Supporting community projects and nurturing local arts is integral to Burrinja’s vision. Burrinja is the public name of The Dandenong Ranges Community Cultural Centre, an organisation that began through community arts activism and protest in the late 1990’s that led to the foundation of the cultural centre in 1998.
Burrinja is an example of an independent, not-for-profit, democratically run grass-roots organisation operating within and for its community.
The centre’s origins stem from community protest against local government plans to sell a civic asset – the former Sherbrooke Shire Offices.
Existing community-based organisations banded together with local artists to retain this ‘rate-payer funded community asset’ as a cultural centre for the Dandenong Ranges. Organisations included: the Upper Yarra and Dandenong Ranges Regional Cultural Board, the Arts Cultural Task Group, United Neighborhood Organisation of the Hills (UNOH), Save Our Sherbrooke Association (SOS), the Dandenong Ranges LETS, Save the Dandenongs League, and the Sherbrooke cluster of Community Houses.
16 years on and the centre is still a Membership-based Association governed by a volunteer Board. While it has paid staff, it also has over 30 rostered volunteers at any one time.
Burrinja supports the development of arts and cultural practices throughout the region and the community, not just within the walls of the galleries, theatres and studios at the cultural centre. It promotes and enables community-connected projects and outcomes that contribute to the vibrancy, diversity and resilience of the region.
Some examples of large community cultural events support by Burrinja include the Belgrave Lantern Parade, Belgrave Survival Day, Dandenong Ranges Open Studios and End of the Line Festival.
Over 70,000 people, mostly from the local community and regions, use the cultural centre every year. Over 10,000 of these either perform on the stage or are involved creatively in exhibitions, events and studios.
Over 90% of Survey respondents agree with the statement that: “Burrinja creates a positive impact in our community and region”.
The Mission Statement Building Community through Arts argues that Arts & Culture contributes positively to ‘community’ and to ‘civic life’.
The cultural centre is an endorsed Charity – under the category of ‘advancing culture’.
The purposes of the association are
a) To promote, develop and present Arts and Culture in the region
b) To be a public art gallery, public museum and collecting institution
c) To support and develop the cultural identity of the Dandenong Ranges
d) To provide opportunities for the development and facilitation of creative arts practice and enterprise including cultural development
Burrinja is a cultural hub for the Dandenong Ranges that supports the development of emerging, experiential and distinctive arts practice, providing outcomes with positive impact that contribute to the vibrancy, diversity and ‘cultural ecology’ of the region.
The organisation also embraces an advocacy role within the wider Victorian arts sector and is an active voice in the peak body forums for the performing arts, public gallery and museum sectors.
Burrinja seeks to provide tangible cultural scaffolding that enables and supports new arts practice and endeavor, contributing positively to the creative, social and economic outcomes that build and strengthen the region’s cultural ecology.
The Burrinja building belongs to Yarra Ranges Council. Council makes the building available to the Cultural Centre to run the activities and programs of Burrinja for the community. Council does not tell Burrinja what it must do or what activities to run, but there are clear, written expectations about serving the community culturally in return for the facility support.
The organisation itself is ‘owned’ by the community and run on its behalf by a volunteer board.
It is funded both by the local government (50%) and by its own activities (selling tickets to shows, hiring spaces and etc).
Based on its Membership system, the organisation belongs to the Members, and thus to the community.
The name Burrinja also encapsulates an aspect of this ‘belonging’. Burrinja’s name honours Koorie artist and local resident Lin Onus, a strong supporter of an arts centre in the ranges. ‘Burrinja’ means ‘star’ and was Lin’s Yorta Yorta name. It is reflected in Burrinja’s logo.
The Dandenong Ranges have long held a strong attraction for artists of all persuasions. From the impressionist painters Arthur Streeton and Tom Roberts, to Fred Williams and Lin Onus, many artists have not only set up their easels amongst the dense ferns and tall mountain ash trees, but call the ‘hills’ their home. Burrinja Cultural Centre serves this creative community today with a wide range of exhibitions, theatre, music, dance, creative arts and crafts.
It works to develop a sense of ‘creative identity and belonging’ in the region, and to the cultural centre itself. Two examples are the annual Dandenong Ranges Open Studios weekend that brings together over 35 artist studios in the region, opening them to the public and their community; and the Artist Studios at Burrinja, creating a network of artists and creativity – with a sense of identifying with and belonging to the studio artists at Burrinja.
Implicit within our statement is that the region’s cultural identity is unique to the ‘Hills’, and that its identity is bound to community and to belonging.
80+% of Survey respondents agree with the statement that: “Burrinja is recognised and known within the region as an active cultural hub for the community.”
One of the Organisation’s key Purpose Statements is: ‘To support and develop the cultural identity of the Dandenong Ranges’.
As a ‘cultural hub’ the centre creates a sense of ‘belonging’ among sectors of the community. A recurrent theme in our annual feedback survey of patrons is that ‘Burrinja is a place where you can go, at any time, and belong’: “I feel like it’s my place to go to”.
90% of Survey respondents agree with the statement that: “Having Burrinja in our region has a positive impact on my/ my family’s life’.
Burrinja’s vision and strategic goals seek to enable and encourage a diverse arts and cultural practice, participation and programs.
Our key goals include
1. Making great arts & culture
a )Includes developing experiential arts practice and programs across diverse art forms and cultural activities within the region;
b) To be recognised and valued locally and nationally for empowering artists in the development of distinctive, original arts and cultural practices.
2. Embedding Indigenous culture and cultural heritage
Valuing, appreciating, engaging and enabling Indigenous culture is embedded across the organisation’s practices and programming, including museum standard collection management and curatorial practices
3. Community connections - Audience engagement
To extend Burrinja’s cultural reach into and engagement with the community including non-traditional arts audiences regionally and beyond.
Programming and facilitating shared and captivating community cultural events that contribute to the vibrancy, diversity and resilience of the region’s cultural and social ecology.
Burrinja works actively with Arts Access Victoria and other organisations to ensure all abilities access to both its venues and programs