Fed Square listed as potential site for First Nations cultural precinct

By Katie Johnson

A draft proposal for a multi-million-dollar First Nations precinct in the heart of the city has been backed by the City of Melbourne and the First Peoples of Victoria.

If approved by the state government, the $400 million precinct would serve as a “keeping place” for repatriated artefacts, be a symbol of reconciliation and could serve as the nation’s first “Black Parliament”.

First Peoples’ Assembly co-chair Marcus Stewart said the precinct could be an important part of the state’s Treaty process that would give Aboriginal people the power to make decisions that would affect their communities.

“The Assembly is encouraging our people to think big. Everything is on the table,” Mr Steward said.

“If that involves a central cultural precinct and resting place for returned remains then we’ll be happy to push for such a place in Melbourne.”

“The Treaty process is not just about our First Nations people, it’s about the whole community and a First Nations cultural precinct in the centre of the city would not only provide our people with a central gathering place to celebrate our culture, but a location where the wider community could go to learn about the cultures of the peoples who lived and cared for this land before European settlement and who continue to live their culture to this day.”

The proposal states that funding for the precinct would be sought from the state and federal governments, businesses, philanthropic organisations and academic institutions.

Potential sites being considered include Enterprize Park, a site near the Queen Victoria Market, Victoria Harbour in Docklands, and a site between Federation Square and Batman Avenue that sits adjacent to Birrarung Marr.

Yarra River Business Association executive officer Tim Bracher said that it was a “bold project” that should ideally be placed at Federation Square East to complement the Koorie Heritage Trust.

“The site at Enterprize Park would be far too small for something of this nature, and the plan for Greenline is to keep northbank for passive recreation and uncluttered by buildings,” Mr Bracher said.

“Sited at Fed Square East would also place it in a more natural setting, alongside Birrarung Marr, which would complement the presentation of the world’s oldest continuous culture.”

“From a tourism perspective, only a small percentage of international visitors to Melbourne are exposed to southern Australia’s indigenous culture, so placing the proposal as close to possible to Fed Square would put it front and centre of where the visitors will be.”

The idea for a cultural precinct in Melbourne was first put forward by First Peoples’ Assembly member Carolyn Briggs in Victorian Parliament in late October.

The suggestion came amid government discussions about a permanent indigenous voice in the state’s political and legislative framework.

“It’ll be for theatre, it will be for international indigenous peoples around the world to come to, it will be somewhere the Elders will have their place, it’ll be central to Melbourne, it’ll be our own parliament,” Dr Briggs wrote in the First People’s annual report.

“It will be distinctive because it will bring together every element of stories that will be imbedded for our nations to come to a centre for world excellence from an indigenous perspective.”

The City of Melbourne declined to comment until plans were finalised •

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