• Michael Woodley, CEO of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation said he is willing to sit down with FMG to negotiate a native title agreement. (AAP)Source: AAP
The Victoria Hotel in Roebourne, at the edge of Western Australia's Pilbara region, enters a new era after officially re-opening as a community hub.
13 Sep 2019 - 1:20 PM  UPDATED 13 Sep 2019 - 1:30 PM

On the edge of Western Australia's Pilbara region, an abandoned watering hole has been given a new lease on life.

The Victoria Hotel once supplied alcohol to the community at Roebourne, 200 kilometres southeast of Port Hedland, but shut its doors in 2005.

"The community felt ... it wasn't really providing a service," said Michael Woodley, head of the Yindjibarndi Aboriginal Corporation and lifelong Roebourne resident.

"Less and less people were coming in."

The building, constructed in 1893 in the centre of the town, was taken over by Rio Tinto and remained vacant and derelict until it was bought by the Aboriginal corporation six years ago.

For some, the local pub was a reminder of the town’s fraught history. It was outside the hotel where Aboriginal teenager John Pat was dragged into a police van before he died in custody 30 years ago.

Mr Woodley has overseen the local landmark's $6 million transformation into a cultural, tourism, training and community hub now known as the Ganalili Centre.

"Back then, all of our authority was taken away from us and you hid your shame there," he said.

"It was very scary for kids who grew up in that generation."

He said the former hotel will remain a place where local people come together, but its focus will be empowerment.

"Now it's more about how can we assist individuals to taking the next step to self-determination," he said.

"It's come full circle for the right reasons and the right purposes now."

The centre, officially opened by Pilbara MP Kevin Michel on September 7, incorporates offices for lease, a visitor centre, a library and a cafe.

It also houses a Yindjibarndi cultural space with interactive displays, explaining the stories and family trees of the local people.

Mr Michel said the model has created a sense of community ownership, and would be possible in other parts of the state.

"We always talk about empowering people, we talk about giving them the opportunity," he said.

"This is one clear example of giving them the opportunity to showcase themselves and they've done a fantastic job."

The opening event also featured a creation story puppet show and a performance by Spinifex Gum.

The hotel redevelopment was funded by $2 million in contributions from the Yindjibarndi people, state and federal governments.