By Suganthi Singarayar

On 27 and 28 September GKA volunteers travelled to Dubbo to visit ‘Riverbank’ Frank Doolan, who spoke at the GK Global Summit in October last year. Whilst there we visited the Apollo House Community Centre in East Dubbo where we spent part of Thursday morning and the afternoon helping with the digital photography workshops facilitated by ABC Open producer Ana Tovey. Some GKA volunteers are very proficient with cameras and some of us learnt as we ‘helped’ the children!

During the school holidays Apollo House offers children’s holiday programs and during other times of the yearit offers financial, health and work programs, a weekly sewing group, and a referral service to other areas.

Mini Apollo boys by Neville and Maxwell

No big deal!

Thirsty work…

Big bike little lads

Big Boy Leaping little trees

After lunch we dropped into the Men’s Shed where we were welcomed by Bert Barwick. Bert’s story is featured in  ‘A Shed Load of Stories’ which the Men’s Shed published, and if you drop into the Dubbo Cultural Centre you will see the Australian Hero wagon of which Bert has built a scale model.

The men at the shed went out of their way to welcome the GKA volunteers. We were shown around the shed by Ray Brown, whose story is also told in ‘A Shed Load of Stories’. Ray put down his tools to give us the grand tour. A number of the items around the shed show the strong connection between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal members.  Ray showed us the tools – digging sticks and flints that an Aboriginal member, Uncle Don Nolan, had made over a lifetime and which he had presented to the Shed for safekeeping. As Ray pointed out, we would not have been able to see these items in a museum, but they are a part of the life of the Men’s Shed. On one wall of the shed is a painting by Natasha Walker which shows half of Riverbank’s face and half of Owen Scoble’s face, the connection between the two faces is seamless representing the shared nature of the shed and the community.

The shed is a place of welcome for all men, young and old and they make all visitors, even ‘non-men’ very welcome!

We returned to Apollo House for another digital session and then took Frank back to the Riverbank where we spent some time wandering down along the river and enjoying the gentle nature of the country side.

Friday morning was spent in the park with the children from Apollo House. In the afternoon we helped with preparations for Apollo House’s NAIDOC (National Aboriginal and islander Day Observance Committee) celebrations. The welcome to country was given by Uncle Johnny Hill.

We helped with the face painting, helped supervise the boomerang painting and helped serve the food. We met many community members and enjoyed the entertainment put on by Johnny Huckle who’s Wombat Wobble went down a treat with the kids!

We would like to thank Johanna, Mel, Lionel, Frank and Judy for their very warm welcome every time we visit Apollo House.

To round off the day we spent Friday evening at the Community kitchen which is operated every Friday by Emmanuel Care. Johnny Huckle who had spent the day entertaining the kids and adults at the NAIDOC day celebrations at Apollo House then spent the evening entertaining the diners and servers at the Community Kitchen.

The Community Kitchen, which has been operating for around seven years, has 40 teams of volunteers, each consisting of 8-12 people who are rostered on once every two months. Frank said that the line between the servers and the served has become blurred over time with people who used to serve becoming servers. Many of the servers, once they have finished serving, enjoy sitting down with friends and having a meal. The Community Kitchen is advertised through pamphlets left at social security and other places where people in need may go. However, as Frank points out, the kitchen is not just for people who are ‘down and out’, it is alsoa place for friendship and companionship. Frank said that a number of the regular people who visit have their own set tables that they sit at every Friday night. Nine of us visited from Sydney on the night and we also met visitors who came from Moree.

The places that we visited had a common theme of inclusiveness and friendship. The Men’s Shed is a place where men can meet, enjoy each other’s company, undertake their own private work or get involved with tasks for the community, Apollo House is a meeting place for the people of East Dubbo, and the Community Kitchen is a place of friendship and companionship. Our link to all three is Riverbank Frank but we have made friendships with all the people that we met in Dubbo.

Thank you to Johanna, Mel, Lionel, Frank and Judy from the Apollo Centre, Ray, Bert, Garry, Frank and all the men at the Men’s Shed who have made us welcome each time we have visited Dubbo and to all the people at the Community Kitchen who accepted and welcomed us at their tables. Thank you also to the cooks –  Spaghetti Bolognese, cake, custard and peaches!!!! A great hit!