I spent 3.5 years living and working in the very remote desert community of Warburton, Western Australia, infamous as Australia’s poorest town, with an average life expectancy of 47 years.
Here I led an Aboriginal-majority team to establish Wilurarra Salon, an ongoing live art and cultural development work based around hairdressing. The program asks several big questions: Who can take care of who? Who deserves what? How can roles change? What is the role of aesthetic pleasure here?
Wilurarra Salon is set within an art and culture centre, with recently released prisoners calmly cutting the hair of white-knuckled police officers and transgender community members shyly trying on their first bra. The salon is a portal to a possible future which is culturally safe, socially inclusive and full of shared purposeful work.
The salon is based in Wilurarra Creative, with quarterly training led by the fabulous Starlady. The program continues to run today. Recently I visited social change hairdressing programs around the world as part of a Churchill Fellowship.