House of Assembly: Thursday, March 23, 2023


Parliamentary Committees

Public Works Committee: South Australian Sports Institute New Work

Adjourned debate on motion of Mr Brown:

That the 24th report of the committee, entitled South Australian Sports Institute New Work, be noted.

(Continued from 23 February 2023.)

Mr COWDREY (Colton) (11:50): I rise today to make a contribution in relation to the Public Works Committee report tabled in the parliament in regard to the South Australian Sports Institute new work project, the 24th report of that committee. There is a line in the executive summary of this report in reference to the current facilities of the South Australian Sports Institute at Kidman Park that says that the current facilities 'no longer meet the needs of a contemporary elite training program'. Despite my immense love for, and time that I have spent down at, those facilities over the last 20-odd years of my life, I do not think that that statement could be any truer.

SASI, as it is colloquially known, celebrated its 40-year anniversary last year on the site that was previously Kidman Park High School on Valetta Road at Kidman Park. There has been a range of leadership—although very stable leadership, I would say—at the South Australian Sports Institute over the last 40 years, with only a very small number of directors ever having had responsibility for the institute. Much has changed since the days of Charlie Walsh having athletes on stationary bikes, running VO2 max tests in the back of what were old transportable buildings at the back of the old high school. It certainly has come a long, long way over that 40 years, but this is the dawning of a new era for the South Australian Sports Institute to shift the facilities up to Mile End and to create a new, contemporary home for the institute for the years to come.

The timing of this build is also significantly important, given the fact that our country will be hosting Olympic and Paralympic games within a near 10-year horizon. It is an opportunity to refresh these facilities and to give South Australian athletes the very best chance to make those teams, to give the representation of South Australia on that level—which has always been well above our population share, both in terms of representation and medals—every chance.

What I am also excited about is the fact that we have been able to do this in partnership with UniSA for many years. The uni has had a pretty significant human movement program and a large interaction with SASI activities, but to formalise that in both the sense of the agreement moving forward and with a shared facility is, I think, a good step forward as well. To have that skill set even further entwined and integrated with the day-to-day operations of SASI is a good thing.

I know that the current director, Wes Battams, has been chipping away at this proposal. I think it has probably been in the Director of SASI's drawer for give or take 25 years, at a minimum, to set up a new home for the institute. Having travelled across the years to the comparative facilities interstate—whether that be down at Olympic Park with the New South Wales Institute of Sport, whether that be down at Albert Park in Victoria where the VIS is set up, or any comparative facilities between the QIS, Western Australian Institute of Sport or the AIS—it is fair to say that our facilities have started to lag, both in their presentation and their fit-for-purpose nature.

I know the member for Cheltenham and I probably spent a little bit too much time in what was a retrofitted bath with ice straight out of the ice-maker rather than a temperature-controlled recovery pool. It certainly was a little bit one way or the other, depending on how much ice came out of there that day, or how generous Mal was feeling in his recovery sentiments for the day. It is definitely something that I know the athletes here will look forward to.

It did push SASI to have to split off parts of their program over the last couple of years. Obviously, with the build of the new state aquatic centre there was the opportunity for the swimming program to have recovery facilities and a gym facility at that centre, which was obviously very well welcomed by that program, but given the geographic spread of where the majority of programs operate and the fact that Kidman Park is, or has been, very central, the majority of programs have still utilised those facilities at Kidman Park.

To see new and refreshed facilities, both in terms of the day-to-day programs and also a step forward in terms of the wind tunnel and research capacity that SASI will have, and the ability to show leadership from a research perspective, I think is something that will be welcomed by the organisation moving forward.

This is, I think, one of the things that the former government will see as a legacy item, in particular given the opportunity that we will have to move South Australian athletes into those Olympic and Paralympic teams at the upcoming Olympics and Paralympics to be held here in Australia.

While it will be disappointing, particularly as the local member, to see SASI depart the outer western suburbs, move to the inner western suburbs and leave the electorate, it is obviously clear that it is a necessary and revolutionary move that will set SASI and in particular our elite athletes up to achieve what they need to achieve in the many years to come.

I support the report and the recommendations that come from it made by the Public Works Committee and look forward to seeing work get underway and to seeing an organisation that has supported so many of our elite athletes over the last 40-odd years continue to do that well into the future.

Mr BROWN (Florey) (11:57): I would like to thank those members who have contributed to the debate. I think it is very beneficial for the house when discussing a project of this type to have the benefit of hearing from members who have contributed to sport at an elite level, so I particularly thank the member for Colton for his contribution.

I would also like to thank the member for Hartley, who I know has contributed to the debate but of course did not contribute at an elite level in sport. Nonetheless, I will say that he has certainly contributed more to sport than anything I have done during my time, so I thank him for his contribution. With those few words, I recommend the report to the house.

The SPEAKER: Thank you, member for Florey, for that important clarification.

Motion carried.