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Tribute to Julie Fitzgerald OAM

10 August 2020


Mr MATT KEAN (Hornsby—Minister for Energy and Environment) (16:41:37): I acknowledge the outstanding achievement of local Hornsby resident Julie Fitzgerald, who has been recognised in this year's Queens Birthday Honours List. Julie joins an extensive list of men and women recognised by the Order of Australia for their service to the community for her illustrious career in netball. The story of one of Australia's finest sporting coaches began in 1975 in my electorate of Hornsby at the Ku-ring-gai Netball Association where she was nominated as assistant secretary. She has been an integral part of the club ever since, taking on numerous roles including president, representative selection convenor and coaching coordinator, all while performing executive roles within other organisations. This is a testament to her giving nature and her passionate character. Throughout her 30 years of service she has coached both junior and senior teams to play in State championship matches, often with very pleasing results.

One of her most impressive results and fondest memories was travelling with her Ku-ring-gai team to Hawaii to compete in the inaugural world club cup championships in 1984. Her team made it all the way to the finals before going down to the Australian Institute of Sport. No matter the arena, Julie never let the pressure get to her. Every game is a fresh start and the potential for new opportunity. It is always an honour to have our local organisations represented on the national and global stage and I congratulate Julie for doing this over so many years. Regardless of where the netball world has taken her, she has always been there for her local club, mentoring the next generation of Hornsby's sporting champions. I know that Jo-Anne Perry, Brenda Williams, Helen Pratt and the entire organisation are proud of everything she has given and for everything she has achieved.

Julie is also a key member and founder of a number of other sporting clubs within the community. In the mid‑nineties she helped establish the Hornsby Spiders Basketball Club and was appointed as general manager in 1997. This was no easy task. The Spiders were home to 168 local competition teams and six junior representative sides. Julie continued to build and generate more members until they reached capacity at 300 competition teams in 2005. Her plans were always to make the Hornsby Spiders the best association in New South Wales and to find a way to get a new stadium built. I have no doubt that both those goals have been achieved, especially considering that she was fundamental in helping move the organisation to its new home at the Brickpit Basketball Sports Stadium in Thornleigh. This has allowed hundreds of men, women and children within our community to access premiere sporting facilities and to grow and nurture their skills.

During her time as executive officer she has received a number of prestigious awards. These include outstanding contribution to women's basketball in 1999, the New South Wales award for significant contribution to referee development in 2002 and Basketball Australia's female administrator of the year in 2003.

They are all amazing achievements and what is even more impressive is the achievements of those under her guidance and leadership. During her esteemed tenure at the club she mentored 14 State players, one AIS scholarship holder, one Wallaby, three college scholars and seven intensive training centre scholars. She managed all of this while bringing up her own family and paving her way as a high-profile netball coach. This is yet again a testament to the character, resilience and dedication of Julie Fitzgerald—a selfless individual who would do anything for people around her in her quest to develop the next generation of sporting greats.

When one thinks of the best coaches in netball one thinks of Julie Fitzgerald. But what made her great was not just her brilliant understanding of the game but her ability to get the best out of her players. For Julie, investing in the individual as a person was the priority and the netball would flow from there. The best example of that philosophy is Liz Ellis. Julie identified Liz, as a teenager, not just as a good netballer but as a good person. Liz lived in the Hawkesbury and had been accepted to study law at Macquarie University, but the demands of study, full-time netball and a lot of travel meant something had to give. It was at that time that Julie opened up her own home to Liz, who was able to reduce her travel time, complete a degree and go on to be one of the best netballers our country has produced.

Outside of her achievements in the local sporting culture she has performed numerous feats on the national and international stage. Her first major breakthrough was for the Sydney Swifts, which was one of the original eight teams in the Commonwealth Bank netball competition introduced in 1997. She was highly regarded in that role for her ability to guide the side towards four premierships, one in 2001, 2004, 2006 and 2007, before the competition ended shortly after. This was where Julie really started to shine as an incredible coach with a thorough and devout knowledge of the game, and the needs of individual players. It is this humility and compassion that has made her not only an outstanding coach but also a fantastic member of the community. Since those humble beginnings her career has continued to soar. In 2011 she was named head coach of netball at the Australian Institute of Sport, in 2012 she was nominated as assistant coach of the Australian Diamonds and she went over to New Zealand to coach the Waikato Bay Magic before returning home to coach the newly formed NSW Giants.

These are all astounding achievements that Julie has grabbed with both hands to further cement her reputation as one of netball's greatest coaches and mentors. But perhaps Julie's greatest achievement is the way she has raised four brilliant children in Katie, Kristie, Vicky and John. Each of them has grown into successful professionals in their own right thanks to the unwavering love, support and dedication of their mum. Julie is a single mum whose kids never wanted for anything. They have grown into impressive young men and women who now also are contributing to their communities in so many ways. I am so proud of everything Julie Fitzgerald has achieved and I am backing her every success in the future. She deserves recognition within the Order of Australia and as an icon of our community in Hornsby.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I thank the member for Hornsby. I am sure that everybody in this House recognises the amazing work that Julie Fitzgerald has done and congratulates her on her acknowledgement.