28 October 2022

Yeddung Mura builds good pathways for help and hope under The Dome

| Lottie Twyford
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deanne booth and Priestley obed

Yeddung Mura chairperson Deanne Booth and CEO Pastor Priestley Obed outside the community facility in Fadden. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

Yeddung Mura means good pathways in Ngunnawal language.

The Aboriginal-owned and controlled organisation is all about creating good pathways for the Indigenous community of Canberra – whether they’re leaving prison, in prison or risk falling into a downward spiral of crime, poor mental health or substance abuse.

The community group, created by Aboriginal elders, has also followed a good pathway of its own.

Starting in humble beginnings in the Gilmore garage of Yeddung Mura Aboriginal Corporation (YMAC) CEO Pastor Priestley Obed, the group has now moved to The Dome in Fadden.

The complex’s reawakening began in 2019 when the owner offered the site to Pastor Obed and the team after hearing about their work.

Once known as the mpowerdome, its doors were closed in 2016 after issues including parking became too much.

Fiona Hannan stands under basketball hoop

Fiona Hannan is using half of The Dome to run Scorer’s Academy with her husband Andrew. They want to give children from underprivileged backgrounds the chance to not only play sport but to excel. Photo: Lottie Twyford.

These days, half the sports facility is leased by Futsal which has been there since 2019. The other half has recently reopened for basketball and for children’s parties with inflatables.

Months of major clean-ups and repair efforts by Yeddung Mura’s Aboriginal community have helped get the site where it is today – a true community facility run by the community for the community.

When the group came in three years ago, the entire complex was trashed with broken glass, graffiti on every wall and human faeces all over the place.

But that didn’t deter the group from its task ahead.

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Hundreds of volunteers came in, again and again, to keep cleaning – even after local teenagers would come in during the evenings to smash things up again.

And no-one asked for a single cent in return.

Pastor Priestley said nobody wanted to touch the facility back then.

“Our work was done by the people who come here to get help as well as community volunteers,” he said.

“We wanted things to be brought back to life.”

As for Yeddung Mura’s efforts to help Aboriginal prisoners and those leaving jail, Pastor Priestley said no-one was forced to complete any of its programs – they must want to get well first.

He said most Aboriginal prisoners were in the Territory’s jail for drug-related offences.

He first realised there was a gap in the system when he began working at the prison to provide chaplaincy services.

“People didn’t need support in physical things such as buying tea and coffee. They needed support and community,” he said.

“It’s hard to come out of prison.”

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The group runs yarning circles “with a purpose” about anger management, how to help people with mental health, and programs about preventing domestic violence and managing grief.

Counsellors, legal aid solicitors, employment agencies, mentors and elders are also brought in to the Fadden base to help those who need it.

Yeddung Mura also supports those going through the court system, especially the Galambany Circle Sentencing Court, to help them get back on their feet. This includes housing assistance, Centrelink support and help to obtain identification when they’re released from prison.

Ultimately, it’s about creating a safe space where community members can get the help they need – no matter what.

The group’s work has been attracting government attention since 2019 when it first received funding.

“We’ve often kept a low profile,” Pastor Priestley said. “We don’t want any unnecessary attention, we want the community to hear about what we are up to and understand.”

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