Diversity and inclusion part of the culture at Raymond Terrace Athletics Club and Deidre Hall and Barbara Inglis are behind it

The vast majority of junior sporting club committees are made up of parents or carers of participating children, volunteering their precious time and experience to ensure young participants receive equal opportunities to perform to the best of their ability.

This was the certainly case with Raymond Terrace Athletics Club, which incorporates Little Athletics, administrators Deidre Hall and Barbara Inglis.

The pair - Deidre as publicity officer and Barbara as treasurer - joined the club around the same time more than 35 years ago have worked hand in hand behind the scenes, selflessly not just for their children but for all athletes.

At a time when sexism was rife in predominantly senior sporting organisations, these ladies helped to cultivate a culture of respect, diversity and inclusion.

Their participation started in the mid-1980s when their children began attending Little A's and continued when the junior and senior athletics clubs amalgamated to include a host of diverse members aged from five to 95.

And while most of their children have grown and moved on - Deidre's daughter Katie remains a valued member - the ladies have stayed on. Deidre is now a great-grandmother and Barbara a grandmother.

"I guess I was in the wrong place at the wrong time," jokes Deidre about her initiation to the job.

"I do enjoy the work especially knowing that the kids are getting something out of it ... it gives them self-esteem and self confidence and our club has a strong social culture. My daughter who is now 40 remains a member and she is passing on her knowledge and experience to the younger ones."

For Barbara, the interest in athletics was initiated with a 'Little A' visit to her sons' school.

"They came home saying they wanted to join the athletics club, so I went along and wanting to be a positive influence on my boys I put my hand on the committee," she said.

"It didn't take long for me to realise the benefits the sport brings ... there are the health benefits but also the new friendships and the joy it brings. The motto for our club is 'run for fun' ... they don't have to finish first, second or third, in fact we encourage them to compete against their personal best times not against each other."

Deidre, a teacher originally from Sydney, was married in 1973 to Jeff Hall, a Vietnam veteran who served in the RAAF for 20 years. They have three children, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

After Jeff's early retirement the couple settled in Medowie and their children attended Raymond Terrace Little A's. Medowie athletics club had not been formed.

Barbara Inglis and Deidre Hall have been working behind the scenes at Raymond Terrace Athletics Club for a combined 60 years.

Barbara Inglis and Deidre Hall have been working behind the scenes at Raymond Terrace Athletics Club for a combined 60 years.

"I started as assistant secretary and have taken on a number of different roles but I most enjoy doing the newsletters and presentations. It can be time consuming but it also keeps me away from the dreaded housework."

Barbara, born in Waratah, says she was more of a reading and craft girl when attending school at Forster before going on to study secretarial work at Belmont TAFE. She moved with husband Paul and two sons to Raymond Terrace 32 years ago.

"There was not much for kids then so the little athletics club became our haven. I like the fact that kids don't have to take it too seriously," she said. "Of course there is an avenue for those wanting to further their skills and compete at higher levels. They can go all the way to the Olympics which is something we also encourage."

One of the centre's favourite sons did just that - three-time gold medal winner, Paralympian Heath Frances. Raised in Booral, Heath had his right-arm amputated below the elbow in a farming accident at age seven. Heath refused to let the accident stop him achieving his goals.

He first represented Australia at the 1998 World Championships in Birmingham. Two years later, he was competing at his first Paralympic Games in Sydney where he exceeded all expectations to win gold in the 400m. Added to his medal collection on debut were two relay gold medals and a silver medal for the 200m. Heath won a further three silver and two bronze medals at Athens and he went on to become the first athlete to win the T46 100m/200m/400m treble at a world title.

Junior athletics is a very labour intensive sport, and includes many adults to set up the track and field, from putting out and bringing in the equipment, to starting and timekeeping track events, supervising age groups and running the field events.

Club members compete on a Saturday morning, and most of the athletes are finished by 10.30am which gives families the rest of the day to do other things.

"We think that's more enjoyable than competing after work and school," Deidre said. "Parents need to actively assist for it to work. At Raymond Terrace we are fortunate to have a great group of volunteers and it's common to hear parents happily engaging in conversation with other parents during the mornings. And it's really satisfying to hear the parents encouraging not just their own children, but those within their group. The social interaction is so valuable for athletes and parents alike. It can be a lot of hard work, but it's a happy place and no wonder some of us stay so long."

Over the years, the club's membership has fallen primarily due to the opening of the Medowie club and the influx of other sporting options available to youth but the camaraderie has not waned.

Some years ago the centre was christened with a logo and Centre Number 77.

Explains Deidre: "Some of our founding members were members of 77SQN, so when our centre began during the 1976/77 season, links were established with the Williamtown base, specifically 77 Squadron. We requested that Little Athletics assign us 77 as our centre number and in keeping with the squadron badge, the Oriental Lion or 'Grumpy Monkey', as it is affectionately known, as our own logo."

The centre was originally located in Masonite Road, Tomago, then at Raymond Terrace high before moving to Vi Barnett Field.

We want to find the people in the Port's sporting community who deserve the spotlight. Whether it's a star athlete, a quiet achiever, a dedicated volunteer, we want to know who they are. In an email titled 'Sport Nomination', send the details including name, sport/club, a bit about the person you're nominating and a photo to portstephens@austcommunitymedia.com.au.

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