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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9207

Mr IRONS (Swan) (21:37): I rise to speak to the House on a campaign I am running in my electorate of Swan for the establishment of an artistic gymnastics academy in Queens Park. Australia has a proud sporting history; I shared the delight of many Australians in seeing our athletes arrive in Sydney and participate in the parade celebrating their achievements.

In Australia, forms of gymnastics have been practised since the late 19th century. In those early days it was organisations such as the YMCA in Melbourne and Sydney, church groups and Wesley College, Melbourne, that provided facilities for such activities. These institutions remained the dominant force in sport through the mid-20th century under the coaching expertise of individuals such as AA Bonnie Frank, at Wesley College, and Alf Lorbach at Melbourne YMCA.

In the 1930s individual state associations were formed in most states, with some running their own championships. The 1956 Olympic Games was the first time Australia was represented in international competition by both male and female teams. Although Australia was represented by only four gymnasts at the 1960 Rome Olympic Games—two women and two men—the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games saw full teams once again represent the nation. However, since then, with the change of qualification rules, Australia has been able only to qualify individual gymnasts to compete at the Olympic Games—until 1992, in Barcelona, Spain, when a full women's team qualified and finished seventh.

An interesting fact is that, despite the fact that women represented Australia at the 1956 Olympic Games, it was not until 1959 that women competed in the Australian Championships. At every Olympics our athletes make Australia proud and inspire our younger athletes back home to aspire to a level of great achievement. Australia also has a need to encourage young people to stay active. Getting into the habit of exercising and staying healthy from a young age can have great benefits in later life.

Since becoming the member for Swan in 2007 I have taken particular interest in sporting infrastructure in my electorate. I have been involved in the development of community sports facilities in the Queens Park and Cannington areas during that time, having secured a $7 million Liberal government commitment for the Leisureplex development in Wharf Street in 2010. This development has freed up the use of the Queens Park Recreation Centre and I have been working on a proposal with the local director of the Contemporary Gymnastics Academy, Michelle McDermott, to relocate her operations to the site.

On a visit to Michelle's current facilities with my wife just 10 days ago, it was fantastic to see the children working out and parents watching them perform. Seeing firsthand the work Michelle does, I can say the benefits her operation would bring to the Canning community are substantial. Classes are offered for children right through to adults, and she has seen rapid growth from 17 members in 2009 to over 175 members today, putting her at capacity. The huge growth in her membership shows how the local community value the service.

Problems with the lease at the current venue in Carlisle mean the academy needs a new location, and the Queens Park Recreation Centre would be an ideal one. It would also become part of a longer-term plan to see Queens Park become a local hub for sporting facilities in the Canning district. As part of my campaign I wrote to the residents of Queens Park to gauge community attitudes towards the proposal. I have received an overwhelming response, with over 100 residents contacting me in the campaign's first week to express strong support for the plan. I have written to the Canning CEO to alert him to my campaign and I will update him with the results of my survey, once complete.

I, along with many residents of Queens Park, hope that we can get this facility up and running to continue the great improvements in community sports infrastructure that I have helped deliver since entering this place. Michelle's academy already has young gymnasts who are competing in international competitions. Who knows, perhaps one of those 175-plus athletes could be a future Olympic champion like WA girl Lauren Mitchell who won gold in Beijing and at the 2010 World Championship, before finishing fifth at the recent London games.

Even if the academy does not produce a star of Lauren's calibre, the number of young people it is getting active and keeping healthy is justification enough. I encourage residents who still want to have their say on this proposal to contact my office and record their support. With a bit of lobbying of the council and some of the community spirit which my constituents so often show, we can get a positive result for local residents, the sporting community and the children who are currently involved in the sporting centre.