Adjournment debate – Anzac Memorial Pool

Wednesday, 7 September 2022

Mr PITT: When you think about the English language, admittedly with an Australian bent, and you think about a single word that can evoke so many others—words like patriotism, loyalty, courage, honour, valour, sacrifice, mateship—that word, and I’m sure everyone in the chamber knows it, is Anzac. Every day should be Anzac Day.

The Anzac Park Memorial Pool in Bundaberg was originally built in 1923 as the Returned Soldiers’ Memorial Baths, where a foundation stone was laid by Ethel Campbell, who was known as the Angel of Durban. She met every Australian troop ship that arrived in Durban from 1915 until the end of the First World War.

In Bundaberg today, this happened: the excavators arrived on site to demolish the pool and the surrounding buildings. The Bundaberg mayor and the council are well aware of the angst in the community, and I have to give the community their due, because they acted. They applied for a heritage listing, and that heritage listing was submitted. In fact, it has been recommended for approval, going forward for assessment from a further committee within state government bounds in terms of their legislation.

The Bundaberg mayor and the council have decided to demolish the Anzac Park Memorial Pool. This is quite simply a living memorial, which next year would celebrate its centre   nary. It would be 100 years old. It was built by returned diggers from World War I, and they intend to replace it in another location with an aquatics centre worth some $75 million—at the moment—and an upgrade of this park at a value of around $19 million. That is almost $100 million of expenditure of the ratepayers’ money at a time when, as we all know, every individual is struggling to pay their bills, their electricity bills and their rates bills. We have seen increases in rates and we have seen increases in fees and charges and, to be brutally frank, this stinks. It absolutely stinks. There is an application which is being assessed—a heritage application—and the council has been out disconnecting services and cutting off water pipes. We now have excavators arriving on a declared construction site to destroy a living memorial that was built by World War I diggers in the centre of Bundaberg.

The council may well be within their rights to do that, but surely you would wait until the assessment process is finished, because you cannot put this back together when it is done. The times of the Deen Brothers and others are gone, and I know, Mr Speaker, that you understand what it is that I speak of. The overnight, fly-by-night, knock-down-something-that-should-be-heritage-listed is absolutely outrageous, and I say to the Bundaberg mayor and council: it will not take that much longer for the assessment to be completed. I say to the state member in Bundaberg: this is your job. Ring the minister, ask for intervention and prevent this from happening.

We have a group locally who have been heavily involved. We have had Olympians train at this pool. If I remember correctly, some 2,000 schoolchildren a year utilise this facility. It is an incredibly important memorial of the sacrifice that Australian soldiers have made, and it should be maintained. If you can’t get community support, don’t do it. It is very, very straightforward. The Heritage Council will meet in one month to consider the recommendation. Four weeks for a pool that is almost 100 years old is not that long; it really isn’t. So I’d say to the mayor and the counsellors again: four weeks. Wait and see what the outcome is, continue to consult with the community, listen to them and listen to veterans.

I’ve written to the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs to ask for his assistance. The shadow minister for defence personnel, Luke Howarth, met with constituents last week to hear their views, but the member for Bundaberg is silent. It is his job. He is a state representative; his office is across the road from the memorial pool. You see it every single day that you walk in. And the mayor originally said they would keep Anzac pool open until they’d built a new aquatics centre. Well, he’s reneged on that. It simply hasn’t happened. Thousands of kids have learned to swim there. There’s been a petition launched, which is already at 1,400 signatures. Four weeks is not that long. This is outrageous. This is an ANZAC memorial and it should be treated with the respected deserves. Lest we forget.

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