On-country gatherings are a chance to deepen understanding and strengthen relationships

Insights: 5 July 2023

By Karly Whelan, Program Manager (VIC/TAS/SA)

Working at FRRR provides many wonderful opportunities to work closely with community. Woor-Dungin’s on-country gatherings are one of these valued opportunities, with Aboriginal Community Controlled Organisations (ACCOs) and philanthropy coming together to develop deeper understanding and stronger relationships. It is a privilege and joy as FRRR’s Victorian Grants Program Manager to attend these annual gatherings.

Gathering of Woor-Dungin at Tower Hill on Gunditjmara country

Based in Naarm (Melbourne), Woor-Dungin works with and connects Victorian First Nations groups with resources, pro bono support and philanthropy. Woor-Dungin designed the annual on-country events to support ACCOs with their goals by connecting them in-person with philanthropic organisations.

This year’s gathering took place in late March over three-days on Gunditjmara country in southwest Victoria, where we yarned, enjoyed delicious food, listened, shared insights, and learnt about Gunditjmara culture and country. ACCOs from around Victoria shared their work and impact including developing employment and training programs, deepening understanding of Aboriginal agricultural practices, delivering strength-based health and wellbeing programs, raising awareness and connection to country and culture, creating social enterprises, and artistic endeavours.

It’s not always comfortable – and nor should it be. There is pain and trauma from the ongoing legacy of colonisation and systemic discrimination and injustice. There is also passion and drive, with the gatherings built on the strength and knowledge of First Nations people and organisations.

Philanthropy has a key role to fund gaps, provide resources and create pathways to build capacity and sustain the work of ACCOs. The gatherings provide a space to explore the role of philanthropy in supporting and resourcing First Nations organisations to build capacity, deliver services and programs, and develop innovative projects. It encourages philanthropic organisations to look through the grantseeker’s lens to ensure our programs are responsive, culturally appropriate and accessible for more impactful granting.

I came away invigorated from the gathering, with my head and heart full of meeting new people and reconnecting with others, discussing ways for philanthropy and First Nations groups to forge stronger relationships, and from seeing and listening to the strength and determination of First Nations people. It is a powerful way to learn and share, and to continue developing culturally respectful partnerships built on mutual understanding and trust.