My Place: Sharon Sowter

Sharon Sowter is the chairperson of Kirrip House,working with the local indigenous community. Pic Marco De Luca

By Ewen McRae

Sharon Sowter, the chairperson of Kirrip House, works closely with the indigenous community. She chats with Ewen McRae.

What is your connection to Melton?


My mum and dad built a home here in 1972 and we lived in Astor Place, West Melton, then Kamil Street, Melton South before moving back to Melbourne when I was eight. The population was around 7000 people back then. I started school at West Melton PS, then had one year at Coburn PS. The schools were very new and the high school was only just being built. I came back to Melton in 2001, when I moved with my own young family to Caroline Springs and started teaching at Melton Primary School. This year we moved to beautiful Eynesbury, after watching Caroline Springs grow from a whole lot of paddocks, less than 700 people and not even a milk bar, to what it is today.


What do you like best about the area?


Eynesbury is a beautiful place. When I sit out the front of our home and look over to the parkland with the tall trees, rabbits and birds, I feel truly happy. Eynesbury is quite isolated at the moment, but hopefully it won’t be long before we have our own shopping area and another entry/exit road. I actually enjoy the peace and quiet that the isolation brings. Melton township isn’t far away, and we have Woodgrove with mostly everything we need. The schools in Melton are fabulous, especially the primary schools.


What could make the area better?


A commitment to getting along with each other, no matter where you’re from or what your beliefs are. We have everything we need in Melton. It’s an attitudinal change that we need from just a small number of people who live here, or visit here, that would make Melton a truly wonderful place.


Where is your favourite place to go for a feed in the area?


I still love to pop down to Toscanini’s in CS Square for the best coffee! They’ve been there a long time and are lovely people. I really love the cafe in the old Courthouse in Melton too. And of course our own Eynesbury Homestead.

How did you become involved at Kirrip House? Can you tell me about the house and what you offer the local indigenous community?


I’m a proud Aboriginal woman, and have enjoyed sharing my story with the kids I’ve taught for a long time. I became a member of Kirrip because I wanted to connect with others in our local Aboriginal community. I was elected to the board last year and became chairperson; a position I have thoroughly enjoyed because of the wonderful connections and opportunities it has brought me.

Kirrip House provides Aboriginal elders, youth, children, women and men, with a place to meet up and connect – in a welcoming, homely environment.


Why do you think the house is so important?


Most Aboriginal people in Melton live far from, or have been separated from, their mob, or perhaps aren’t really sure who their mob is. We need a community space where Aboriginal people feel culturally safe to gather, share and learn about our history and culture.


What has been some of the highlights from your time at Kirrip House?


NAIDOC Week was huge for me, and it was my privilege to provide cultural opportunities for our Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal community. I am so pleased to say that many NAIDOC events were held throughout Melton. We hosted a morning tea and wood burning session. I spoke at the council flag-raising and shared the joy of raising the Aboriginal flag with the most gorgeous pre-school kids. I spoke at Djerriwarrh Health and community planted the fabulous Indigenous Garden that lays within the Aboriginal Hub there. Kirrip House held a Women’s Luncheon, and finally we had an Open House/Family Day.


What would people be surprised to know about you?


I was a musician in a previous life – I studied music (flute) straight out of high school at Melbourne Uni Conservatorium.