TWENTY years ago seven Aboriginal elders met in a loungeroom in Sutherland with the dream of starting a place where local Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people could find a safe meeting place.
The result of that dream, the Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation, will celebrate its 20th anniversary next week.
Those seven founding members — Deanna Schreiber, Elizabeth Homer, Karen Homer, Carol Vale, Ann Cribb, Bill Lay and Les Bursill — have watched their organisation grow to become the only Aboriginal organisation in St George and Sutherland Shire.
Deanna Schreiber said the foundation would have helped thousands of members of their community during that time.
"When we started meeting we thought we wouldn't last five years," she said
"There were some of us, including Elizabeth Homer, who said there wasn't anywhere for Aboriginal people to gather: we needed to make an information centre for Aboriginal people in Sutherland Shire.
"We were breaking new ground. There were land councils but it was quite special to form an Aboriginal Corporation. There were a lot of legalities involved.
"It wasn't just about coming together and having a yarn; there are about 3000 Aboriginal families in the shire and there was nowhere for them to meet."
The corporation was incorporated on November 21, 1994 under the Aboriginal Councils and Associations Act 1976.
"We chose the name Kurranulla, which means pink shell, to reflect the area — the Sutherland Shire people are saltwater people."
Mrs Schreiber went to Sutherland Shire Council and put their case to them for a place to meet.
"They gave us a little room in the council chambers, and seven of us would meet once a month.
"It was quite difficult at times because we all had full-time jobs."
As their workload grew, the corporation needed bigger premises, initially an office in a cottage, now demolished, in Davy Street, Sutherland, and then its present location (Jannali Community Centre).
"We named it Elizabeth House after Elizabeth Homer.
"There are also volunteer counsellors to talk to anyone who needs them.
"The door is always open at Kurranulla and it is open for everyone. They don't have to be an Aboriginal person."
CELEBRATIONS, BARBECUE, MUSIC
Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation will celebrate achievements and honour the hard work of the elders with a barbecue, live music and an art and crafts sale at Elizabeth House, Jannali Community Centre, Jannali Avenue on Saturday, November 22 from 10am to 3pm.
■ Has the Kurranulla Aboriginal Corporation helped you over the years?