Linda Mellors reflects on WCLP's northern Victoria field trip

2 August 2012 By Linda Mellors

Linda Mellors
Linda Mellors

Recently participants in LV’s Williamson Community Leadership Program for 2012 visited several aboriginal communities in northern Victoria. Linda Mellors reflects on the experience:

In the middle of July, the 2012 WCLP group was fortunate enough to spend a weekend away in Barmah, Shepparton, Tatura and Wyuna.

“If you don’t know where you come from, you don’t know where you’re going” (Shane Charles’ grandmother)

The first day included a focus on Aboriginal issues and a sharing of the oldest living culture in the world.

The group participated in a dispossession exercise that provided us with a sense of the loss, grief, fear, confusion and resentment experienced by Aboriginal people following white settlement.

We were also provided with confronting information about massacres, disease, segregation, alcohol abuse, education restrictions, unemployment, Aboriginal and white law and polices, the stolen generations, and loss of economic independence and culture.

We were then treated to rich stories about Aboriginal culture, traditions, current issues and contemporary leadership within Aboriginal communities which still includes a focus on “never keeping knowledge but passing it on”.

We also celebrated the formal apology delivered by Kevin Rudd on 13 February 2008. (Footage of which can be found here).

“You’ll meet the standards expected of you” (Meagan O’Shannessy)

An absolute highlight of the weekend was hearing from Adrian Appo and his daughter Meagan O’Shannessy. What an inspirational pair.

Meagan struck us all as a remarkably capable and driven young woman with a clear plan for her life.

She is also a fantastic role model for her father’s efforts to improve the employment prospects of young Aboriginal people through his work at Gambina, a Koori employment and training agency.  

Gambina was a pioneer for school to work transition for young Aboriginal people, with a focus on delivering business productivity and skilled workers rather than approaching businesses to give jobs to young Aboriginal people. A cornerstone of the program is that it is not referral based; rather the young people have to approach Gambina themselves and demonstrate their motivation to achieve. Their family must also be supportive of their participation in the program.

Adrian showed us how he had used his WCLP experience to develop a dream into a program that has enormous potential Australia-wide for Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities.

Linda Mellors is the Executive Director of Mercy Public Hospitals Inc, comprising Mercy Hospital for Women, Werribee Mercy Hospital, Mercy Mental Health, Mercy Palliative Care and O'Connell Family Centre. Linda is also a member of the Advisory Board of the Parent Infant Research Institute.