Former hospital Rusten House reborn as new arts centre for Queanbeyan

Michael Weaver 28 April 2021
Tim Overall, Dr Matilda House and John Barilaro at opening of Rusten House

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall, Indigenous Elder Dr Matilda House and Member for Monaro John Barilaro opening Rusten House. Photo: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

An integral piece of Queanbeyan’s history, Rusten House, which was once the town’s hospital, has been painstakingly restored and rebirthed as an arts centre that will showcase the region’s array of talented artists.

Rusten House began life as Queanbeyan’s hospital in 1862 and was officially reopened on Thursday, 22 April, by NSW Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro, and Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) Mayor Tim Overall.

In front of members of the arts community, Queanbeyan Historical Society, healthcare services and families of key figures throughout the history of Rusten House, the opening also paid homage to one of the region’s most respected Indigenous Elders, Queen Nellie Hamilton, who died at the former hospital on 1 January, 1897.

The building is strongly associated with Queen Nellie Hamilton, who spent most of her time in the greater Queanbeyan area. She was represented by her relative, Dr Matilda House, at the opening.

People looking paintings at Rusten House in Queanbeyan

Images showcasing the history of Rusten House were unveiled at its opening. Photo: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall said Rusten House is an important part of Queanbeyan’s history.

“Many prominent families whose names are scattered across Queanbeyan’s history funded and contributed to the establishment and operation of Rusten House, including the Gale, Campbell, Rutledge, Collett and Wright families,” he said.

“The building was constructed of local mixed stone and wood at the grand cost of 1051 pounds.

“Local community fundraising initiatives, including carnivals and balls helped keep Rusten House operating, even during the [Great] Depression, until a new hospital was constructed and Rusten House was converted into nurses’ quarters.”

Artwork on display at Rusten House

Some of the artworks on display at Rusten House. Photo: Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council.

Rusten House is named after Matron Rusten, who was employed along with her husband to care for the ill of the district until 1875. It has had many purposes during the years, including as a hospital, nurses’ quarters, home to various allied health services, and even as a cafe called Rusty’s.

“Today, Rusten House adds a new chapter in its long history and becomes a fantastic new arts facility that adds to the rich culture of Queanbeyan,” said Mayor Overall.

Mr Barilaro said the opening of Rusten House marked a significant milestone in the history of Queanbeyan.

“Rusten House has played a central role in Queanbeyan’s rich and proud history, and the new Rusten House Arts Centre will serve our community for generations to come,” he said.

“This newly refurbished space will be a major community asset with the centre able to hold exhibitions, performances and workshops.

“We knew we had a big job ahead of us when it came to revamping this beautiful heritage-listed property. I’m so proud of what the NSW Government and QPRC have been able to achieve.”


READ ALSO: Where is Queanbeyan’s long-awaited cinema?


To complement the opening of the new arts centre, an exhibition of the history of Rusten House will be on display until 15 June alongside the inaugural exhibition featuring the works of nine local artists: ‘QPRC Artscape – Celebrating the Diversity of Artists in the Region’.

The restoration and transformation of Rusten House into a new arts centre commenced in 2013 with a grant from the NSW Government’s Premier’s Rural and Regional Miscellaneous Grants Fund.

It was further made possible through the Justice and Liquor NSW Infrastructure Grant Fund with matched funding from Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council and the NSW Government’s Stronger Country Communities Fund.

Rusten House Arts Centre is open from Wednesday to Saturday between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm.


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