Learning from Traditional Custodians at the Gathering Place in Dandenong

A youth group visit to a fire station has evolved into a strong partnership between firefighters and their community.

Sunday, 8 November 2020 at 9:48 pm

Late last year, firefighters from Dandenong invited young people from the local Aboriginal Cooperative to come and visit the fire station.

During the visit, they met with FRV Leading Firefighter Stuart Radley (known at the youth group as ‘Uncle Disco’), who has since formed a strong bond with the group.

"I’ve been in the fire and rescue service for 18 years and I’m passionate about working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples,” LFF Radley said.

“I value both learning from them and their connections to Country and creating pathways and professional opportunities for them in the fire services.” 

The youth group, which runs at the Casey Aboriginal Gathering Place, invited LFF Radley to come and visit them.

Over the following weeks and months, the group welcomed Stuart and the crew from Dandenong as often as possible.

Image taken pre-COVID-19 restrictions

"Sometimes we shoot a few quick hoops, other times we just have a quick chat before heading back to the station,” LFF Radley said.

“I’m privileged to have been welcomed into their lives. It has enabled me to learn in a very informal, casual way, about Aboriginal culture, traditions, values and knowledge.

“I also get to see the very real challenges that some of these kids face in their everyday lives. Hopefully, I can encourage some of these kids to consider a career at FRV.”

Motu Ese from the Gathering Place said the relationship between the station and the youth group was a special one.  

"The two-way nature of the relationship is its strength. The support the youth and community feel from the fire services is greatly valued,” Motu said.

“So too is the opportunity to share knowledge and information about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and their communities with people outside of their community.”

Each year, NAIDOC Week is celebrated at the Gathering Place with a festival-style celebration. Local fire services usually participate in these activities, and this year, were determined to continue participating, despite COVID-19 restrictions.

FRV has donated wooden spoons and craft supplies to the group so they can create a NAIDOC Week Spoonville Embassy, and holding arts and crafts sessions at the station to contribute to the project.

“These activities are a chance to connect after what has been a challenging year,” Motu said.

“As well as reaching out and inviting people to contribute to the Spoonville Embassy, we are also conducting video interviews with Elders for people to ask questions and learn.”

LFF Radley also sat down with some members of the Gathering Place to have a chat about connections to Country and what NAIDOC Week means to them. You can watch the videos here: 


The theme of this year’s NAIDOC Week is Always Was, Always Will Be, and honours the knowledge and wisdom of the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land.

FRV is committed to learning from and working with community groups and Traditional Owners both as part of our work, and as active members of our local communities.