Ballerrt Mooroop (Strong Spirit) Site, Ceremonial site, and Uncle Tom’s Tree
The Ballerrt Mooroop site is located at 208A Hilton Street in Glenroy. The site is culturally and educationally significant to all First Nations on Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Country and has significant native vegetation, including the Spirit Tree or Uncle Tom’s Tree, River Red Gum, and many other established native trees, supporting bird life and other ecologies.
- 1954 – 1992: this was the site of the old Glenroy High School.
- 1995: the late Wurundjeri Elder Margaret Gardiner opened Koorie Open Door Education school with the first Wominjeka ceremony.
- 2009 - 2011 it was renamed Ballerrt Mooroop College Koorie Pathways School
- 2011: The college was closed
- 2012: a community campaign was launched to return the site to the Aboriginal community for use by the whole community.
- 2017: the campaign kept the site public and leased it to the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Corporation temporarily until future use is decided.
The following significant Elders have performed ceremonies and worked with students on this site:
The late Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elder Margaret Gloria Gardiner, who passed away in August 2022 aged 63, was a steadfast, smart, articulate and fiery advocate when it came to her connection to Country and Ancestors across all of her First Nations.
In 2011 Aunty Margaret played a key role in the campaign to keep open the Ballerrt Mooroop. Since the school was closed in 2012, she had been campaigning to keep the school site for the benefit of the Hume and Merri-bek First Nations communities.
She has continued this work until most recently in August 2022 when Aunty Margaret was leading the campaign for the Ballerrt Mooroop community hub to be built in Glenroy.
Aunty Margaret often spoke up to ensure concerns around cultural protocols and Aboriginal sovereignty were heard.
- Aunty Margaret won the 2022 Merri-Bek Lisa Bellear Award for Contribution to Reconciliation
- ABC News article “Wurundjeri elder Aunty Margaret Gardiner's quiet legacy for Victoria's Aboriginal community"
Uncle Tom passed away in 2006 here at the school site. The gum tree at the ceremonial group is called "Uncle Tom's Tree" because Uncle Tom used to sit under the tree and talk to the kids who got into trouble.
Uncle Tom was a Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri man described by the staff and students as “a true Elder, much-loved Uncle who cared, who listened, who pushed us to work hard, who always told us: you must have an education and be proud who you are". Uncle Tom served as a board member of the Victorian Aboriginal Health Service for 10 years.
Read more about Uncle Tom’s daughter Aunty Sharon Slater, a very proud Kamilaroi and Wiradjuri womanwho won’t be silenced when it comes to protecting the rights and raising awareness for Aboriginal and Torres Strait children with severe disabilities.
Gary Murray, a First Nations Elder of the Wamba Wamba, Yorta Yorta, Dhudhuroa, Dja Dja Wurrung, Djupagalk and Baraparapa Peoples based in Fawkner.
A father of 12 and grandfather of 28 grandchildren. Gary’s family were likely to be the first Aboriginal family to settle in the Merri-bek area in 1954. Gary graduated from Glenroy Primary School and the old Glenroy High School which was at this site. Gary has lived in the Merri-bek area since 2008 and is an active member of his community.
Through the examples set by his grandfather Sir Doug Nicholls and father Stewart Murray he was inspired to educate himself in lore/law and continue the family legacy with his leadership.
Gary has a range of commitments in the community including his recent involvement in the Merri-bek First Nations Advisory Committee where he champions the Ballerrt Mooroop Hub project.
Candid Community Podcast: Local history interviews
The totem and shield benches
The totem and benches in the shape of a shield were designed and built by former students of Ballerrt Mooroop College.
The future of the Ballerrt Mooroop site
A 2021 feasibility study into the future of the site identified that Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Elders and Aboriginal community members strongly believed that the Glenroy Ballerrt Mooroop site would provide Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people with a sense of pride.
The site could be a place to share family stories, education, and cultural traditions, values, and customs to help build a strong, vibrant, and healthy Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung community and broader Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities in the area.
In 2022 Merri-bek City Council resolved to advocate to the State Government, to transfer the title of the Ballerrt Mooroop site to the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung Cultural Heritage Aboriginal Corporation.
The aim of the campaign is to secure the future of the Ballerrt Mooroop site with a view to establishing community, health, education, cultural, and open space facilities for Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung and the broader Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in the cities of Merri-bek and Hume.