Participants of this year’s Loddon Murray Community Leadership Program (LMCLP) visited Pyramid Hill last week as part of an ‘Inclusive Communities’ themed program day. The day began with an incredible heartfelt Acknowledgement of Country from LMCLP participant Sarah O’Brien, a teacher from Donald, who shared her journey in learning to understand and appreciate the significance of this ritual.
The inclusion theme was explored from a number of different angles throughout the day, with a panel of three influential community members sharing their perspective on what an inclusive community looks like, as well as the story of their own leadership journeys. The guest panellists included Colleen Hampson from St Patrick’s Primary School, Loddon Shire Councillor Cheryl McKinnon (also a graduate of the leadership program), and Helen Garchitorena, newly elected President of the U.F.O. (United Filipino Organisation), Committee member of the Pyramid Hill Neighbourhood House, and member of the Australian-Filipino Food Culture Exchange, the Pyramid Hill Garden Club and Senior Citizens. Both Colleen and Councillor McKinnon shared their perspective that the Filipino community has in some ways ‘saved’ their town, with increased population, investment in real estate and business, and positive participation in the school, church, community centre and working on local farms. Helen shared her experience of culture shock in her first year, and from this to her now significant involvement in her adopted community
Helen works with LMCLP 2017 participant Marilyn Fernandez at the Kia Ora Piggery, and also at a local dairy and orchard. Helen is a qualified Vet in the Philippines, but this qualification is sadly unrecognised in Australia, while Marilyn has her Animal husbandry qualification and has completed her Certificate III Pig Production. They enjoy their work in Pyramid Hill, working with integrity with the animals which are so important to them. The group were fortunate to be able to visit the Piggery, and were shown around the farm and its numerous innovations by Tom and Caleb Smith, assisted by Marilyn, who was the recipient of the Victorian Pig Fair Bridget Dunn Award in 2015 and is the 2017 Loddon Shire Scholarship recipient enabling her participation in the LMCLP.
Participants also gained many new insights through a Rural Social Inclusion Framework workshop facilitated by Emma Shannon (also a LMCLP graduate) from Central Victorian Primary Care Partnerships. Emma encouraged participants to consider this vital framework when developing their community projects as part of the leadership program. Participants also enjoyed hearing about the ‘Invisible Farmer’ project with Catherine Forge from Museums Victoria. The project aims to collect and share the stories of women on farms.
Throughout the day, Noime, Richard, Emely and other members and supporters of the local Filipino community prepared and served the group some wonderful Filipino food and cakes, and the group were won over by their hospitality, friendly service and delicious food. Their willingness to turn their hand to anything, and generous sharing of food and culture seem to have had a huge part to play in the process of their inclusion and integration at Pyramid Hill. They have brought the Fiesta to town and there’s no going back. After proffering a very big thank-you, the group finished off their day with a celebratory photo shoot in the closing light at the hill.