Lake Macquarie Classic Boatshed; HMAS Tobruk and Meals on Wheels

23rd June 2015

Mr GREG PIPER (Lake Macquarie) [7.51 p.m.]: I inform the House about the Lake Macquarie Classic Boatshed, a relatively new community group in my electorate that is loosely based on the concept of men's sheds but open to both men and women and with a distinctly nautical theme. It is loosely based on a similar organisation in Tasmania called the Living Boat Trust. The boatshed is fully affiliated with the Australian Men's Shed Association and clearly fits extremely well with that organisation's goals, even though it is fully autonomous. The boatshed is an offshoot of the Lake Macquarie Classic Boat Association, which also runs the annual Lake Macquarie Classic Boatfest. The boatfest is an event that celebrates classic and traditional boats—beautiful vessels that have been crafted using the age-old skills of shipwrights and artisan boat builders.

Some in the group began talking several years ago about having a place where old boats could be restored and traditional skills practised and passed on. This core group identified as a perfect venue for this undertaking an unused waterfront shed on the former site of the World War II flying boat base at Rathmines, fronting onto what is now named Catalina Bay. It was, it turns out, a former ablutions block for Royal Australian Air Force [RAAF] personnel. No doubt, its past and its rustic charm will add to the interest the building will now generate. Lake Macquarie City Council agreed to the group taking up residence and about 18 months ago the initial half dozen members of the fledgling Lake Macquarie Classic Boatshed group began turning the old shed into something workable. They have since also acquired the use of an old electricity substation about 500 metres away which, after much effort, has been transformed into a second boatshed for the use of members and the storage of boats and materials.

I was delighted to have the opportunity to attend the official opening of both of these sheds last Thursday, along with the member for Charlestown and mayor of Lake Macquarie, Jodie Harrison, who officially opened the shed, and local West Ward councillor Rosmairi Dawson. While there, we viewed restorations underway—including one of a magnificent old wooden fishing boat—and inspected traditionally made dinghies, which group members are producing for sale to raise funds for their other activities.

The group officially meets every Thursday morning, although most days will find a member or two tinkering around inside the sheds. It is a labour of love for these people and many find the lure of timber and tools overpowering. Community members are welcome to join the boatshed and neither experience with boats nor experience of boatbuilding is a prerequisite. Those involved who do know their way around boats are only too happy to pass on their knowledge and skills. While it is wonderful to see the boatshed preserving the old ways, it is also heartwarming to see part of the old air base site being used in a way that benefits the community. I have spoken many times in this place about the importance of this site, not just to the people of Rathmines and the wider Lake Macquarie area but as a significant site in our national wartime history, and it remains my hope that efforts to establish a museum there will come to fruition.

While we are on the subject of boats, I will mention another event of note that took place in my electorate last week, and that was the final visit by crew of the HMAS Tobruk to the Morisset and Toronto Meals on Wheels. The Tobruk was granted freedom of entry to the city of Lake Macquarie in 1991 but for various reasons the relationship subsided from the mid-1990s until during my term as mayor when I was contacted by ship's officer Bill Tannock, who had originally come from Wangi Wangi, who was interested in renewing the relationship. As part of the interest in our local community the crew, through then Commander Paul Scott, sought a local charity to support and I was pleased to put them in contact with the local branch of Meals on Wheels.

This led to a longstanding beneficial relationship where Morisset and Toronto Meals on Wheels has hosted Tobruk sailors on many occasions with the service men and women enthusiastically joining local volunteers on meal runs. However, with the decommissioning of the ship imminent, that association is about to come to an end. The final visit by the crew was last Wednesday, after which a lunch was held to celebrate their longstanding relationship. It was my pleasure to attend the lunch and witness the wonderful way the crew interacted with Meals on Wheels volunteers and clients. One client, Doug Hay, worked on the building of the Tobruk in the late 1970s, and he was tickled pink to have the opportunity to talk to crew members about a vessel that is obviously close to his heart. In closing, I congratulate the Lake Macquarie Classic Boatshed on the launch of its new premises and wish the members well in their endeavours. I also acknowledge the work of the HMAS Tobruk crew men and women over the years and the contributions they have made to the community of Lake Macquarie.

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