The historic Dooen Hotel has dodged closure again and again.

Story John Dunn  Photos Neil Newitt 

At first glance it seems there’s not much doing at Dooen, a tiny grain-growing district of a couple of hundred people in the heart of the Victorian Wimmera. Certainly the town itself has disappeared. The store, the post office that doubled as a bank, the railway station, the school, the library, the Mechanics Institute that doubled as a Presbyterian church, and the sheep and cattle yards have all gone. But the pub remains, defiant against the odds, and despite the many occasions when last drinks could have been called, it has survived into its 146th year.

Jason Willemsen will soon take over from long-time owners Mick and Helen Harris, ensuring that what Robert Grant cobbled together in 1876 will live on for many more years. “I’m a renovator and a chef, and I’ve had hotel experience at Tarraleah in Tasmania’s Central Highlands,” Jason says. “I plan to use all of those abilities to breathe new life into this lovely old pub.” 

Mick offers strong support: “This place is an icon. It’s part of Wimmera history and an integral aspect of surrounding districts like Kalkee, Pimpinio, Longerenong and Jung. Those communities rely on it as a social hub.”

Countless times closure looked certain for the Dooen Hotel. Even Grant had an early setback when the railway came through three years after he opened and the station was built more than a mile away. Showing the resilience that was to be a trademark of his successors, he plonked the pub on a bullock wagon and moved it.

This story excerpt is from Issue #138

Outback Magazine: August/September 2021