Ushering in a new dawn

Giant puppet of an ancestral being in a Yindjibarndi creation story

Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC has transformed Roebourne’s old Victoria Hotel into an impressive community hub and cultural centre.

Roebourne, Western Australia: Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC purchased Roebourne's Victoria Hotel in 2013 and set about transforming it into a dynamic hub for community and collaboration. The hotel had closed in 2005 due in large part to its role in facilitating alcohol abuse in the town. So its redevelopment heralds a new era for Roebourne.

Grassy area surrounded by plants and buildings

Called Ganalili—‘new dawn’ in Yindjibarndi language—the cultural centre officially opened on 7 September. For both the corporation and for the town of Roebourne, it represents a fresh start and new opportunities. CEO of the corporation, Michael Woodley, hopes that the restored hotel will be a ‘single point of contact for the community’ where people can share ideas and be inspired to add value to their community.

Large puppet of an ancestral being held and animated by five young Yindjibarndi people

To celebrate the opening, Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC held a community day that included a wonderful puppet performance of a creation story, with puppets made by community members (with the help of a master puppeteer), and powerful performances by Spinifex Gum and Jawijalurra Production.

Acapella group Spinifex Gum performing at the opening of Ganalili Centre in Roebourne

Given the corporation's commitment to involving local people, the actual process of building the Ganalili Centre was no less community-centred. The project had broad support from Yindjibarndi people, local and state governments; and a partnership with the Western Australian Department of Justice meant that local prison inmates had the opportunity to contribute and gain skills.

Entrance to Ganalili Centre, the new incarnation of the old Victoria Hotel in Roebourne, with directors of Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporaiton RNTBC in the foreground

Directors of Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC intend for the Ganalili Centre to be a linchpin:

We are extremely proud of the outcome in redeveloping the old Victoria Hotel into a positive hub for our community and members. The Ganalili Centre will provide office space for various sectors that work with our community. It will also house a community library,  visitors centre and community park. We're forming a cultural complex to showcase Yindjibarndi cultural history.

Facilities in the Ganalili Centre also include a café, and its cultural centre has interactive screens on which visitors can view a genealogical map of the Yindjibarndi people, as well sa other cultural items.

Yindjibarndi people around a wall-mounted touchscreen inside Ganalili Centre, Roebourne

The transformation of the Ganalili Centre from run-down hotel to community hub is a testament to the strength and vision of the Yindjibarndi people and their community.

Chair of Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, Lyn Cheedy, opening Ganalili Centre with Kevin Michel, MLA for Karratha

Lyn Cheedy, Chair of Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC, opening Ganalili Centre with Kevin Michel, MLA for Karratha, Western Australian Government

Going forward, the directors of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC will continue to pursue the best interests of the Yindjibarndi people.

Yindjibarndi people received their first native title determination in 2005, which covered over 9000 square kilometres of Pilbara land. In 2013 the corporation reached a significant land use agreement with Rio Tinto, which provided Yindjibarndi people with opportunities for training and employment, in addition to financial compensation. More recently, in 2017, the Yindjibarndi people received a second native title determination which recognised their exclusive claim to 2700 square kilometres of Pilbara land.

These momentous decisions demonstrate the determination and fortitude of the Yindjibarndi people, and have resulted in the corporation forming fruitful and lasting partnerships with government, industry, and other Indigenous groups across the country.

The directors are working to better understand how the native title process works so that they can guide the corporation wisely into the future. CEO Michael Woodley also hopes that the directors will continue to lead the corporation in building and maintaining strong partnerships, as it has done throughout the process of building the Ganalili Centre.

Reflecting on their recent achievements, the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation RNTBC directors are optimistic for the future of their corporation:

Our hope is that we can inspire other community developments and leave a legacy for the next generation.

Well said and done, Yindjibarndi.