By Paul Albert and Michael R. Williams
CENTRAL Highlands residents can proudly boast a unique attraction with the official opening of the Woorabinda Arts and Cultural Centre (WACC) in Duaringa last Wednesday night.
Woorabinda artists worked in partnership with the Woorabinda Aboriginal Shire Council (WASC) and CQ University through the Central Queensland Regional Arts Services Network (CQRASN), with funding from BHP Mitsubishi Alliance (BMA), to refurbish the former CWA hall in Duaringa into an art gallery and store.
Woorabinda Arts and Cultural Centre Manager Nickeema Williams said the gallery was built over a period of six months.
“There’s a lot more work to be done with that space, by the end of the year we plan to have a café [and a shop],” she said.
CQRASN Regional Arts Manager Julie Barratt said the centre was unique in the region and could serve as a major tourist attraction for the district.
“Currently there is no Arts Centre that has a specific focus on Indigenous arts in Central Queensland,” she said.
“Both state and federal government funding supports the operations of art centres that are in the north of the state; however, there is limited access to training or profiling Indigenous arts in the CQ region, even though a range of reports have identified the arts and culture as key mechanisms for strengthening Indigenous communities, building pride and engagement.”
She said the centre would create career pathways and increase employment for Indigenous peoples.
“The WACC will be a major investment in the arts and cultural sector in CQ, paving the way for an Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander-led Arts and Cultural Centre.
“Furthermore, and most significantly, it will become a unique arts centre model in Queensland, specifically designed around enterprise models to improve social impact in local community, being managed by, with and for the community.”
A second event to commemorate the opening of the gallery was held in Woorabinda last Thursday.
“Most of the Woorabinda community could not make it to the showcase in Duaringa and we have so much talent in the community, so we’re not just showcasing our visual artists we’re also celebrating our music talent tonight,” Ms Williams said.
ARIA award winner Miiesha and rising star Jada Weazel were among the local musicians that performed at the Woorabinda event.
Rapper Dubb/T gave his inaugural live performance.
“So, you’ve got a lot of music talent here, and it’s a really diverse age-range and style of music,” Ms Williams said.
“I’m really excited for the media and people on the outside to get some insight into just how much talent is here.
“It’s exciting to have an art gallery and a stage, it means we can have our own movie nights, concerts or other events.
Performer Kruga Williams, who has been performing for the Woorabinda YouTube channel for nearly a decade, said he was excited to see the new art gallery.
Mr Williams sings in his native language to show that his identity is still alive and well.
“We have had very talented people here for years, but they didn’t know how to show their talent,” he said.
“Finally, they got an art space to go to.
“And I’m just glad it’s happening.”
Ms Williams has spent a lot of her time mentoring the artists that would be on display in the gallery.
“That’s why we’re doing this ‘cause I know how important the art is,” she said.
“It’s not just about selling paintings.
“It’s about giving First Nations artists a platform and having a gallery space means that they get to control what kind of stories and narrative they want to share.
“It’s an amazing asset for all of Central Queensland.”
WASC Mayor Joshua Weazel said the centre would provide career pathways and opportunities for local artists in the arts and culture industry.
“WASC envisage that local talent will be supported and nurtured to become proficient in busines acumen, within this industry locally and regionally, with true potential for national and international markets and broader regional collaboration, whilst enhancing and building an enterprise-driven circular economy for our community,” he said.
BMA Assets President James Palmer said the organisation was proud to support First Nation communities.
“This is much more than just a gallery,” he said.
“It’s a community asset that will help create new career pathways and increasing employment for Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander people.”
By Paul Albert and Michael R. Williams