Wathaurong Co-op one step closer to ECEC with the appointment of architect

Wathaurong Co-op one step closer to ECEC with the appointment of architect

by Freya Lucas

March 01, 2022

Early childhood education and care (ECEC) services at Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative are one step closer with the appointment of an architect for the development of the co-op’s new home in North Geelong.

 

International firm Woods Bagot have been appointed to lead the proposed $26 million Morgan Street redevelopment, which will see the existing facility at 62 Morgan Street refurbished, bringing an end to the separation of various arms of the service which had long since outgrown the space, leading to more space being leased in North Geelong and Geelong West.

 

Speaking with local news source Geelong Times, Wathaurong CEO Simon Flagg said the idea to renovate the existing site had been a long journey that started more than 10 years ago.

 

“We’ve exploded as an organisation,” he said, pleased the project is moving ahead after an extended period of concepts, plans and discussions “but no actual movement”.

 

In 2015, Wathaurong had 60 staff, but today has 170, meaning big changes need to be made to the Morgan Street site to accommodate the co-op’s growth.

 

“For our community and our organisation, our Morgan Street site is our home, so we want to really redevelop this site so it supports the foundations of who we are as an organisation, which is culture and community at the centre of everything we can do.”

 

Top on the list is a space where community can gather and do events, and as such a function centre will be built at the top of the building to hold a lot of things in-house, like funerals and weddings, he explained. 

 

“We’re not building just for the now, it’s also for future growth. Ultimately, we’re not going to sacrifice the vision for our community…we’ll advocate for funding at all levels so we can get the best building for our community.”

 

The redevelopment will also include a health service, administration building, cafe and ECEC service, to be created over the next five years in stages. Mr Flagg is hoping for something unique, saying the space will need to have a culturally appropriate and connected feel, and not be “off the shelf”.

 

“It should not be mainstream, it’s really important that it fits the landscape that we’re in – because we’re all about looking after Country, and Country looks after us – so it has to fit this place and also the way we want to operate,” he added. 

 

Commenting on the plans Woods Bagot principal Bronwyn McColl stressed the importance of connecting with the local Wathaurong community to create a cultural hub.

 

“We’re incredibly excited to begin our long and deep conversation with the Wathaurong community, to learn and bring their vision for the co-operative to life, embedding genuine Aboriginal influence and agency into this design process,” she said.

To read the original coverage of this story please see here.

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