For as long as most of us can remember, Aunty Val has been at the forefront at the fight for an Aboriginal Community Centre in the Highlands.
While there is currently a centre in Mittagong, Aunty Val’s dream is to make it bigger and better.
And soon that dream may become a reality.
A submission for federal funding to expand the existing centre will be made by the end of the month.
Designs have already been drawn up and Aunty Val said if the $3.5 million grant was successful, she believed the expansion could be complete by July next year.
“I’ve got my heart set on getting a centre. We’ve got to have a centre, something that’s our own.”
The proposed centre would include two sections- one community and one administration.
It would also provide full-time employment opportunities.
Currently, those who run the centre are not employed.
Aunty Val said the new centre would offer training and education opportunities and include consultation rooms for doctors and dentists.
Most importantly, an extended centre would provide further opportunities for people in the shire to learn about Aboriginal culture.
Aunty Val said they had been at the current location for about five years.
“We need a place where we can put our roots, our artefacts and our stories,” Aunty Val said.
“And it will help the Aboriginal community to accept and also practice their culture and feel good about it.”
Aunty Val said the centre would be crucial to help the next generation of Aboriginal children.
There will be training opportunities for Aboriginal youth to learn how to run the centre.
“We want to teach the kids to run it.”
The centre is and will remain open to everyone in the Highlands- both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal.
“We don’t discriminate.”
Once the submission is made, Aunty Val said she hoped to have a response within a month.
Council has also been working to consolidate some of the land and increase its footprint.
Councillor Larry Whipper has worked with the Aboriginal community for many years and said council was waiting for a report from the land department to move forward.
“This vision has been a dream of Aunty Val’s for a long time and I’m right behind that,” he said.
“We’re doing everything we can to make that happen.”
Cr Whipper said after waiting two years, he believed council would soon receive the report, possibly in a matter of weeks.