Reconciliation in Practice – Balaangala Community Group

Reconciliation in Practice – Balaangala Community Group 

Australians can learn a lot about reconciliation from Balaangala Community Group, based in The Gap.

The group was founded in the name of reconciliation – it literally means “two coming together” in the Gamilaraay language, where two of the founding members were from.

Balaangala is now a thriving group of 70 members who connect and contribute in any way that suits them – working in the group’s garden, organising and running events, being a book club member, participating in weaving workshops, or being a financial member.

Their recent Sorry Day commemorates Stolen Generation survivors and descendants, with this year’s focus being the ongoing impact of those policies on survivors.

Michelle Peile said: “People think the policies are in the past, they’re done. But there’s intergenerational trauma. The stuff you see on the news can be directly attributed to the policies of the past. It takes enormous strength and resilience from survivors to work towards healing.”

The group’s garden is a place of healing, where they hold commemoration events, working bees, and peer learning group meetings.

Locals are encouraged to visit the garden for a working bee on the first Saturday of each month, or any time for a self-guided tour, reading the informative signs below many of the plants.

Most plants are edible and were naturally found around Brisbane before colonisation, but many became rare shortly after colonisation due to changes in fire, grazing and land management.

The peer learning group is held after working bees, where a member shares their knowledge of a plant chosen at the previous session.

Although many group members are either from a different nation or are non-Indigenous, the group have a strong relationship with the Yuggera and Turrbal people, whose land they work on.

The group encourages people to participate in wealth redistribution and educate themselves about First Nations culture and experiences by reading books and using other learning materials, which can be found on the Balaangala website.

“If you would like to do something, we have a restoration fund project, which is basically a pay-the-rent fund, returning wealth to First Nations people. Any level of contribution is welcome.”

Balaangala is a brilliant example of reconciliation in practice in the community – locals thinking and acting – and there’s something for everyone, no matter your strengths and abilities.

For more details about Balaangala Community Group:

Author & photos: Evie Drinnan