On Friday the 25 March this year, a group of dedicated and enthusiastic volunteers were finally able to meet at the former Cootamundra Domestic Training Home for Aboriginal Girls (1912-1969). After many delays due to COVID-19 which resulted in a handful of postponements, our team and Volunteers commenced the work needed to restore the Home site to a safe, clean and respectable state for our Coota Girl Survivors.
Coota Girls Aboriginal Corporation and our Coota Girl Survivors are working closely with the Department of Aboriginal Affairs NSW to ensure the site is safe and weathertight. The aim of this massive undertaking is to ensure that further neglect and deterioration will be prevented, and we will be able to salvage as much of the original dwelling as possible in honor of our Coota Girls Survivors and their families. These buildings hold great significance to our Coota Girls Survivors and their families, and it is so important that they are preserved.
Before the larger construction process takes place on the main dwelling, our amazing team of Volunteers and staff were able to create a beautiful yarning circle and memorial garden. This work was completed ahead of the Coota Girls Reunion 2022 where Survivors, families and descendants came together at the Former Home Site to heal, yarn, reflect, and enjoy the newly created spaces. We wish to thank the following Working Bee and Coota Girls Reunion Volunteers:
David Boreham (Coota Girl descendant) , Adam Gerrard (Coota Girl descendant), Joanne Alley, Antoinette Ward, Adam Byrne, Wokka Ellis (Coota Girl descendant), Kitty Eggerking, Kath Carol, Vicki Wright, Lloyd Hunt, Diana Lucia Lonnen, Leesa Daly, Jocelyn Joy Freeman, Jo Thitchener, Valettah Cranston, Mattilda Thacker, Graham Neale.
The yarning circle space was designed by our very own Coota Girl descendant, Meagan Gerrard, to symbolise our families and community coming together – wrapping around – and supporting our Coota Girls Survivors on their healing journey. It is a representation of the strength and resilience of our people as a Stolen Generations community.
During the Coota Girls Reunion 2022, Coota Girls Survivors, Kinchela Boys Survivors and their families – as many as 4 generations and aged between 3 to 90 year old – planted native bush plants during a ceremony to honor all Coota Girls Survivors past and present.
The gardens and newly created yarning circle are now under the watchful eye of a local caretaker and Jack of all trades, Antoinette.
Antoinette has continued to work tirelessly in her caretaker role and has since replaced the gutters and downpipes on outbuildings that were moved and dumped into the sheep’s yards by the previous long-term tenants. Antoinette has protected our young plants in readiness for the cooler weather and frost expected in Wiradjuri Country. All lawns and pathways have been levelled and made more secure and safe for our Coota Girl Survivors visits, with mulch added to the gardens that missed out during our Working Bee event in March.
We are all looking forward to future Working Bees where we will be working on a memorial for our Survivors. If you are interested in taking part and have skills in carpentry, roofing or wood work/woodcarving, please reach out to Meagan at Meagan@cootagirls.org.au or on (02)8004 6162.