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Thursday, 21 March 1985
Page: 624

Senator PETER BAUME(10.10) —I want to say a few words tonight about the Australian Air League. The Australian Air League is a youth organisation established in 1934. In 1984, in just the last few months, it celebrated its fiftieth year and its golden anniversary. It was founded in Manly in Sydney by Mr George Robey. I well remember in my youth seeing the Manly squadron of the Australian Air League exercising in the parklands just north of Manly. It is now a Federal youth organisation, stronger than ever, open to boys and girls and entirely voluntary in its operation.

My association with the Air League is with the Marrickville squadron in Sydney, part of my electorate. This squadron numbers about 40 people and is a quite remarkable group. As patron of the squadron I see it regularly and I have watched youngsters in that squadron develop and progress while having fun and enjoying themselves in the Air League activities. They do so in an area of Sydney which is tough and in which community organisations are at a premium. The Australian Air League is valued in that district. It is valued by parents and by the people who take part in it, and it has the service of a series of dedicated officers who give much of their time to the activities of this group.

Very early in my time as patron, the Air League hall in Marrickville was badly damaged and almost destroyed by fire. There was a strong possibility at that time that it could have meant the end of the squadron as it had nowhere to meet and no way of carrying on its activities. Over the next year I saw a dedicated group of adults and youngsters rebuild, renovate and improve that hall. I was able to go back to the opening of the rebuilt hall and see the delight of the squadron in what it had been able to achieve. The squadron has gone from strength to strength and is presently the champion Air League squadron in my State of New South Wales. It is a real pleasure to be patron of a group such as this.

It is not always easy for these squadrons to operate, nor is it always easy for them to get established. Further out in my State at Mount Pritchard in south-west Sydney, another squadron is having a struggle to get going. It tried to build a hall for its Air League activities for the benefit of the youth in the district. The hall is half complete. The Air League has run out of money. Vandals in the area are destroying that part of the hall which has been constructed and the community effort which has been provided already is being undone by a series of raids at night when material is removed and the hall is damaged. I have tried, I must say with some success, to interest my colleague from another place-not my Party colleague but Mr Grace, the new member for Fowler-in the plight of this Air League squadron. I have tried to involve the City of Fairfield in trying to get something done for this Australian Air League group, but so far without much response. Finally, I have tried to obtain community employment program funds to allow this group to complete the construction of this hall. To that end I have written to the Minister for Employment and Industrial Relations, Mr Willis, and his department. I must say that so far there has been little response but hope springs eternal and I hope that some day I will hear from the Minister and from the City of Fairfield. Hopefully, I may even hear that they have some interest in what happens to this Australian Air League squadron, because the officers care, the parents care and the boys just want the hall to be completed.

As a community we do not honour sufficiently those volunteers who provide so much of the recreational and training infrastructure for our society. In the Parliament we have recently established a Baden-Powell Fellowship to enable parliamentarians to support the spirit of guiding and scouting. The Boy Scout and Girl Guide movements are the largest youth movements in the world. I am delighted that so many parliamentarians from every party and from both chambers have elected to be associated with the Baden-Powell Fellowship but for smaller groups like the Australian Air League, too often little is done to recognise what they do and their achievements. The Air League Golden Jubilee in 1984 was a time when much more honour could have been given to this body than it received. The year, 1985, is the Golden Jubilee of my squadron, the Marrickville squadron of the Australian Air League. I invite all my New South Wales Senate colleagues to join me in offering congratulations to the Australian Air League and particularly to the Marrickville squadron for a job of community service well done and continuing to be well done.