A short history of the Corroboree Athletics club
A note from Garry Stevens (President during the 2019-20 season).
Corroboree turns 50 during the 2019-20 season which is a momentous occasion for our little club. We have a filing cabinet stuck up the back of one of our containers and we knew there was ‘stuff’ in there but really didn’t know what. I made it my goal this off season to go through the filing cabinet to see what I could find to help us celebrate our Golden Jubilee year. I was fortunate to come across a letter in the 1998 files from a man called Eric Boyson and it seems it was he who got this whole ball rolling. I have transcribed his letter here, word for word and it goes like this…
The Founding of Little Athletics
My wife and I brought Little Athletics to Canberra in the 1970’s when I was the Executive Director of the Canberra YMCA and my wife was our Community Services Director. We had seven recreational centres in Canberra and one at Queanbeyan. One of our Canberra centres was at Ainslie at Corroboree Park. Its name came from early settlement days when the Aboriginals used the area for their Corroborees. A park had been established where the Corroborees had taken place and our centre was located within the old, tree lined park.
Each of our centres had a committee of management made up of local citizens, both men and women with one of two youth representatives as well. One of the committee members at the Corroboree park YMCA had come from Victoria. At one of our committee meetings he said “We have good judo, gymnastics, basketball, crafts, radio, photography, bush walking and table tennis clubs but we do not have any athletics for primary school children”. He went on to say that in Victoria he had been very active with a new activity called “Little Athletics”. He explained that Little Athletics had been formed by a Sunday School teacher in Victoria. The teacher felt that if he could arrange an active program for his Sunday school children on Saturdays he would have a better chance of getting to now them rather than just having them on their best behaviour only for a couple of hours on Sundays. As he was active with athletics he chose that as the physical activity. He realised that as his Sunday School students were all at primary school, he would have to provide reduced sized shot puts, javelins and discus. Also lower hurdles and even a shorter running track. He spoke to his friends and some of them were able to make the necessary equipment to his specifications. He called the new program “Little Athletics”. Our committee man was the Functions Manager of one of Canberra’s leading hotels. He said it would no problem to arrange a good room and meals at the hotel if we invited the founder of Little Athletics to Canberra. He also had connections with the airlines because of his position at the hotel and he could get free air tickets for our guests.
The committee became very enthusiastic, deciding to call a public meeting to launch Little Athletics in Ainslie.
We then wrote to a dozen public and church primary schools in the area asking them to tell their students about Little Athletics and invite them to nominate two teachers to attend a public meeting at the Corroboree Park Centre. The public meeting was held with the founder of Little Athletics as our main speaker. The Canberra Times gave us good publicity and a large number of local citizens, parents of primary school age children, also attended. After the founder had spoken, the meeting moved a resolution that Little Athletics be established at Ainslie.
We then had to find a venue. The Lady Principal of the Ainslie Public School was on my Board of Directors and when I reported on the public meeting to my Board she said their sports oval next to her school was not used on Saturdays and we could have the use of it rent free as long as we left it clean and tidy.
We then approached our bank as sponsor of the record book and place stickers which was to be given to each child as they enrolled. The bank manager thought it was a good idea because he had 2 young children who would participate and he readily agreed to pay for the printing.
Our Mothers Club started to raise money by selling fairy floss at Garema Place on Friday evenings when the shops opened for late night shopping. Very soon we had enough to purchase the basic equipment we needed.
We then called an enrolment day. Sixty children turned up, mostly with their parents, saying there were others interested who could not be there that day. With the parents handy, we recruited workers- starters, marshals, recorders and grounds men and women. The parents became as keen as the children. We even recruited several cabinet ministers and parliamentarians because they too had children who wanted to participate. We assigned one of our young activity-staff men to co-ordinate the program, but very soon the parents took over completely and our staff man only had to be there to represent the YMCA.
At the first wind up after a very successful season, we invited Warwick Selvey to speak to the group. Warwick had been a member of the YMCA when he was a boy in Sydney and I was then the Boys’ Work Director at the Sydney YMCA. Warwick has represented Australia at two Olympics in shot put, javelin and discus throwing. He had become a chiropractor in addition to an Olympian after he left school and he was now living in Canberra. After Warwick had recounted his experiences at the Olympics, one of the boys asked him to show them how he would throw a discus at the Olympics. Warwick agreed to do so, was given a Little Athletics discus and said “Gee, its a bit small” and threw it and we never found it again!
When the YMCA established a YMCA Recreation Centre at Belconnen, Little Athletics was formed a year afterwards at Belconnen by the YMCA, using the Canberra High School playing field which was next to our YMCA Centre at Jamieson. The then Minister for the Capital Territory, Mr Enderby, officially opened Little Athletics by throwing the shot put which he said he had been pretty good at when he was at University.
Little Athletics was shortly afterwards formed at Woden by the community and not the YMCA and so it began to grow elsewhere.
When we called the Public Meeting at Corroboree Park we never dreamed that we were starting something which would grow so big. When the Sunday School teacher involved his Sunday School class in athletics on a Saturday morning, he had no idea that it would become popular interstate.
When your children grow up, never be afraid to have new ideas and to put your new ideas into action because ideas have legs and they can travel far.
Those of you who miss out on trophies, do not be discouraged. The important thing is to ask yourself “Have I improved on my previous performances?” If you have, then be happy. If you haven’t improved, then at least you tried and in the last analysis, that is the most important thing.
By Eric Boyson
David Boshier (one of our long term committee members and coaches) searched through the Canberra Archives and found the following Newspaper Articles
27 October 1970
Little Athletics for the Northside
A MEETING attended by more than 60 parents and children last Thursday night adopted a resolution to form a Little Athletics Association for children aged between seven and 12 attending northside schools. A further meeting will be held at the Corroboree Park YMCA Youth Centre at 7pm on-November 5 to finalise details for Little Athletics competitions, with a view to beginning competition on Saturday, November 14. The founder of the Little Athletics Association and the secretary-manager of the Victorian Little Athletics Association, Mr Trevor Billingham, told the meeting that four such associations had been formed in NSW.
He said the association believed that little athletics was a worthwhile recreational activity particularly if it was a family activity involving both the children and their parents. Mr Billingham trained with athletes John. Landy and Don McMillan and, ip 1956, was chosen to carry the Olympic torch for one relay section on its way to Melbourne.
The executive director of the Canberra YMCA, Mr E. O.Boyson, said the Little Athletics Association for the northside schools would probably conduct their competitions at the oval.
Mr Boyson. said yesterday the northside association was being treated as an experimental project and further little athletics centres would be formed in the future. He said the next centre would be formed on the south side of Canberra and the others would be in the Woden Valley and in Belconnen.
17 Dec 1970
The Little Athletics Association, sponsored by the Corroboree Park YMCA, will hold its last competitions for the year on Saturday, December 19, at the Ainslie Primary School Oval.
Competitions will resume at the Ainslie Primary Oval on Saturday, February 6.
The Little Athletics Association was formed for northside Canberra schools two months ago and has attracted about 140 competitors in the under-7 and under 12 weekly competitions. The executive director of the Canberra YMCA, Mr E. O. Boyson, said that it was likely that the Woden YMCA Youth Centre would sponsor a Little Athletics Association for schools in the Woden and Weston Creek areas early next year.
A word from club legend John Hunt
50th Anniversary of Corroboree Little Athletics Centre
I am delighted to be here today to celebrate the fiftieth year of this great club.
My involvement goes back to 1988, when my son Hume was inspired by the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games to ask if he could join a little athletics centre.
This was Corroboree and what a great choice we made. He enjoyed two seasons of participation before taking up senior athletics and other sports, but I found myself becoming more and more involved, initially through officiating and coaching and then as a member of the Committee and President.
My decision to remain after my son left was driven by my commitment to the personal best ethos of the club and the friendly atmosphere it engendered. I felt that such a fine example of community involvement deserved my support.
To see shy five year-olds coming to their first involvement in little athletics, to see them acquiring skills in running, jumping and throwing, to observe their growing confidence and pleasure as they improve their competition performances (“John, I got a personal best”) –that is a joy.
Many have applied the skills they learnt in little athletics to other sports. The roll of honour includes those who have excelled in hockey, basketball, rugby league and of course athletics at national and international level.
We are not just imparting skills to these young people: we are giving them lessons for life. They learn that success comes from intelligent application and that seemingly unattainable goals can be achieved if they desire them hard enough. They learn to lose with grace and win with grace. Whenever I meet former little athletes, they always recall with fondness their experiences in the sport.
Of course little athletics, more than most other junior sports, requires a big commitment from the parents. Their involvement is essential to run the weekly events and to organize achievement awards, fund-raising and record-keeping. Many parents spend many unpaid hours in providing the administrative framework for the smooth running of the sport. They do this because they see the children as their hope for the future.
Corroboree has been very fortunate in having some wonderful parents over the years who have developed a range of innovations that make this club one of the best-run and happiest centres in the ACT. It is wonderful that some of those pioneers are here today.
When I first became involved thirty years ago, we would have to fetch the equipment trailer from a shed within the ACT Parks complex by driving across a bridge over the drain, set up the throwing equipment at the circles on that side right next to bicycle path, then get together and then decide “What events will we offer today? The long and triple jump pits had grass run-ups; the barbecue was a single unit brought by a parent. But the high jump had excellent deep landing bags that served us well for twenty-five years.
And what good times we had! Some of the records set in the 1980s still stand. Some of those record-holders are here today.
One of the most pleasing developments over the years has been the opening up of little athletics to older athletes up to under 17 years. We now have a strong representation of these fine young people who are excellent role models for the younger athletes.
So we have much to be thankful for. I, most of all, am grateful to have been involved for so long in such a wonderful club.
29 February 2020
Corroboree History 1970-2022
|27 Oct 1970
|Little Athletics for the Northside
|A MEETING attended by more than 60 parents and children last Thursday night adopted a resolution to form a Little Athletics Association for children aged between 7 and 12 attending northside schools. A further meeting will be held at the Corroboree Park YMCA Youth Centre at 7pm on 5 November 1970 to finalise details for Little Athletics competitions, with a view to beginning competition on Saturday, 14 November. The founder of the Little Athletics Association and the secretary-manager of the Victorian Little Athletics Association, Mr Trevor Billingham, told the meeting that four such associations had been formed in NSW.
|The executive director of the Canberra YMCA, Mr Eric O Boyson, said the Little Athletics Association for the northside schools would probably conduct their competitions at the oval.
|Mr Boyson. said yesterday the northside association was being treated as an experimental project and further little athletics centres would be formed in the future. He said the next centre would be formed on the south side of Canberra and the others would be in the Woden Valley and in Belconnen.
|17 Nov 1970
|The Little Athletics Association, sponsored by the Corroboree Park YMCA, will hold its last competitions for the year on Saturday, December 19, at the Ainslie Primary School Oval. Competitions will resume at the Ainslie Primary Oval on Saturday, February 6.
|The Little Athletics Association was formed for northside Canberra schools two months ago and has attracted about 140 competitors in the under-7 and under 12 weekly competitions. The executive director of the Canberra YMCA, Mr E. O. Boyson, said that it was likely that the Woden YMCA Youth Centre would sponsor a Little Athletics Association for schools in the Woden and Weston Creek areas early next year.
|YMCA’s Mothers Club started to raise money by selling fairy floss at Garema Place on Friday evenings when the shops opened for late night shopping. Very soon they had enough to purchase the basic equipment they needed.
|Presentation Day – Warwick Selvey, a former Olympian was invited to come and speak and the kids asked him to throw a Discus to see ow far he could do it. He threw it over the houses that surround Corroboree Park and it was never seen again.
|Woden Little Athletics began
|City Parkes Admin rejected a proposal to erect a storage shed at Dickson but relented 6 months later after a nice bit of badgering from the committee at the time.
|This was possibly the same year Corroboree moved from Ainslie to Dickson.
|John Culyer was President – it cost $6 to join the club.
|A newsletter was found from this period in the containers asking parents not to soak their kids shirts in bleach because the numbers fade.
|On 21/8 City Parks administration gave permission for 2 concrete circles to be built at the ovals but only if Corroboree did it themselves (which they did)
|5 clubs existed in the ACT including Corroboree, Ginninderra, Weston Creek, Woden and Tuggeranong
|Corroboree was sponsored by Downer Olympic Club. Michael Hussey was President.
|Ten clubs in the ACT and surrounds – Tuggeranong had 607 kids! Ginninderra had 492 – Corroboree had 367
|First year ACT Little Athletics operated as an independent state body and had 3052 kids. We have around 2,800 in 2020 in the ACT and surrounds.
|Corroboree ran a Pentathlon event which was the precursor to the Multi event carnival and other centres were invited. Subsequently the event was taken over by ACTLAA.
|Registration fees were $20. Les Henry was the President. (2 years)
|John Hunts name first appears in the records as Secretary of the Club. He is still with us today.
|John Hunt was President of the Club – his son had long left the sport at the end of this period, but John continued. Some of the things that got achieved under his tenure included the introduction of personal best ribbons, coaching evenings, purchasing proper hurdles, financial support for athletes representing ACT, adoption of Codes of Behaviour and a fight with the Government over the constant wetness of the ovals.
|Corroboree took someone to small claims court for the amount of $1204.71 and won
|Lauren Boden was in U6s
|The club sought exemption from tax but was rejected.
|First time the club had over 200 members with 214 – rego costs $40
|Jayden Sawyer’s first year at Corroboree in Tiny Tots Program
|Stuart Rendell (Commonwealth Games Hammer thrower gold medallist) attended the AGM
|John Hunts last year as President…or so he thought. Club has over 300 members for the first time with 326
|Matt Beckenham (Sydney Olympics 400m Hurdles) and Lauren Boden’s current coach, attended our Presentation Day
|Meets were held at Daramalan College
|Neil Boden was President (2 seasons)
|22 Dec 2002
|Google Maps History shows we had no permanent discus rings. Only one sand pit.
|On Track was introduced for U6s only under Neil Boden’s Presidency (father of Lauren). It was a 3-week rotating skills program. Senior Squad instituted.
|Carnival uniform was introduced.
|Gungahlin Opened its doors. Corroboree membership dropped from 328 to 220.
|Lauren Boden’s final year in U15
|Jayden Sawyer’s final year before moving to Chris Timpson’s squad. He was in U11s
|U16’s and Under 17’s were admitted to the club (previously U15s and below only) – no girls joined Corroboree though that year.
|Throwing circles moved from other side of the drain to current position to avoid cycle path collisions
|Corroboree were running a 3-week rotating program. Rego fees were $60, of which $47 went to the Association.
|Shot put, discus and javelin were held across the other side of the drain and the bike path, and this was also the location of the equipment sheds.
|11 Mar 2004
|Google maps history shows there were 3 throwing circles on the other side of the drain. Two long jump pits, but no run-ups.
|Michelle D’Ambroso was President and 50% of the club’s paperwork stored in the filing cabinet in the back of the containers was from that period.
|All-weather triple and long jump run ups were created with ACT Government support. Much of the manual labour was done by the club. OMIT including John Hunt.
|Meets were held on Friday nights during the Summer under recently installed light towers.
|Sponsors were Renaissance Homes, Paint Place and Wattyl
|The club purchased 40 new hurdles ($85 each) – 20 were paid for by Renaissance Building and Design.
|Regional Championships were held as well as State championships.
|12 December 2005
|Google maps history shows long jump run-ups are installed, and the third pit and run-up at the Antill St was installed.
|The first container was purchased (John Hunt was President AGAIN) – the provision was that it must be painted green and kept free from graffiti. An athletics design was approved for the containers.
|Water restrictions due to severe drought meant we were only allowed to train for 1 day a week to help keep ground in as best shape as possible.
|Andrew Sutton first year on the Committee staying on it until 2018/19
|Lauren Boden and Kosta Kouparitsis awards introduced – Skye Sutton and Regan Moran were the inaugural winners
|31 Mar 2008
|Google maps history shows the shot put circle on Antill St side near the start of the 100m was installed.
|28 Mar 2009
|Google maps history shows two new circles are installed along the drain on our side.
|Presidents Role was vacant. Debra Moran was Vice President and probably ran the club as she was President the year before and VP the year before that.
|Chris Bacchus’s first year on the committee. He stayed on it until 2018/19. Chris introduced Captain Corroboree and the Club chant to the athletes.
|John Hunt Award created for Club Person of the Year.
|John Hunt (belatedly) awarded Life Membership of Corroboree
|Andrew Sutton’s first year as President. Only relinquished in 2016/17 to Ingrid Takken
|Meets were held at Merici College while the Dickson Wetlands and a new drainage system were constructed. Google maps history shows – the wetlands are created, and drainage is installed etc
|On Track extended from just U6s to include U7s, U8s and U9s. Program changed to be more fun rather than just skills focussed.
|Meets were held at Merici College for a second season.
|Ingrid Takken’s first year on the Committee (she’s still on it). First Corroboree Yearbook published.
|Meets held back at Dickson Ovals once again.
|Five new throwing circles were installed along the drain, as well as a discus cage. (We also had the 6th ring at the Antill St side)
|The three long jump run-ups were (re)surfaced, funded by ACTLAA equipment and ACT Government grants.
|Google maps history shows the return to Dickson and there were 5 (new) circles along the drain – the Antill St circle is also still there. There are still the three run-ups. We now had two new containers to add to the existing one.
|Coaches Encouragement Awards introduced
|The club received funding from the ACT government and ATCLAA to purchase new high jump mats (70cm height with yellow cover)
|Ingrid Takken takes over as President
|Sponsor Jetstar holds a photo competition called ‘Orange Round’. Corroboree wins the competition and receives a $3000 equipment grant.
|ACT government widens the sand pit on the Antill Street side and installs a fourth long jump run-up. Surfacing of the ‘runway’ was funded by grants from Jetstar and the ACT government (Sport and Recreation).
|Andrew Sutton awarded Life Membership
|U9s no longer had to do On Track – too cool for school
|‘First Corroboree Frog’ day was held, in order to raise funds for frog breeding program. It has been held every year since then.
|Another set of high jump flop mats (60cm with red cover) was purchased, with funding from ACTLAA and ACT government grants. Scissor mats were introduced for U9s and U10s
|Corroboree wins the ACTLAA Centre of the Year award
|Historic white T-Shirts replaced by sport specific Blue and Gold shirts
|Coles came on board as National sponsors and gave away free bananas at each meet. A $5,000 grant from Coles enabled us to buy a 4th set of High Jump mats.
|All non-collapsible hurdles were replaced due to regulation changes.
|Garry Stevens became President; Club Captains appointed once again after a brief foray in the early 2000’s – Bonnie Sutton (Girls) and David Wilson (Boys) were the first Captains for this period.
|James Peek automates many of the systems that took a long time to administer.
|Ingrid Takken and Ruud van Scheppingen awarded Life Membership
|Inaugural running of the Corroboree Gift. Winners were Hugo McDuff (U8) and Rhianna Skinn (U10)
|Smaller hurdles were purchased to allow U6’s and U7s to do Hurdles after a one year hiatus due to regulation changes.
|New 50 year logo designed and used for this season.
|Bacchus Best named after life member, Chris Bacchus, trophy introduced to recognise the child with the most PB’s
|The season presented challenges due to a large number of bushfires in the region and constant smoke haze, though only one meet was lost in total.
|Presentation Day and AGM had to be cancelled due to Corona Virus world wide pandemic. Trophies and medals hand delivered.
|29 Feb 2020
|Corroboree celebrates its 50th year of competition with a big bash birthday party.
|COVID-19 pandemic hits the world. Exemptions required from Health authorities to even run the season. Appointed a specialist COVID officer and many of the usual ways we did things had to be adjusted to keep people separated as much as possible.
|12 Dec 2020
|Corroboree wins their first ever relay carnival with 35 teams, beating the bigger Woden club by over 60 points.
|Corroboree awarded the Peter Boden U6-U8 Tea challenge Championships and the Mick Morris ACT Relay Champions
|COVID once again plays a major factor with a three week delay to the start of the season. Three of the first five meets were also washed out and the summer was wet in general. For the first time Corroboree offered meets from the start of January with good attendance. A club record of 333 sign ups was recorded. We also won the Relay Carnival with over 40 teams and the U6-U8 Teams Challenge for the second year running.
|Corroboree accepted as an affiliated member of Senior Athletics (Athletics ACT). This will ensure our Seniors can participate as Corroboree throughout their Athletic careers. Our club changed its name to Corroboree Athletics from Corroboree (North Canberra) Little Athletics at this time.