Ku-ring-gai Electorate Rotary Clubs

Rotunda in Wahroonga Park
17 November 2021

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai—Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services) (18:06): Rotary Clubs provide a wonderful service to our local communities. Their purpose is to bring together people with various skills to support humanitarian service and advance community and international goodwill. There are three Rotary clubs in my electorate of Ku-ring-gai, including the Wahroonga, Turramurra and Ku-ring-gai clubs. They support many community organisations that provide an extensive range of youth services, scholarships for children with special needs, support for local charities, celebration of academic excellence, mentorships for young people and much more, alongside supporting international goodwill projects. I have always supported the good work they do. 

I particularly highlight a local matter of significance, which is the connection between the Wahroonga Rotary Club and the creation of the Wahroonga Park rotunda—one of the many examples of the positive contributions by Rotary to my local community. The rotunda is a very popular facility in Wahroonga Park that was funded and constructed by multiple organisations, including Wahroonga Rotary. While many people enjoy the facility, the story of its construction and significance to Ku-ring-gai is just as important. It all began with Richard Geddes, former Mayor of Ku-ring-gai from 1996 to 1998. Richard always spoke of his plans to have a rotunda at Wahroonga Park, but unfortunately he died of a heart attack in 1999 before it came to fruition. I only met Richard once at the funeral of his twin brother, Donald, who was a barrister and councillor on Newcastle council and who coincidentally rose to be deputy mayor of that city. 

Richard's dream became a reality after a steering committee was formed to begin construction in 1999. It included Rosalie Geddes, Richard's wife; Bob Howe, Richard's friend; Gordon Fuller, architect and president of the Wahroonga Chamber of Commerce as well as a member of Wahroonga Rotary; David Dobbin, then Mayor of Ku-ring-gai; Johanne Tobin, then Wahroonga ward councillor; and Rhonda Bignell, then general manager of the council. Additionally, the Wahroonga Rotary Club donated $5,000, and an additional $5,000 was donated by the Wahroonga Chamber of Commerce. With the help of donations from the public, the total amount of $68,000 was raised in just four months. 

The proposed rotunda was to be built in the Federation style to suit the heritage of the park and to be a useful facility for the whole community. It was therefore built to be of a size that would comfortably accommodate musicians and bands, but not so large that it dominated the park. Gordon Fuller together with Geoff Herman of the Australian Summer House Company designed and built the octagonal rotunda. It was completed in 1999 as a memorial to Richard Geddes and his 12 years dedicated to the council and the local community. Many people who knew him have no doubt that he would be pleased with the result. The rotunda continues to be enjoyed by many of my constituents as a venue for functions such as birthdays, family picnics, wedding ceremonies and photographs. The park also hosts several community events and festivals each year that would not be complete without the rotunda.

Importantly, the rotunda adds to the harmony within the park between the natural and built environment. I have personally enjoyed the facility with my family over the years, and it is a convenient meeting point for volunteers at events like Clean Up Australia Day. I acknowledge former mayor Richard Geddes, whose legacy continues through the continued use and enjoyment of the rotunda, as well as the Rotary Club of Wahroonga, whose financial backing and architectural contribution helped to make it a reality. The club has every reason to be proud of its role in helping to facilitate construction of the rotunda. As an honorary member of Wahroonga Rotary, I understand and greatly appreciate all the work it does. I have spoken previously about how fortunate I was to study for a Master of Laws degree in Canada, which I could only have done with a Rotary Foundation Scholarship. I also commend the club for its contribution to the Wahroonga Park rotunda, which has benefited so many in our local community over the past 20 years. I look forward to seeing my community continue to benefit from it for many years into the future.

I note that 2021 marks the centenary of Wahroonga Park, and the Rotary Club of Wahroonga is helping to organise a celebratory event in December. I hope to be attending and speaking at the rescheduled event to celebrate the park's history and to acknowledge the resilience that my community has shown during the recent COVID lockdown.