Sitting at the Welcome Table

Paul Rickard moved to Broken Hill from the Blue Mountains just over two years ago, and he brought with him weekly Welcome Table gatherings, an idea which brings people together.

We joined the group on Friday afternoon at the Junction Hotel for a chat about their Welcome Table experience.

“I was part of a Welcome Table group in the Blue Mountains that was started by a local artist who was keen to bring people together, so I initiated Welcome Table gatherings when I arrived in Broken Hill two years ago, and it’s been fantastic,” says Paul.

“We generally have 10 or more people turn up to the Junction Hotel each Friday between 4:30pm to 6pm to meet people who are new residents, or locals who may have left for years and returned,” said Paul. “We do a monthly newsletter that helps attendees settle into the region and it’s always lovely to see the connections made among the newcomers.”

“I always remember the first meeting we had here. A couple who’d just purchased an old pub came along and they were looking for a stonemason. Another lady turned up who said that her and her husband were looking for jobs. By the end of the night, bingo, she had a job at a local art gallery and her stonemason husband started work on the old pub.

“It’s a good vibe at the Junction Hotel for Welcome Table gatherings so we’d love more people to attend,” says Paul. “It’s a win-win for attendees and the venue, with many often staying for drinks and a meal, and sometimes we all head off to an event together – tonight we’re all heading to an art gallery opening.”

One of the organisers, Gigi, says locals are as welcome to attend the Welcome Table gatherings as newcomers are.

“And we don’t inundate people with questions when they first arrive, so people can just come along and join in with the group at their own pace.

“There has been fabulous weekly networking going on where people can find out about reputable tradies, upcoming events, and other valuable local information,” she said.

“People don’t have to drink alcohol when they come to the Junction Hotel. The space here doesn’t feel like a bar so it’s just a quiet, relaxing environment to sit, chat and have a few laughs with new people of all ages with different interests.

“There’s a young man who often brings his guitar along to sing for us, which is nice, and we have locum doctors and other professionals come along because they generally don’t know anyone in the city,” she said. “We’ve booked a table for St Pats races, so we’re all really looking forward to that event in March.”

Another organiser, Helen, says the Welcome Table gatherings are often the only outing some people leave the house for.

“I know a lady who cares for her elderly mum and the Welcome Table is the only outing she has regularly, so it’s a great space for supporting people who are supporting others,” said Helen.

Welcome Table attendee David pointed out a few people have met and later married so it’s also a space where love could potentially bloom.

“There’s been a couple of weddings come out of these gatherings,” said David, “So anything’s possible at the Welcome Table!”

To find out more about the Welcome Table call Helen on 0447 025 793 or simply turn up to the Junction Hotel at 560 Argent St any Friday afternoon between 4.30pm to 6pm.


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