New space celebrates Country

Christine Couzens, Steve Dimopoulous, Corrina Eccles and Gerard Griffin at the official opening of Djilang Plaza. (Louisa Jones) 413445_19

Victorian Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events Steve Dimopoulos officially opened Djilang Plaza at Kardinia Park last week in a celebration of the site’s history as a meeting place for First Nations People.

The new public space, delivered as part of the state government’s $142 million Kardinia Park Stage 5 Redevelopment, honours Wadawurrung Country with artwork and a large installation by local Wadawurrung woman Corrina Eccles.

The Ngarrwa Kalk (knowledge sticks) installation is the centrepiece of the plaza leading directly to the Polly Farmer Gate, featuring seven impressive columns that use internal lighting to depict the different aspects of Wadawurrung Country.

Joined by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners, the Kardinia Park Stadium Trust, local MPs and the mayor of Geelong, Mr Dimopoulos praised the plaza that now welcomes visitors to “the best regional stadium in Australia”.

“This is a place where thousands of people come… it is absolutely an opportunity to tell the story of the oldest continuous civilisation,” he said.

“It becomes an invitation for a conversation; a conversation becomes an invitation for understanding and respect.”

Member for Geelong Christine Couzens spoke about the importance of Indigenous art in public spaces.

“We’ve had lots of conversations about (how) when First Nations people see First Nations artwork or even a flag or an acknowledgement, it makes a huge difference to them and there’s some aspect of safety that comes into that as well,” Ms Couzens said.

“Only a few years ago, there was really nothing in Geelong that identified you were on Wadawurrung Country. Now, you look in many places and it’s right there.

“That’s because as a community we’ve come together and we’ve been working with Wadawurrung over those years to make sure that people understand we need to be respecting our First Nations people.”

Kardinia Park Stadium Trust chief executive Gerard Griffin said Djilang Plaza was a “culmination” of the “significant amount of time and energy devoted to cultural inclusions”, but “not the end of that work”.

“I think it’s quite fortuitous that we’re standing next to Gate 1, the Polly Farmer Gate, and the plaza sits beautifully alongside that gate,” Mr Griffin said.

“We love what this plaza means and we look forward to one day implementing the Kardinia Park Master Plan that further connects today’s Kardinia Park with that centuries-old Kardniyu of the Wadawurrung people.”