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Smoking ceremony sparks a cultural conversation

Written by Adam Ricco
on May 03, 2023

The development of Ryman Healthcare's $200m retirement village in Mulgrave has passed an important milestone, with a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country held at the Jackson's Rd site.   

Wurundjeri man and traditional owner Uncle Colin Hunter led the ceremony, attended by Ryman Healthcare Australia CEO Cameron Holland, and staff from the company's development, sales, marketing, and construction teams.



The traditional smoking ceremony uses eucalyptus leaves to cleanse the area before a build begins.


Uncle Colin welcomed everyone in attendance, introduced his ancestors and their teachings, and then cleansed the area with smoke from eucalyptus leaves.

“If we are going to be building on this piece of land, we have to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land,” he said.

“However, it’s not just about being here for the smoking ceremony and the turning of the sod. It’s important that we continue the conversation throughout the project.”

Ryman’s Victorian Communications and External Relations Manager Michael Cummings said a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country was held at all new Ryman sites in Australia as both a way of acknowledging the traditional owners of the land and understanding the company's purpose in a broader context.


Victorian Communications and External Relations Manager Michael Cummings and Ryman Healthcare Australia CEO Cameron Holland listen to Uncle Colin Hunter.


“While we might own the deed to this plot of land, the story of this land and this country goes back tens of thousands of years, and in that sense we are really just people passing through for a small chapter in a much larger story,” he said.

“When you look at it through that lens, I think it gives us a perspective about the role that we play as custodians of the land – of people who care for other people – and to really recognise that our story as a country is much longer than we sometimes acknowledge.”


Ryman Australia CEO Cameron Holland and Mulgrave Project Manager Connell Bergin turn the first sod at the Mulgrave site.


Following the smoking ceremony, Mulgrave Project Manager Connell Bergin and Cameron Holland held a ceremonial turning of the first sod to mark the official beginning of the build at the new Mulgrave village.

When completed, the village, at 62-94 Jacksons Rd, will offer independent retirement living in villas and apartments, assisted living in serviced apartments, and a care centre providing low care, high care and specialist dementia care.

It will also include a cafe, bar, cinema, gym, indoor swimming pool and a bowling green. 

First residents are scheduled to move in by late next year.  

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