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Price’s Café Exhibition

A story of reconciliation in 1950s Australia

 

On Fridays during the picking season, Price’s Café in the small coastal town of Moruya NSW, was always packed. People were drinking milkshakes, eating hamburgers, meeting friends and enjoying the latest hits on the jukebox. This was a typical scene in the 1950s and 1960s except for one thing; all of the patrons were Aboriginal.

Price’s Café was one of the few places on the south coast in the 1950’s and 1960’s which supported and welcomed Aboriginal people. A new museum-style exhibition, opening in Moruya on 17 May, tells the story of this extraordinary café and the Price family who opened their arms to the whole community.

South Coast Aboriginal artist, Cheryl Davison, uncovered the story through conversations with Elders and felt that this significant place should be remembered and celebrated. The exhibition has been developed by South East Arts and features interviews, archival photographs and a re-created café setting. Text by leading Australian author Mark McKenna, recipient of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award, provides the historical context.

For Aboriginal people in the 1950s and 1960s, harsh government controls and discrimination coloured every aspect of their lives. Many were forcibly removed from towns or informal camps and family members were torn apart, with some sent to children’s home or other government institutions.

Given these circumstances, it was not surprising that the welcoming environment of the café drew in the local Aboriginal community and became such a popular institution. Cheryl Davison explains, “Even though Mr and Mrs Price didn’t realise it at the time, they were actually making big changes for Aboriginal people in Moruya…and probably the wider south coast.”

Price’s Café played a role in the lives of many people; there are plenty of happy stories being shared about patrons meeting their partners at the cafe, or singing with a young Jimmy Little or, more poignantly, simply being able to imagine a society where they were treated as equals. South East Arts have captured many of these memories through filmed interviews and, in doing so, they have voiced a story of reconciliation that is incredibly culturally significant to the grander Australian history narrative.

 

KEY DATES & INFORMATION

WHERE: Mechanics Institute in Moruya

WHEN: 17 May – 26 May

INFO:  Price’s Cafe Project on South East Arts’s website