THE Harrow Recreation Reserve has received a cash windfall of $1 million.
West Wimmera Shire councillor Tom Houlihan has led a campaign to upgrade facilities at the reserve for the past 10 years.
He said his motivation was to see facilities for women vastly improved at the reserve.
“The worst facilities in the Horsham District Football and Netball League are currently at Harrow,” he said.
“Today, female facilities are not to be forgotten – they should be right at the top of everyone’s focus. Eighty per cent of this funding will be designed for females to have proper facilities. It was vitally important we had this funding to create a decent netball set up and changerooms. I would love to see a decent baby crèche built too.
“The recreation reserve isn’t just used by the football and netball club. When we have a fire, the recreation reserve is our staging area. A lot of the volunteers in the CFA are female and we must cater to that.
“Female facilities have been a long way behind male facilities, and I want to put a stop to that.”
Cr Houlihan said he was thrilled to see the funding come through after the tireless campaign.
“I’m more than ecstatic about it,” he said.
“You work away at things and keep getting knocked back. I went out on my own working on this and I was able to gain the grant.
“It’s been a 10-year journey and the community has supported me. I’m very fortunate I live in a very good community. I have a family tie in the whole set up – my father Des, just after the Second World War, was one of the prime movers in clearing the block of land where the reserve is now.”
Harrow-Balmoral Football Netball Club president Rosemary Langley said the upgrade would be fantastic for the community.
“It’s absolutely fantastic and we are very surprised to see that sort of money come in,” she said.
“Full credit to Tom – he has worked at this for a very long time.
“It’s important for the whole community. The Balmoral Recreation Reserve committee is also pushing for funding and hopefully we will have two good grounds in a few years.
“This sort of funding isn’t what you expect in regional and rural areas, and especially in safe seats. Through a lot of hard work and a lot of hours on the road, Tom has been able to do this off his own back, which is pretty extraordinary.”
Former Secretary of the Harrow Recreation Reserve committee David Hobbs said he doubted funding of this amount would have been possible.
"This is a remarkable effort, a reward for Tom's passion and persistence,” he said.
“I'll put my hand up and say that I didn't think it was possible. I've been saying that we had to compromise and just get something done to replace the outdated facilities, but Tom has dreamed large and delivered big. The thing about Tom is that there wouldn't be a football or netball facility within 200km of the Western Highway from Adelaide to Melbourne that he hasn't checked out.”
Member for Western Victoria Jaala Pulford said the funding was part of the state government’s budget, which is providing $60m for community sporting grants.
“Clubs like Harrow-Balmoral Football Netball Club are the cornerstone of local communities and that’s why we're backing them with this record investment,” she said.