Hawks Nest Bridge Club Opening

When dreams become reality, it is a special day indeed. Recently I had the enormous honour of sharing in such a special day with my community when I officially opened the new clubhouse of Hawks Nest Bridge Club. This purpose-built facility is a beautiful community space for the residents of Hawks Nest, but just as remarkable is the story of how this building came into being. Every group needs a home but the Hawks Nest Bridge Club struggled to find a permanent space to call its own.

The group was established many years ago when members of the Hawks Nest Golf Club were looking for another social activity to add to the golf club's repertoire. The bridge club began on 1 May 1995 with 40 members and it was a quick success. The club was so successful that in coming years it outgrew its space at the golf club. The club's move to the Tea Gardens RSL was initially successful but renovations at the RSL resulted in another move. The club found a home at the Grange retirement village, but it was not a permanent home. With many club members not being Grange residents, there were always concerns about the future.

This uncertainty resulted in the club embarking on a long journey and raising more than $350,000 for the construction of its new clubhouse. After many years and an enormous amount of hard work it now has a place to call home. The journey from a dream to construction was possible only due to the tenacious and coordinated approach of the bridge club as well as the generosity of members and the community. The club raised more than $200,000 through donations, loans from members and fundraisers. I was pleased to support this project with a Community Building Partnership grant in 2015. The grant provided seed funding for the project, which has been leveraged by this dedicated group and every last drop has been used.

Through its efforts the club was able to demonstrate its commitment to seeing through the project and it negotiated a long-term lease on council-owned land for this new community space. While the building is officially temporary and can be deconstructed, there is no desire to see it moved anywhere anytime soon. With a total bill of $368,000, with more than half coming from private sources and the rest a mix of State, local and Federal grants, as well as a 25-year loan from the Australian Bridge Federation, it was remarkable to see the dedication involved in bringing such a clubhouse to fruition.

I was honoured to be a part of the opening event. I was joined by the club's patron and former New South Wales Governor Rear Admiral Peter Sinclair, as well as the mayor of Mid-Coast Council, Australian Bridge Federation President Bruce Neill, and other State and Federal members of Parliament. Early in the process bridge club members described the game of bridge as the "social media" of their generation. I think that speaks volumes for what the game does for the community. As the acting shadow Minister for Ageing, it confirmed for me the importance of clubs and associations such as the bridge club. While the game provides cognitive stimulation for players, the social element is just as important. Many close friendships in this group have been formed over many years through the shared enjoyment of playing bridge.

Warding off isolation is an important part of ageing well, and clubs which provide social enjoyment and stimulating activity are important in supporting older communities. This is important also in Tea Gardens and Hawks Nest, which in the 2016 census was recognised as the oldest community in Australia. Had the census measured community spirit, the area might well have topped that list. I acknowledge current president Glen Conroy, secretary Leslie Falla and treasurer Charlie Shuetrim, together with past president Trish Gratwick who made the initial grant application, met with me and kept me updated throughout the process.

I acknowledge also founding club members Adrian Ryan, Beth Williams, Rex Dale, Dawn Dale, Shirley Pearson, Jean Ryan and Pauline Cole. Special mention goes to Chez Rands who is not only a talented artist but also an amazing architect and a member of the bridge club who has been invaluable to the club throughout this process.

The project is a terrific example of a community working together to deliver a new community asset which will benefit so many people. The club has a membership of more than 100 members and it meets regularly throughout the week. The clubhouse has been designed to support other community groups and an audiovisual system has been installed for use by the local U3A Club. Every homeowner knows the sense of confidence that having one's own home provides and that is just as true for organisations. The Hawks Nest Bridge Club has found its home.

I was delighted to share in the special occasion of the clubhouse opening. I wish the club and all its members every success in the future.


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