Wonnarua elder, the late Aunty Barbara Foot, had a dream to develop an area that could showcase the Wonnarua culture, engage community and store artefacts. That dream has come true with the opening of The Minimbah Teaching Place.
Set amongst native bushland in an ecological and Aboriginal conservation area on Bulga Coal offset property within the Wollombi Brook Conservation Area, the project has been supported by the Wonnarua community who have a common desire for children, tourists, and the community to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of their culture.
Bulga’s Environment & Community Manager, Ralph Northey, is confident the indigenous community will put the facility to good use.
“The facility has been really well-received,” he said. “There are no facilities in the Upper Hunter like it.
“In time, with the cultural heritage aspects that the local Aboriginal community can bring to that, it’ll be a wonderful facility for the community.”
Inside are copies of artifacts such as weapons, spears and food preparation tools which will allow children who attend the learning centre to actually touch and feel the items, an experience much more valuable than just looking at them through a locked, closed cabinet. Also on display are local artworks and as visitors stroll through the grounds, storyboards help to bring the rich history to life.
Maria Stocks, daughter of Aunty Barbara Foot spoke at the opening launch, and shared how much the Minimbah Teaching Place meant to her mother.
“This is a place my mother always wanted, a place to share our Aboriginal culture and to teach our young people. Things like cooking skills, bush tucker, our stories. She always had a spiritual connection to the earth. I think she would love the peacefulness out here.”
The Teaching Place is a joint effort of the Bulga, Mt Owen, Glendell and United Wambo operations. In addition to providing a place that will allow the community to gain a greater understanding and appreciation of Aboriginal culture, the collective hope of the operations is that the Minimbah Teaching Place will give them the ability to classify artefacts salvaged from mining areas and potentially return them to country.
Maria said that without the support from Glencore, this dream of her mother’s would never have been made a reality.
“There is no way in the world we could do something like this without the support of Glencore and particularly Ralph Northey from Glencore who has shown a vested interest in the project,” Maria said.
“There was a lot of conversations about where it should be, but this is a lovely spot. It is out in the sticks and this where it needs to be, so peaceful.”