A West Australian progress association is using the proceeds of its crop fundraisers to give the local pub new life.

Story By Kerry Faulkner

It’s unlikely there’s a community association anywhere else in Australia that had the purchase of a pub as its major fundraising target. Nyabing is a tiny town, population just 120, that expands to 600 when you count the wheat and sheep farms sprawling across 6500 square kilometres in Western Australia’s southern agricultural region. Like many country towns, its population has been steadily falling and it appeared to hit crisis point in 2012 with the loss of its sporting teams – football first, followed by netball and then hockey.
Nyabing Progress Association president Brad Filmer says it hurt the town badly. Not only were locals going to other towns for sport, but they were doing their shopping there as well, sapping money from local businesses. The general store even closed its doors for a while.
All that remained of the social scene was the Inn – a dingy, run-down affair on the main street opposite the grain bins, only ever frequented by a handful of die-hard drinkers. Brad says it’d been on the market for years and the owner, who was ill, looked ready to board it up and walk away when the association decided to buy it. The association had been planting a share crop since 2012 – seeding and harvesting to raise money for community projects.
Brad is one of the 10 determined association committee members, a fourth-generation farmer who feared for the future of his children unless the town was saved. “My kids, who go to school here, are the fifth generation,” he says. “I worry about them bringing a wife out to the country. We’ve all done okay, but the fewer the number of services, the harder it is to bring someone back here to live.”
No one can recall whose idea it was to buy the Inn with the cash from the crop, but they do remember the town meeting they called to put the idea to the people. “We brought the town together and did the old scribble-on-a-bit-of-paper thing and brainstormed,” Brad says. “What we wanted to do was what was going to give us the best bang for our buck in term of reuniting the community and restoring a sense of community. There wasn’t anything better we could have done with the money than what we’ve done – buying this place back, getting it running the way we want it, making it family friendly, bringing meals back to the town.”

This Story is from Issue #104

Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2016