“An oasis is a place where people go to be refreshed. Travellers stop in and find shade and water and often food, and we felt that this was to be a place of refreshment for the whole community,” said the man with the vision, Les Hook.
Les and his wife Georgie have shared that vision for two decades, and now, after six long years of building, the Oasis Centre at Boggabilla NSW is almost complete.
It’s going to be the building the town needs – part church, part community centre, a venue for celebrations, ceremonies, youth groups, an op shop, an after-school reading club with Indigenous Elders, and really anything the community requires.
A Town of about 750 people, Boggabilla sits on the land of the Kamilaroi people in the far north of central NSW, with a majority Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population. As with many smaller, rural towns, shops and basic services have dwindled over the years. Public buildings are few, and there is currently a shortage of space for community gatherings, especially large ones.
It’s been a long journey, but the Hooks have been in good company. Most of the work has been done pro-bono, or funded by cash donations from friends and others wanting to offer support. Church and school groups have travelled to the town in large working parties, the building’s four cement slabs were laid by three different volunteer groups, builders donated time erecting the frame and the roof structure, Redeemer Christian College from Sydney visited on four occasions with large teams of students and builders, contractors from many different places chipped in, and Gold Coast electrician Ian Boardman has spent “hundreds of hours” producing impeccable electrical infrastructure.
“A few years ago, we had a chance meeting with George Mann in Bourke which led to us helping him with an audio system install for his community project,” Said TAG Director Maxwell Twartz. “I dropped in on George a couple of months ago and as we parted, he said, ‘There’s a guy called Les Hook in Boggabilla who’s sharing a similar vision and if you’ve got any spare audio he would definitely appreciate it.”
With the Oasis Centre almost complete, timing was perfect for TAG Cares to contribute. The #Ampervan was pressed into service to pick up gear in Brisbane and transport it 350km due West to Boggabilla. NSW Sales Manager James McKenna was back at the wheel. “Great to be reunited with the #Ampervan.” Said James. “My last shift was Alice Springs to Darwin! This is quite different territory with even bigger kangaroos!”
Max, with TAG volunteers, Billy Armstrong, and Special Projects Engineer Michael Goodyear, drove up from Sydney, and the team installed the Allen & Heath/QSC system over the weekend.
“QSC KW153’s are a no brainer for this type of multi-purpose space,” explained James. “It’s a single cabinet solution that can do, with ease, anything that is thrown at it! As for the mixer, rather than a simple analogue unit we chose an Allen & Heath Qu-16C for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it’s a pathway forward for the kids who become interested in music production, be it recording or live, and secondly, we’ve set up channels to match the compliment of Audio-Technica microphones we brought, and locked down some pre-sets. Pre-set 1 is a simple FOH church service or presentation and, regardless of the mixing tasks the Qu-16 undertakes, with the single push of a button it can always return to that.”
The Hooks hail from Newcastle, but answered the call to live and work in Boggabilla more than twenty years ago. As pastors, their all-Indigenous congregation has fluctuated in numbers, but their connection to the community has never faltered. With the right people, the Hooks would like to expand the Oasis Centre’s work to include mental health services, musical events, cooking classes, vocational training and regular community dinners to bring the townspeople together in the attractive, welcoming space.
“At times we can get up to five hundred people come to Boggabilla for a funeral and there is currently nowhere we can accommodate that number.” Said Les. “But with overflow to the outside of the building, and these wonderful speakers we can bring dignity, togetherness and community back.”
“It’s a privilege to contribute to a vision like this.” said Billy Armstrong. “It’s easy for us to drop in and install an audio system but it’s truly humbling to sit in Les and Georgie’s company, peel back a few layers and glimpse the journey they’ve been on to reach this point. It’s a story of selfless generosity, unwavering belief, love, passion, vision.”
Refreshed from their time at the Oasis Centre, the TAG Cares team returned to Sydney but not before dropping the #Ampervan in Moree to sit out a week or so.
The odyssey continues, but for now the little Fiat van is alone on the dry central plains of NSW, with just a big ‘&’ on its rear doors for company.
Technical Audio Group: www.tag.com.au