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Wednesday, 8 December 2004
Page: 146


Mrs MARKUS (7:45 PM) —I rise tonight to acknowledge and honour the work of a wonderful organisation, the City of Blacktown Boys' Squadron, which is a branch of the Australian Air League. I had the pleasure of attending the 66th prize presentation night of the City of Blacktown Boys' Squadron on Friday, 3 December at the L. H. Irwin Memorial Hall in Kildare Road, Blacktown. The hall is named after Mr L. H. Irwin, who was a prominent local and member of the Australian Flying Corps.

The Australian Air League was established in 1934 to foster and develop a spirit of aviation in the youth of Australia, promote good citizenship, promote the ingenuity and resourcefulness of its members and develop the physical and mental abilities of its members. It does this through a number of activities including participating in drill, engaging in physical activities, learning aviation history, understanding meteorology, building model aircraft and attending weekend camps and leadership courses, including participation in the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme.

Obviously, many of the cadets have a driving desire to learn to fly. Pilot training is also available through the Air League, with training commencing at age 14 for gliding and at age 16 for powered aircraft. I am very proud to note that the City of Blacktown Boys' Squadron is, in fact, one of the oldest squadrons in the league, having been opened four years after the league's establishment in 1938 at Blacktown Public School. The squadron was immediately embraced by the community. The next year, in 1939, the Blacktown company provided a guard of honour at the new council chambers. In the 66 years since, the squadron has had a very distinguished history and has provided wonderful training, experience and discipline for generations of Blacktown's youth.

The City of Blacktown Boys' Squadron is a part of Kerr Wing, which covers Western Sydney and includes squadrons at Parramatta, Mount Druitt, Richmond, Penrith and Katoomba. The wing is named after Robert Kerr, a past cadet from Parramatta squadron. Robert was one of the original flying scholarship winners from 1937. He went to serve in the RAAF in Europe during the Second World War. During this conflict he was killed in action and the wing was renamed after him.

Tonight I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of the current officer commander of the squadron, Wing Captain Raymond McKenzie. Wing Captain McKenzie has held that position for almost 20 years, having been appointed in 1985. His tireless work and dedicated commitment to the squadron are deeply respected and admired throughout the community. He is a role model for all community minded individuals and I would like publicly to thank him for his diligence and integrity. Wing Captain McKenzie took over from Squadron Captain Noel Fairburn, who served in the post for 15 years and after whom the Fairburn Shield is named. The shield honours all of the members of the Blacktown squadron who learned to fly with the Air League. This includes some wonderful and inspirational young pilots, including Corporal M. Leonard and Corporal R. Laves, who are now flying for the Royal Australian Air Force.

More recently, the Fairburn Shield honours two very impressive young men, Travis Kolek and Jeremy Sequeira. Travis and Jeremy both had the honour of being named New South Wales Boys Group Cadet of the Year in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Travis was also awarded the Australian Air League Diploma, which is the highest educational achievement that can be obtained by Air League members. A cadet from the Blacktown squadron has won Australian Air League Senior Cadet of the Year six times since 1994—a remarkable achievement which shows the amazing work that Wing Captain McKenzie and his team do year after year.

I would also like to congratulate Sergeant Ryan Barnes who in 2002 won the solo drumming competition. As the lead drummer for the City of Blacktown band, Ryan was acknowledged as the best cadet drummer in the Australian Air League and has a great future ahead of him. The Australian Air League is an extraordinary organisation and I am very fortunate to have such an outstanding squadron based in my electorate of Greenway. I commend the league to all members as an excellent way to develop the aviators and leaders of tomorrow.