The Hub

Arguably (and yes, there are arguments about this!) Victoria’s first pride centre dates back to 1979 when Rev John Willis purchased a building at 144 Adderley Street West Melbourne (now number 142). The building was a fine two-story Italianate residential in what was then a declining part of town – and so, affordable.
Willis decided to buy after the managers of the building in Queensberry Street Carlton where Christ’s Community Church was based decided that they would no longer allow the congregation to meet there. Society Five had its clubrooms but it seemed to be in an unstable state and while there had been talk of setting up a gay community centre for some time nothing seemed to come of it. Willis decided to act on his own.
The building had six bedrooms and was in good shape, with carpets on the floors and recently repainted. There was a kitchen with tea-making facilities. Among those who responded to the invitation to join in were the Australian Gay Archives (which had its weekly working bees and open night there), Al-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous and Transcare, a group associated with Seahorse, a club for cross-dressers. CCC held its services there on Sundays but the building was available seven days week for community groups to meet.
The Hub also housed a library which, it boasted, was the largest collection of homosexual fiction and non-fiction in Australia. There were some 5000 volumes mostly donated collections but also resulting from Willis’ hard graft, scouring bookshops and market stalls. This was the origin of the John Willis Collection now housed in the Baillieu Library.
In the end, in the late 1980s, Willis had had enough and decided to sell up. Being on call day and night for media and members of the community, was a big task. Butt had been a good run and it would be a long time before the idea was tried again.
Photo: Graham Willett, 2020

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