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‘Great things can be achieved if you bring people with you’: Friends of Coolart

Profile of Rebecca Bridges
Written by Rebecca BridgesPosted on 26/6/2020

The Coolart Wetlands and Homestead is a serene spot on Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula surrounded by beautiful heritage gardens. Built more than 130 years ago, the majestic property was privately owned up until 1977 when it was purchased by the Victorian Government.

The distinctive landmark is a beloved part of the community cared for by a community group known as the Friends of Coolart.

“The Friends of Coolart started like many other friends groups – passionate volunteers who give their time to caring for a local, (usually) government-owned, asset,” says Julie Ebbott, current committee president.

“We are a typical grassroots community group with a big vision and belief.”

“Our current priority is to bring First Nations stories back to the property.”

Julie and a committee of 12 volunteers dedicate their time to the preservation and enhancement of the Coolart Wetlands and Homestead to ensure it brings the utmost environment, cultural and educational value to the community and its visitors.

“Our current priority is to bring First Nations stories back to the property,” Julie says.

“At the start of 2020 we commenced discussions with the Bunurong Land Council to forge a greater presence at Coolart and to develop projects around language, art, culture, environment, and history.”

“The Friends of Coolart believe that this is a very important project in many different ways but particularly in finally reinstating the Bunurong history to Coolart and creating a centre of great educational and cultural value to not only the Mornington Peninsula but to Victoria and Australia.”

The Brambuk National Park and Cultural Centre at Halls Gap was an inspiration for this project, which plans to feature an historical trail paying respects to the Indigenous history of the area.

“Great things can be achieved at the community level if you bring people with you,” Julie says.

“We are dreaming big and being bold in what we hope to achieve.”

“I knew we could very quickly get something set up with ACF and concentrate our efforts on raising funds and developing projects.”

In pursuit of that dream, the Friends of Coolart set up an NFP Future Fund with Australian Communities Foundation (ACF) to assist with fundraising and ease the administrative burden on the group, leaving them to focus on the projects near and dear to them.

“The path to achieve our own DGR status would take a long time without any guaranteed outcome, not to mention all the administrative responsibilities that this would come with,” Julie says. “As a volunteer organisation we do not have the skills nor the time.”

“I helped establish a sub-fund several years ago for another charity, so I knew we could very quickly get something set up with ACF and concentrate our efforts on raising funds and developing projects,” she says.

It wasn’t only the simple set up and fundraising benefits that drew Julie to ACF, “The range of interests that are represented within the ACF giving community is amazing,” she says, “it is humanity at its best and it’s great to be a part of.”

Next time you visit the Mornington Peninsula, stop by Coolart for a picnic, leisurely walk, and see the place the Friends of Coolart lovingly care for yourself.

“Coolart is a unique historical and environmental property that offers many opportunities for education, health and wellbeing and environmental and historical study,” Julie says.

“I highly recommend a visit, but then again, I am biased!”

Read more

You can read more about Coolart’s history and the Grimwade family in the February 2020 edition of Peninsula Essence.