5 June 2014
Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (12:55): I rise to inform the House of several recent significant milestones in my electorate of Bennelong. Last month, Eastwood Fire Brigade celebrated 100 years of serving our community. I was honoured to attend the official centenary ceremony. Firies past and present attended, along with local dignitaries and Fire and Rescue NSW Commissioner Greg Mullins. We were treated to some local performances, as well as being able to appreciate onsite some refurbished early fire trucks that were lovingly restored by a third-generation fireman at his own expense. Eastwood Fire Brigade has grown from a volunteer brigade formed in 1914 to a brigade of 38 permanent firefighters stationed in Eastwood. They have come a long way since six men used to have to haul 356-kilogram hose reels up and down the hilly terrain of Eastwood. Now, they have modern fire engines and the latest equipment and technology. For 100 years, Eastwood firefighters have responded to major incidents—from industrial and residential fires to serious road accidents—ensuring the safety and protection of the local community and, at times, beyond. Last financial year, Eastwood firefighters responded to 1,761 fire and emergency calls and conducted more than 330 community education and engagement activities. I send my heartfelt congratulations to the Eastwood Fire Brigade and a huge thank you for its ongoing service to our community.
Recently I discovered a little piece of culture, a musical jewel, that exists virtually on my doorstep. The Ryde Hunters Hill Symphony Orchestra has been performing in Bennelong for a number of years and I was delighted to attend one of their performances just a few weeks ago. The orchestra’s music filled the hall and took all members of the audience to a musical heaven. As the orchestra’s mission statement promised, the performance ignited and fostered the wondrous joy of music-making. I was mesmerised by the experience and thoroughly enjoyed my afternoon at the symphony. Since experiencing the performance, I have met with the orchestra founder, Rita Lepedjian—I have also played tennis with her—and members of her board to work out ways to further promote the orchestra within Bennelong and beyond. Currently most of the musicians are passionate volunteers. In my humble opinion, the orchestra performs at a world-class level. Unfortunately, funding is an ongoing issue, so I am working with the board to establish a sustainable plan to keep the Ryde Hunters Hill Symphony Orchestra performing their beautiful music. This dynamic organisation combines a vibrant passion for music with enrichment and appreciation for both players and listeners. Stay tuned—pardon the pun—for more on the members’ black-tie event that we hope to announce later this year featuring members of the symphony.
Finally, I wish to talk about one of our genuine local champions. The Bennelong electorate is characterised by the generosity of volunteers and those engaged to assist people less fortunate or who need a helping hand to get through their day-to-day life. Sometimes, that spirit is embodied in people employed in such endeavours. In the case of Sue Dennett, her commitment is so strong that there is no distinction between her role as principal of Karonga School and her involvement with the school and the greater community. Karonga School offers educational programs for students with special needs—from their early years through to the end of high school. The school offers special education within a caring and supportive environment, equipping these young people with lifelong skills. Many of these students have multiple disabilities
Sue Dennett has touched the lives of all of these students and their families since she became principal of Karonga in January 2006. Sadly for Karonga, tomorrow is Sue’s last day at the school before she heads off to begin a new phase of life in retirement. Sue’s extraordinary work and contribution to our community over many years is most admirable. She has had a positive impact on the lives of all Karonga students as well as helping families at a very personal level through situations that many of us could never imagine. After 35 years of working for the department of education, 33 of those years in special education, I wish Sue and her family the very best for the future. On behalf of the community of Bennelong: Sue, thank you very, very much.
Question agreed to.