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Tuesday, 22 March 2011
Page: 2770

Mr MELHAM (10:14 PM) —Last Saturday, 19 March 2011, I attended the opening of the Morris Iemma Indoor Sports Centre at Riverwood in my electorate. It will come as no surprise that the centre has been named after the former New South Wales Premier, who opened it officially on Saturday. The $9 million centre is located in Mr Iemma’s former electorate of Lakemba. It was jointly funded by the New South Wales government and Canterbury City Council.

The sports centre is an ultramodern resource with two indoor sports courts catering for a variety of sports including indoor soccer, basketball, netball and volleyball. This wonderful facility houses a cafe, internet facilities, physiotherapy and childcare services, and change rooms. There is also a modern gym with cardio, functional and strength training zones with fitness rooms, an indoor spin-cycling room and outdoor training zones. The centre will be operated on behalf of Canterbury council by the YMCA and will deliver programs focused on improving the health and fitness of all age groups.

This new centre is located in Belmore Road opposite the Riverwood Community Centre. I have previously spoken in this place of the work done at that centre under the guidance of Pauline Gallagher. The community centre hosts many programs arising from the needs of the local community. These include family support, youth services, a neighbourhood aid program, a community care program, housing and community service programs, a Links to Learning program, employment assistance and skills development, a child sexual assault service and a tenants resource centre. The two centres will complement each other in the Riverwood community.

Riverwood is a community that has done it hard over the years, but the community has a huge collective heart and fantastic spirit. I am thrilled that the new sports centre has now been opened to offer more to the community members. It will provide residents with a place to get fit and healthy and enable them to participate in another respect of community life in a safe environment.

The fact that the sports centre has been named after the former New South Wales Premier speaks volumes about the esteem in which Morris is held by the community. He still lives in the community, in a nearby suburb—indeed, he grew up there. Pauline Gallagher was interviewed by Stateline on 29 July 2005 on Morris’s promotion to Premier, and her very astute summing up of the reason for his popularity was:

He listens. He listens to what people say. That’s why everyone likes him.

Many of Morris’s friends from the local community were at the opening. His parents were present, as was his wife, Santina, and his children. It was a wonderful community celebration for a great bloke. My congratulations to Canterbury City Council, the YMCA and the people who made this happen. Most of all, my congratulations to Morris Iemma. He is very worthy of this honour.

In politics you make very few true friends. I am very proud to call Morris Iemma a friend. I was elected to the federal seat of Banks on 24 March 1990. On Thursday, it is 21 years to the day since I was elected. Morris was elected to the local state seat at the state election of 1991. Until his resignation as Premier a couple of years ago, he basically represented a large part of my federal electorate. We got on well. He had a genuine commitment to the local community. It was a disadvantaged community with a high non-English-speaking background, but he provided services for them and he continues to walk amongst them. He gets great pleasure in shopping at Roselands with his family. I thought the best part of his speech on Saturday was when he pointed out that he was born nearby the centre and intended to stay there. He is proud of what he is; the community is proud of him. It was a great honour and a worthy honour to have this centre named after him.