A former vegetable farmer from Victoria has renovated a derelict outback pub with the aim of turning it into a community hub for local Aboriginal people. Andrew Stacey particularly wants to provide meaning and purpose for local youth by creating a place for all ages to meet, display their artwork and, he hopes, a whole lot more.
Mr Stacey decided to buy the Queens Head Hotel in Wilcannia and turn it into a community arts facility after chatting to locals to understand what their needs were and how they could best be met. He believes that an arts facility is a good ‘front’ for many other things that the town needs, such as advocacy, assistance and mentoring and education. He also hopes that the facility will act as a kind of ‘shopfront’ for visitors to the town.
Aboriginal locals are enthusiastic about the project, which was launched recently with a community art exhibition including the names of every local Aboriginal family.
“It’s going to be something that won’t fail … because to me it’s like a gathering place. Somewhere for people to go and sit, and meet up, and talk about issues in the town.”
Said Colleen Wilson, who attended the launch.
Stacey, who is also an artist, is happy to have been able to solidify his connection with the town, which he has felt very strongly since his first visit in 2016, describing it as ‘vivid and alive and warm and welcoming’.
“This was a great public house of drinking, and it’s a matter of great pride to see it converted to a public house of healing.”