2024 ‘Indigenous Recognition’ Category Honourable Mention

Melton City Council, VIC

Melton Cemetery Reflective Space

2024 ‘Indigenous Recognition’ Category Honourable Mention

The Initiative

The Melton Cemetery Reflective Space is a newly constructed culturally sensitive space that honours Aboriginal ancestors and early settlers who were laid to rest in the oldest section of the cemetery dating back to 1861.

This section of the cemetery was devoid of any beautification and had no markers or acknowledgement that this was a place of rest. Over time and through bushfires, all of the early memorials were destroyed.

Records indicated this section contained the exhumed remains of Aboriginal ancestors found on Greenhill Station in Toolern Vale. A geophysical survey completed in June 2020, identified the existence of 112 unmarked graves and four unknown soil disturbances, treated as unmarked graves.

The Council resolved to establish a commemorative space to ensure the site be formally protected, beautified and acknowledged as a place of rest for Aboriginal ancestors and early settlers. The Council resolved that the design be informed through consultation with traditional owners and the Melton Historical Society.

Over many months, a co–design process was enacted, with the Wurundjeri Woi–wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation and Melton Historical Society having significant influence over the design outcome, landscaping treatment and wording on the commemorative sign.

This included many discussions and meetings, including at the cemetery, where valuable insights and perspectives have carefully and respectfully shaped a collaborative and meaningful place of reflection.

The Melton Cemetery now has a space that celebrates Indigenous connection, its history and stories. The Melton Cemetery Reflective Space pays respect so that the lives of the earliest settlers and Aboriginal ancestors and their stories can be shared and remembered. The design is centred around a landscaped hearth – a central point around which we can gather, talk and share stories.

This was a sensitive project and the partnership co–design approach undertaken in a sensitive and culturally appropriate way with Indigenous voices being heard has laid a foundation for stronger, more respectful and trustworthy relationships.

The Melton Cemetery Reflective Space was officially opened on Thursday 19 October 2023 with the Wurundjeri Woi–wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation, Melton Historical Society, community members, Mayor and councillors celebrating this new addition to the Melton Cemetery.

About the Category

The ‘Indigenous Recognition’ category recognises Indigenous initiatives and employees in local government which:

  • have representation of Indigenous people in their community and inform local government activities and policies;
  • overcome inequality between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples through community-based policies and programs that are done in partnership with local Indigenous people;
  • have explicit Indigenous employment goals, strategies and support mechanisms such as Indigenous cadetship programs, mentoring and cultural awareness initiatives; and/or
  • make a difference to their community and workplace by delivering high quality initiatives and outcomes.

Successful initiatives in this award category benefit communities by:

  • bringing together Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and communities to share skills and experiences;
  • undertaking initiatives that reinforce, strengthen, and promote Indigenous culture, traditions and languages;
  • raising awareness and understanding of the importance of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages and culture; and/or
  • building positive and productive relationships between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians through policies and programs.

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