|Dear community and friends,
As 2022 draws to a close, it is a great reminder of all the things that we have been able to accomplish during this once again, difficult year.
Although we have come through another COVID manic time and place, it hasn’t all been plain sailing and each one of us has no doubt met our challenges in our own unique ways whether being sick with COVID or managing to keep well away from the virus – and bravo to those that escaped its wrath.
While lock downs now seem to be a thing of the past, we still had to modify and accommodate the ever-changing expectations of government particularly at the start of the year and then learn to transition to a less regimented way of life. For us here at MMIGP, that meant beginning to feel somewhat normal, braver in getting back out there into community and of course, juggling the demands of sickness, uncontrollable weather patterns and our own interesting journeys. These have been huge impacts and MMIGP certainly wasn’t a stranger in rising to the challenge and embracing any opportunity where it could be found.
I hope that we are through the rough patches and can focus on celebrating this year with triumph and welcoming the new year with joy and hope!
2022 has been a big year like every year before it. We have seen world calamity; and we have seen world unity. Our local environment has tested us with never ending floods; more sorry business than I can ever remember and a rise in the cost of living that is scary – just to name a few issues. But – we have endured. We have faced these tribulations with gusto in the form of our community and family strength and mostly through human endurance, love, and kindness. I hope that your journeys have ended up that way too.
This year however has also seen MMIGP adding to its staffing base and ticking over 22 staff members in total, while welcoming back Olivia Pert as the Social Enterprise Assistant and now Jesse Veith as the Social Enterprise All-Rounder. In addition, we welcomed Kerry Williams to the role of Program Manager, Chloe Hope as the Youth Lead, Elisha Diamond as the Ochre Women’s Healing Support Worker and more recently, Andrea Tou as the first EA to the CEO that MMIGP has ever had. MMIGP has been blessed with the opportunity to increase its staffing base to continue the much-needed work that it does in supporting community as it always has. We hope that by now, you have been able to meet the newest members of our team.
As we say welcome to our new team members, we also say goodbye to others. This includes Kristy Knocker, who was our Business Support Trainee; Lisa Nguyen our Access and Support Worker and very soon me – Elke Smirl, the current CEO since June 2019. We have collectively enjoyed our time at MMIGP but look forward to taking on new opportunities and lifestyle changes. In the new year I will assist with the handover while the MMIGP Board undertakes a vigorous recruitment campaign for a new CEO and will officially finish in my role in March 2023.
Both Lisa and Kristy will leave big shoes to fill, and we thank them for their dedication and support to MMIGP during their time with us. I know that for me, it will be bittersweet, but it is how they say, time to move on and make way for the next deadly leader. I have been very lucky to have been at MMIGP during such momentous change, particularly with the purchase of Patterson Street last December and of course, planning for its redevelopment in 2022/23 and beyond. I have been flanked by an amazing Board of Directors who have supported me 100% and helped to drive some difficult decisions while we all undergo good change that will embed a solid future for our community.
Planning Permits have been currently lodged with Maroondah Council in the hope to a) remove the heritage overlay that will enable us to knock down and rebuild and b) commence the first sod turn in mid-2023. We hope to hear from Maroondah Council in a few weeks’ time as to the outcome and will be sure to keep you all well-informed. We are very positive indeed.
In the meantime, due to the derelict state of the building, we have been lucky to take on a lease of a building at Yarra Valley Water (YVW) in Mitcham which will see the Program Manager and her team located permanently there for the duration of the Patterson Street redevelopment project. We are truly thankful to YVW for their kindness in providing us with an alternate location to operate from particularly as we will no longer be able to use Patterson Street after Christmas.
This will seem a little strange not holding community events and programs at Patterson Street, but Mitcham is only 2 train stops away from East Ringwood and I hope that you will support us whilst we settle in our temporary home. This will be the main location for program staff, however, we anticipate holding some of our programs/activities at YVW but are also looking for other satellite homes around the Eastern Metro Region so that we can spread our wings and engage with community in other areas that we normally haven’t in the past. This gives us a great opportunity to diversify.
Over the next 2 weeks, MMIGP will be slowing down its programs and commencing shut down in preparation for 2023. Our final programs will occur during the week beginning 12 December and finishing on 16 December. This will give the team some time to clear out their old spaces and settle into their new home while Mullum Creations; Mullum Pantry and the Administration team remain at Croydon Way. Please continue to drop into the Croydon office for a visit whenever you can.
MMIGP will then close for the Christmas/New Year break at midday on Thursday 22 December 2022 and re-open on Tuesday 3 January 2023. Mullum Pantry will only take a break during the Christmas/New Year period and resume operation on Wednesday 4 January 2023 via a pickup service only. It will resume a full service the following Wednesday 11 January 2023. The remainder of programs will recommence on 30 January 2023.
We aim to provide more information on our activities and location once the 2023 calendar is available.
This year as I reflect, the team have rolled out some wonderful events: youth camp; women’s retreat; health check day; Sisters Day Out; Strong Safe Elders – Navigating the Narrative Workshop; NAIDOC Ball 2022; NAIDOC family day 2022; White Ribbon in partnership with Boorndawan Willam Aboriginal Healing Service (BWAHS) and others; Yoor-rook and Treaty Conversations; MMIGP Trivia and Gala nights; 16 Days of Activism with Maroondah Council, Victoria Police, BWAHS and ECLC; Reconciliation movie night; Reconciliation with Maroondah Council; NAIDOC at Eastland; Living Libraries at Realm Eastland; NAIDOC Art Exhibition at Federation Estate; Knox and Maroondah Festival; and many more.
I also reflect on some of the awards that members of MMIGP have won, such as the Senior of the Year Award for Aunty Daphne Milward; the Victorian Women’s Honour Roll for our Chairperson, Karen Milward; NAIDOC Strong Sista’s Award for Elke Smirl and State Government Volunteer Award for Chris and Heather Cosgriff. We are a very clever mob! I am also immensely proud of the work that the MMIGP team has done covering off on so many aspects of our community whether it be through education or just plain old community engagement. We are blessed.
A big thank you to MMIGP’s committee members, particularly the Fund-Raising Committee, Finance Committee, Lotjpa-Yapaneyeput Cultural Committee and Building Committee for all the meetings we have had this year – many thanks for your valued ideas, commitment and support.
I would also like to say a big welcome to our newest community member – baby Charlie Amaroo Reynolds and we wish, Chloe, Johnno and the family all the very best and look forward to seeing you all at Mullum’s programs and activities in the future.
In closing, I would like to say thank you to all of you – our family, friends, fellow Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community members; the broader community; our allies and our key partners. Without your support and our continued collaborations, we would struggle to teach other about our proud Indigenous history and culture and to remind others that we are the oldest living culture on earth standing, living, working and playing on Aboriginal land – Always Was – Always Will Be.
Have a safe, festive Christmas 2022 with your family and friends. We will see you all on the flip side of 2023.
Yours in unity and respect,
6 December 2022.
Elke Smirl – Chief Executive Officer
Henry Nguyen – Operations Manager
Tsyanne Duff – Rankine – Administration Officer/Reception
Kerry Edwards – Program Manager
Sami Ison-Johnson – Youth Worker
Emily Mancell – Youth Worker
Chloe Hope – Youth Worker
Steve Beeby – Engagement & Prevention Worker
Vanessa Scales – Mullum Pantry Coordinator
Chris Hume – Men’s Worker
Dion Edwards – Men’s Worker
Marc Williams – Planned Activities and Social Support Worker
James Cusick – Community Driver/Mullum Pantry Assistant
Stevie Thorpe – Social Enterprise Coordinator
Olivia Pert – Social Enterprise Assistant
Vanessa Thomson – Project Coordinator
Merilyn Duff – Ochre Program Team Leader
Elisha Diamond – Healing Support Worker
Andrea Tou – Executive Assistant and Governance Officer
Jesse Cusick – Social Enterprise Allrounder