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Photo: Left to right, Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation CEO Michael Woodley, Member for Pilbara Kevin Michel MLA, Yindjibarndi Elder Middleton Cheedy and Pilbara Development Commission CEO Terry Hill, on the verandah of the transformed Victoria Hotel, now known as the Ganalili Centre.
A large celebration has marked the launch of a new cultural centre servicing the Roebourne community and its visitors alike.
Created through the transformation of the town’s ageing Victoria Hotel, the new Ganalili Centre results from community-led economic development in Roebourne.
The two-storey hotel, on Roebourne’s main thoroughfare, was purchased by Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation (YAC) in 2013 with the aim of redeveloping the property as an economic enterprise.
Stage 1 of the project, completed in early 2019, involved a $6 million refurbishment of the property, with $2 million contributed each by: YAC; the State Government through the Pilbara Development Commission; and the Federal Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund.
An Aboriginal Training and Employment Model included in the 2017 tender process at the State Government’s request was highly successful, leading to targets for Aboriginal employment hours resulting from the project being exceeded more than four times over.
By early 2019, a total 31 Aboriginal people had been engaged in employment and training in the restoration project, including four apprentices, eight high school-based trainees, three inmates from Roebourne Regional Prison, five sub-contractors and 15 workers employed through the Geraldton Building and Services Company-Yurra Joint Venture.
During Stage 1, local business spend made up 70 per cent of total construction expenditure.
Stage 2 of the project, including $949,600 in funding from Lotterywest, commenced in 2019 and delivered the Yindjibarndi Cultural Centre on the building’s ground floor and an additional public park on a neighbouring block.
The new centre, opened on Saturday 7 September 2019 with a celebration involving local and visiting musicians and a giant puppet Creation Story performed by community members, also includes offices and meeting rooms, a library, visitors’ centre, art gallery, interactive cultural displays and a public café.
Pilbara Development Commission CEO Terry Hill said the Victoria Hotel was an iconic landmark that had a significant influence, both positive and destructive, on the development of Roebourne since opening its doors in 1891 as the first licensed premises in Western Australia’s North-West.
“Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and the Roebourne community are to be commended for embarking on a transformational journey to reinvent this building," Mr Hill said.
“The transformation of the Victoria Hotel into the Ganalili Centre has visibly enhanced community pride and restored community ownership – while creating employment and training opportunities, improved service delivery and celebration of Yindjibarndi culture.
“Acting for the State Government, the Pilbara Development Commission is proud to have partnered with YAC and the Federal Government in funding the redevelopment, particularly given the Aboriginal employment, training and business benefits that have been created by this project.”