international standard hotels are proposed, as well as serviced apartments, and a restaurant and dining facilities serving locally sourced Indigenous ingredients, with the benefits expected to flow into the local hotel and hospitality sector catering for an expected jump in tourists to the region.
EDGE/Woongi project director and elder Neville Atkinson says the building is an Indigenous-led and Indigenous-centred model of economic self-determination never before seen in Australia.
“This is a new approach to improve employment rates and income, health levels and available housing for local Indigenous people, while providing great economic opportunities and benefits for the wider Shepparton community and business sector.”
The project is being driven by a new model joint venture between Indigenous people and private investors based on business development projects undertaken by First Nations’ peoples in North America.
It’s estimated that up to 1500 new jobs will be generated in the five year construction period, with an additional 500 jobs to resource the tourism precinct beyond that.
The total investment in new infrastructure has been estimated at $300 million with large annual returns expected to flow into local businesses and to Council through rates.
Mr. Atkinson says this project will make Greater Shepparton an international leader in Indigenous tourism.
“We have done our research, and there is nothing like this fully immersive Indigenous experience on offer anywhere else in Australia and so close to a major city.”
Local Indigenous community member and advocate Tom Day says their aim is to create real outcomes for our people and our future.
“I didn’t want to be part of a generation where our journey ended; I wanted to continue pushing forward for the legacy that our ancestors left behind.”
Mr Day says they’re looking at economic development as economic freedom so our people can create new futures for themselves.
“It’s self-determination in action, it’s continuing on our old story with our new stories and writing new chapters."
“The current measure in place to apply for state funding for local run businesses is a failed measure. I think as a system that is failing.”
"I think the real beauty of this project, the real heart of it and why we’re doing it is to ensure that elders can relax knowing that their children, grandchildren, great grand-children and so on, are going to be taken care of, that there is hope and that they’ll be able to create their own future,” Mr Day said.
An invitation only information session will be hosted by the project team at the Olive House function centre on Wednesday where over 150 members of the community are expected to attend. Those involved are not just part of the Aboriginal community, but a variety of diverse locals.
“We as traditional owners, it’s in our nature to care for the people who are our guests,” he said.
“It’s our responsibility to create opportunities for all members of the community to be active participants in creating their own future.”
Wednesday’s event will see five generations of one family in the one room all together. One of Victoria’s eldest Indigenous women, 92-year-old Aunty Lorna Walker will be part of that gathering with the youngest people being her great-grand child who’s just a few months old.
Mr Day says this project is not just bringing the community together but also giving the small town a big future.
“Let us come together collectively as generations of people and let’s act on it.”
“This is what this project is for; it’s for families and for the community…We’re going to have children there that can remember this day,” he said.
Final planning discussions continue with Council and authorities and more information will be released in due course.