La Perouse Multipurpose Sporting Facility
La Perouse Local Aboriginal Land Council, NSW
Empowering the next generation of La Perouse champions
The community of La Perouse in south-east Sydney has produced more than its fair share of sporting talent.
Home to just 400 people, this small peninsula on the northern headland of Botany Bay has given us surfer Barry Chanel, footballer Bruce ‘Larpa’ Stewart, the Ella family of rugby players – Glenn, Mark and Gary – and Marcia Ella-Duncan, the first Indigenous woman to play netball for Australia.
“We’re mad for sports here,” Marcia says. “Sport lends itself to Aboriginal people – the field is really just an extension of the way we live.”
It’s no surprise that when consulting with the community to form a 20-year agenda, the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council ended up with a sporting facility at the top of the list.
The community currently lacks a sporting space for young people to access. Young netballers often walk more than five kilometres to the nearest court, Heffron Park at Maroubra. The only public basketball facilities are half-courts more a kilometre away and they’re often overcrowded.
La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council CEO, Chris Ingrey, says lack of access to facilities is a huge barrier to participation. He’s seen this prevent exceptional local teenagers from reaching their full potential.
“Aboriginal people, especially as kids, are quite active and naturally skilful,” Chris says. “It’s often social issues that hold them back from excelling in sport.
“We’re trying to provide the infrastructure and support to remove sport and career development barriers. Where a family can’t provide that pathway, the community will.”
To address this, La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council applied for a Sport Australia Community Infrastructure Grant. This will be used to help fund a multipurpose facility, connecting the community to the sports they love.
By the community, for the community
The facility will be built on land owned by the La Perouse Aboriginal Land Council. It will be designed primarily to host basketball, netball and tennis. The council also hopes to put on elite sporting clinics with links to organisations including the Sydney Kings, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Netball Australia, through Marcia who is now a semi-professional coach.
Long-term development is a key outcome. The council has already put programs in place to reduce anti-social behaviour in young people and now it wants to build pathways for the future. Marcia says this is vitally important.
“I experienced abuse at a young age. It’s only now that I can look back at my younger self and understand what factors were inhibiting my development,” Marcia says. “I found my voice through netball. I developed confidence and the ability to talk to people at all levels.
“There are lots of problems with how young people can access and commit to a lifelong involvement in sport – and some of those issues are really complex. It takes a whole suite of things to make a difference for kids but having facilities closer to our homes is a really big step in removing some of those barriers.”
It’s also planned to be more than just a sporting facility. The site is right next to a newly installed barbeque area and it’s hoped this will help it become a hub for the whole community beyond sport.
“There’s nothing better for a young family on a nice summer afternoon than coming down and using the barbeque while their daughter or son is playing basketball or netball,” Chris says.
On other occasions, it will be a much-needed community service area. Families will be able to put marquees up for more solemn events such as wakes and funerals, where they aren’t comfortable having the service in a church.
Importantly, the facility will be built by the community, for the community, through qualified local contractors and businesses. It’s not only important in building a local economy but it’s what Chris calls ‘the sweat equity’ – that if it’s built by the community, they’ll appreciate it even more.
It’s part of an important shift for the community.
“Aboriginal communities have traditionally been reactive to government, but we’ve started to become proactive at La Perouse,” Chris says. “We’ve developed a 20-year plan for our community - that’s never happened before. We’ve got strong leadership and governance.
“This project is what our young people wanted. We’ve put in an application to support our community’s development and, to my surprise, it was granted. It’s a wonderful thing.”