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. .Probus Club of Avoca Beach Inc.

Guest Speakers

Future Meetings & Guest Speakers

Monday 17 May 2021   Nicola Robinson   from   Hunter Central Coast Development Commission

Nicola will speak about development in the Brisbane Water area

 Recent Guest Speakers   


Monday 15 February 2021        Commander Duncan Coles   from   Marine Rescue NSW,   Central Coast

  Marine Rescue is a completely volunteer organization and a charity but it is highly professional. It is funded 45% by NSW Govt, 25% by grants and donations and the balance by fund raising activities.  It has 44 units throughout the State and 3,500+ volunteers.  Only a few units operate 24/7. Their sole purpose is to help provide safety on the water. They have five themes – Search & Rescue, Medical Emergency, General Assistance, Operation of Marine Radio Network, Public Awareness.  

 In the Central Coast there are two units with premises  at Point Clare and Terrigal Haven and they have 130 volunteers. They operate daily and are on standby for nights.  They have six rescue vessels.  Last year 120 vessels were assisted and the operation cost $150,000. This is mostly spent on fuel, servicing, maintenance and replacements.

Each volunteer contributes 450 hours per year spread over – 35 days on duty, 20 days training, 4 days fundraising. They come from a very wide background with only a few having had marine careers.

 Members found this talk about a service which operates right on our doorstep really interesting and John Evans (Guest Speakers Coordinator)  thanked Duncan for his talk and gave him a small gift from the club.

Monday 18 January 2021       Tiffany    from  the NSW Service Centre in Erina

Tiffany is a specialist customer service officer providing help for people to get the maximum benefit from the NSW Government’s  “Cost of Living Program”.   Tiffany has 16 years experience in this role – 6 in the current service centre and 10 before that in Centrelink.  Under this program more than 70 discounts, subsidies, concessions and rebates are available to low income earners, seniors, and pensioners. These benefits are available in a wide range of activities such as energy, driving, transport, health, the home and recreation.

 During her talk Tiffany explained, in a very friendly and easy to understand way, a number of these and dealt with questions as she went along. She also let members know that she is available, by appointment, for a 45 minute interview at the Service Centre with anyone with little knowledge of the program.

 Tiffany was able to say that a Round 2 of the Regional Travel Card giving eligible people a $250 stored value Visa card had just been announced by the Government. She encouraged members to apply by phone, online, or through her.

 We now live in a technology age and Tiffany encouraged member who are struggling to gain skills to actively use an online facility called “Be Connected”.  She feels that this provides easy to understand  help and learning about all aspects of computing and technology.

 Tiffany’s talk was extremely well received by members and she was happy to provide individual answers to a queue of members afterwards.  In the absence of John Evans (Guest Speakers Coordinator) Barry Turner thanked her for her talk and gave her a small gift from the club.



Monday 23 November 2020       John Asquith from the  Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre

John gave a very interesting talk about the Central Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Terrigal. It was started in 2005 and has been slowly expanded and improved over the years by the efforts of three volunteers. 

An important purpose of the centre is to be a teaching facility about the marine environment for children. They get scheduled visits from local schools and give talks to such groups.   There is a large static display but there is also an acquarium and a large “wet touch” tank in which children can get the feel of many marine creatures and features. 

For more casual visitors they have a café, a display of gifts, a picnic area and a children’s playground.  The whole facility has been designed to have a minimal environmental impact. 

In 2018 they received a grant of $1 million from the government to continue their improvement.  They are using half of this to create a walking track around the adjacent Terrigal lagoon.  The rest is being used to upgrade their basic facilities – especially their sewer, toilets,  etc.    As part of the upgrade the three volunteers have become employees to strengthen the sustainability. 

Members found John’s talk about this local facility very interesting and on behalf of members he was thanked by John Evans (Guest Speaker Coordinator) and was given a small gift.

Monday 19 October 2020        Chief Inspector  Rod Peet   from  Gosford Police Station

Chief Inspector Rod Peet  is a senior officer in Brisbane Water police district. The district has three police stations – Gosford,  Woy Woy, and Terrigal.  It has 198 police staff. There is a “league table” of NSW police districts based on achieving improvements. Rod is very proud that his district is currently fifth and they have an ambition to be the best.   2020 has been a very difficult year with bushfires, floods, Covid, and Wamberal beach erosion. Rod was able to fix the erosion problem for affected homeowners because he has unlimited authority when protecting property. This is unlike the Council and the State Government which are severely restricted by regulations.

Over the last 20 years the area has seen crime reduced significantly. The biggest issue now is domestic violence closely followed by drugs. Also mental health problems are increasing mainly due to drugs. The area has a population of about 200,000 and in 2020 so far our police have laid 5,000 charges against 2,800 people. Monthly on average there have been 27 cars stolen, 31 homes broken into, 6 assaults and 3 sexual assaults. Rod said that the area has 20 well known criminals who are responsible for most of the drug problems.

At the personal level Rod has been in the police force for 30 years and during that time has obtained four university degrees – all earned part time. The police service is using more and more technology and most police today are highly educated. Work often involves short term travel to join large groups dealing with crises. Rod himself is qualified to be a riot squad commander.

Rod’s talk was fascinating, very human, and extremely well received by members. On behalf of the club, John Evans thanked Rod for giving us part of his extremely busy and responsible schedule and gave him a small gift. 

Monday 21 September 2020   Wendy Gillespie    "The Pelican Lady" 

For the last 23 years Wendy has been rescuing damaged pelicans which need help. She has also been involved in academic research about the birds. This has been a full time occupation and she has been self funded relying largely on donations. Damaged birds are rarely referred to her and she actively searches for them by kayaking around waterways which Pelicans are known to frequent and also their breeding grounds.

 In the last 10 years she has made 977 rescues. Of those 50% each were male and female, 36% were mature and 64% immature; 70% had damage to the upper body or head.  She was able to successfully treat most while sitting in her kayak but 5% needed help from a vet. A common problem is finding birds entangled in something or with something sharp attached to them. The most common problem arises from discarded recreational fishing lines (93%). Other problems are balloon strings, toxic algal blooms (although most die), and items from storm water drains. Although her focus is rescues she has found that 150 die each year – mostly males.

Recently there has been a shortage of fish and she has been entering nesting areas to supplement the needs of the young birds. Pelicans nest for comfort and usually lay two eggs.  After they hatch only the stronger of the two is allowed to live after 3 weeks. After 5 to 6 weeks the young congregate in a crèche and after 12 weeks they start flying.

Club members found Wendy’s address fascinating and she was thanked by John Evans (Guest Speaker Coordinator) who gave her a financial donation from the club. Individual members also gave her personal donations in support of her activities and as thanks for her address.

Monday 16 March 2020        Annual General Meeting  

There was no guest speaker due to the AGM.

Monday 17th February          John Sheehan       "Beethoven"

John Sheehan was accompanied by Tina, the "master player", who was in charge of the DVD player. She played different tracks from a large collection of DVDs to illustrate the concepts John mentioned. John spoke extensively on the life and works of Beethoven who was born 250 years ago in Bonne, the then capital of Germany. His childhood was not happy due to a drunken father, but he went on to have many love affairs. His music was very new and different at the time in Vienna and was exciting, challenging, passionate and beautiful. It was music from his soul. He wrote many symphonies and concertas, but only one opera. He died in 1827 with 20 000 people attended his funeral.  

Monday 20 January                Frank Brown        "An Introduction to Mineralogy"

The scheduled speaker for today, Wendy Gillespie who was going to speak about "Pelican Research and Rescue", was unable to attend due to an accident. To fill the gap, Frank Brown spoke to us instead. His talk on Mineralogy was very interesting as he had studied mineralogy as part of a chemistry course and has maintained his interest in it. He showed us slides of different types of minerals and explained how to tell them apart through colour, taste, odour and feel. He illustrated such properties as lustre, irridescence, fluorescence, opalescence among others. He also mentioned agate, silicate, crystals, magnesium and more. Unfortunately, Frank had to be quite brief as we had to leave the area to allow another group into the space.  


Monday 25 November 2019        Johnny Pace              "Putting Humour into Work"

Johnny Pace is a very entertaining speaker as he has had a show business career. Originally he worked in the family business as his father had said "No" to show business. He also was in the British Army where he worked in the the welfare and catering sections. Eventually he resigned his commission and tried show business in clubs in Northern England. He was not successful at first but persevered and learnt a lot, mainly through being understudy to some of the big stars in pantomimes. He performed in concerts and variety tours before doing a tour in Rhodesia, now called Zimabwe, as part of the act "Johnny Pace and Harriet". He sailed to Australia in 1970 and did television work, including his own show. He now works with his wife, Nicki, for the National Chid Protection Agency.      


Monday 21 October 2019            Julie Aitchison     “ Umina: The First Fifty Years”  

Julie Aitchison spent the early years of her life in Woolloomooloo but moved to Umina as a young girl. This was a big change from city living to a cabin near the beach. She accompanied her presentation with many old and interesting photos and was helped by her partner, Peter. In the early days the houses were built on the sand dunes but this started to change with the work of the first developer, Arthur Rickard. He was a good salesman who made a lot of money selling land and developed the area by supplying pumped water, planting pine trees, building a rock pool etc. Another developer was Glen Wernicke, a journalist, who started the "Womans Weekly" in 1933. His family bought land in Umina. James Morris was also mentioned as an adventurer who had been in the Royal Marines and fought in Gallipoli. He was also a photographer who became president of the Umina Surf Club. Eric Worrel originally opened the Reptile Park in Umina but this later moved to North Gosford, then to its current position. There were some important women in the area as well; Jessie Waters was Post Mistress and in the CWA, Isobel Retford ran a boarding house, Mrs Parker a Guest House, Myrtle Hawley the general store and Mary Malt carted timber and goods in her wagon. As there were no roads to Umina until 1924, transport was by barge and train. Julie's talk included many funny quips and was very well received. 

Monday 16 September 2019       Steve Tobin - Local SES Volunteers  

 Steve Tobin is a Unit Commander in the SES Volunteers service. He firstly spoke of some of the history of the SES which was founded in 1955 after catastrophic floods in NSW which caused much damage and loss of life. There are currently 9000 volunteers in the SAS with no paid staff. Their role is to save lives and protect communities from disasters in NSW such as floods and storms. Their motto is; "The worst in nature, the best in us." The Gosford unit is one of the busiest in the state and has 115 members, aged from 16 up, who are trained in a variety of skills. The SES supports other agencies such as the police when searching for missing persons, the Rural Fire fighters, Fire and Rescue and the Ambulance. However they do not actually fight fires. They do try to educate members of the community in preparing their homes to weather storms by checking downpipes and gutters, maintaining rooves and trimming  overhanging trees. Steve gave his presentation in a clear and interesting way.

 Monday 19 August 2019             Probus School Debating Competition

Instead of a guest speaker this month, we hosted the School Debating Competition as we usually do in August every year. The teams were from Green Point Christian School and Kincumber High School and their topic was "That it is justified for students to walk out of school to protest". Both teams spoke quite well with Green Point Christian School taking the negative side and Kincumber the affirmative. They all made some very good points with the adjudicator, Sue McNeil, awarding  the victory to Green Point due to the quality of their arguments and to their speaking performance. Whilst the adjudicator was deciding on the results, the accompanying teachers spoke about  their respective schools, which was very interesting. 

Monday 15 July 2019          Frank Brown (Our Guest Speaker Coordinator)         "Trips to the Dark Side"

As a child Frank grew up in UK in Kent during the war. He had a fascination with tunnels and the underground in the form of wartime bomb shelters in the UK and of metro systems in various countries. In adulthood this became a hobby of exploring underground as a member of caving clubs. He showed a number of photos of cave systems – both those open to the public and others only open to experienced cave explorers – in Tasmania, New Zealand, and UK. He gave some insight into mineralogy and glow worms. At work Frank spent a number of years working on hydro electricity facilities which also involve activity underground.

Frank was a very humorous and entertaining speaker and his address was really enjoyed by those present as was evident from regular spontaneous laughter and the applause at the end. 

Monday 17 June 2019         Nadia Wensley            "Tax and Super Myth Busters"

Three staff members from the ATO office in Gosford gave a combined talk to us about finances. Although they were inexperienced at public speaking, they did impart quite a lot of information which they showed on slides. Tegan began by giving an overview of the Gosford Office which has 400 staff, of which 80% are from the local area. She went on to talk about using surplus funds from downsizing to add to superannuation. They also explained the implications of gifting and the taxation consequences. Scams were also discussed, mainly by Leon, who gave some good advice as to how to avoid them. They also had available leaflets and a small booklet on Financial Guidance. Their presentation was accompanied by a survey to give them feedback on their performance. 

Monday 20 May 2019          Greg van Borssum       "The Successes of a Misspent Life"

Greg proved to be a very competent motivational speaker. He told us of his life starting as a young, skinny kid who was a "Problem"child and also bashed and ridiculed by older kids in the area. He learnt to focus on his dreams and hence became a body builder who was the world's youngest Mr. Australia, 1990 and 1992. He learnt martial arts in China becoming a Shaolin Master and went on to try his luck in the movies in Hollywood and China. When this fell through he made his own award winning short films. He also worked on such films as "Happy Feet"and "Mad Max Fury Road". What he didn't know, he learnt along the way. After seeing a friend jump to his death to commit suicide, he became a speaker to help prevent suicides and is now the National Mental Health Ambassador. He proved to be a very popular speaker who has achieved an amazing amount in his 48 years. He finished by saying, no matter how hard things become, there is always a way out. 

Monday 15 April 2019          Barbara Elkins            "Bee Aware"

Barbara Elkins, the "bee lady", wore her beekeeping outfit, a white overall, to speak to us about her work. She did put on her special headcovering to show what it was like but did not keep it on. She also showed us a hive and how it was used. She has worked with bees since she was a child and is almost 75 now. She has always been passionate about bees and has spent a lot of time studying and reading about them.  She explained how the workers look after the queen and how they create the hexagonal shapes which have various uses. The hierarchy of the hive is made up of all sorts of different bees frome the queen, workers, nurses, drones, etc. It was all quite fascinating as Barbara explained each individual bee's function and lifespan. Finally to the honey, which is anti bacterial and medicinal.       

Monday 18 March 2019        Annual General Meeting  

There was no guest speaker due to the AGM.

Monday 18 February 2019           Adam Crouch, MP - "Politics & People: Reflections of a Local Member"

Adam Crouch has been the State Member for Terrigal since 2015 which he finds to be a great honour, but also very humbling. He was born in Adelaide as an only child, and originally worked in publishing for Griffin Press. His wife, Jill, is a nurse who has continued her studies whilst suffering from terminal breast cancer. They have lived on the Central Coast for 22 years and Adam has worked hard to attain his position. To succeed in his job, he said that he needs a very understanding partner, family and friends. He has never been afraid to be someone else's voice and does not make promises he cannot keep. He continues to doorknock to meet people and to hear their concerns. In his own words, he is a very prodigious speaker. He was also very entertaining.

Monday 21 January 2019            Cassandra O'Connor, "The North Connex Tunnel  "

Cassandra O'Connor from Lendlease gave a very interesting presentation on this project.  The Australian and NSW Governments are both involved with Transurban, Lendlease and the French company, Bougese, to build the longest, 9km, and deepest, 90 metres underground, road tunnel in Australia. There is actually a total of 21km of tunnelling which includes many cross passages. There are four vertical shafts which are used to lift the necessary equipment and machinery up and down.  Big grey sheds cover the shafts to stop the noise and also to house stairs, lifts and conveyor belts which are used to extract the dirt. This dirt is transported to Hornsby quarry where it is being used to fill the hole and create a park. The tunnelling itself is almost complete and some of the roadwork has started. Besides paving the road, there are many other features to install; water proofing, cables, traffic cameras, lighting, ventilation, communication, etc. Then there is the tolling system which will charge $7 per car. Cassandra was a very informative speaker and answered various questions from our members.


Monday 19 November 2018      Sandy Horden - My Health Records, Primary Health Network. 

The subject of "My Health Records' has been in the news recently and has attracted some adverse publicity. Sandy Horden works with GP's, Nurses and Allied Health to look at the needs of the community. She then goes out into the community to speak to groups such as Probus Clubs about how the Health Record will work for the individual. National Health digital records have been running for approximately six years and doctors have found them to be very easy to use by giving up to date information very quickly. Patients do not have to have an health record but will be issued with one only containing a current medical summary. This can be changed through discussions with GPs or by accessing the record on line. The records can only be accessed otherwise by relevant health care providers and cannot be used for commercial and non health related purposes. Sandy's presentation was timely, informative and interesting. 


Monday 15 October 2018            Roy & Linda Artist - Volunteering in Cambodia 

Roy and Linda Artist introduced us to their Team Leaders in Cambodia, David and Judy, who joined them in giving us a very interesting presentation on their volunteer work in Cambodia which they accompanied with slides. The Prime Minister, Hun Sen, is not " a very nice man" and there is a lot of corruption in the country. The Education system was started by the Buddist monks and originally only catered for the boys, however girls were eventually added. Hun Sen did not like the well educated teachers so he sacked them. Since then, the system has been started again from scratch. Roy and Linda with their team have done a lot of work in this area. They have bought and installed water tanks, toilets, swings, sewing machines, and set up a computer room in some schools. The Hope Learning Centre has also contributed a lot; from a school bus to toiletry kits. They have also been instrumental in forming soccer teams and providing solar panels. This has lead to at least one student they supported going on to study at University. After the talk, we were invited to consider the items for sale made by the disabled people. 

Monday 17 September 2018       Roland Storm - Entertainer  

Roland Storm was a very entertaining performer who classes himself as an Australian Keyboard Country Rocker. He was born in Rockhampton, Queensland, and has had a very diversified career all around the world receiving many awards.  He first performed on Australian TV in 1960 on the "Six o'clock Rock" show after changing his sirname from Hillcoat, but keeping his Christian name. He told us many stories about his life which he interspersed with songs from the 1950's and 1960's which had many members tapping their feet and singing along. He mentioned his friendships with many well known Australian performers and included them in his stories. He told us that he had been mistaken for Donald Trump so he grew a moustache and beard! He has lived and worked in many countries but is now settled in Australia where he performs and entertains many groups, including many Probus clubs. He has compiled a CD involving other performers as well as himself which he had for sale, the proceeds going to Legacy.

Monday 20 August 2018             PROBUS Schools Debating Competition  

Instead of a guest speaker this month, we hosted the School Debating Competition as we usually do in August every year. The teams were from Central Coast Grammar and Kincumber High Schools and their topic was "Fake News in Social Media is only Free Speech". Both teams spoke very well with Central Coast Grammar taking the affirmative side and Kincumber the negative. They all made some very good points with the adjudicator, Sue McNeil, awarding Central Coast Grammar the victory due to the quality of their rebuttals. These students were in Year 11 with their opponents from Kincumber being much younger in Years 8 and 9. However, the Kincumber students were excellent speakers. Whilst the adjudicator was deciding on the results, the accompanying teachers spoke about  their respective schools, which was very interesting. 

Monday 16 July 2018             Frank Brown - “Fun With Knots & Ropes.”

The Guest Speaker at today’s meeting was one of the Club members, Frank Brown.  Frank’s background includes many years working with rescue organisations including SES progressing to Rescue Instructor.  Frank is also a member of the Knot Tyers Guild.

Frank spoke of the evolution in knot tying materials including rope, vines, progressing to the synthetic ropes of today.  Rope is used in various forms and is used as a piece or strands of the rope for plating and weaving, etc.  If the rope is plaited one way e.g. to the right is has different use to that that is plated in the opposite direction. The synthetic ropes of today are not as versatile as the original ropes and materials.

Monday 18 June 2018                Elaine Norling – Avoca Beach Film Group  

Elaine was a fascinating speaker who kept us all entertained during her talk on the history of the Avoca Beach Theatre which had its beginnings as an outdoor screen in someone's yard. She also spoke about the history of the Australian film industry and the early cinemas in Sydney and Gosford. She is one of the 250 members of the film group, some of whom meet on Wednesday and Thursday mornings at the theatre, to discuss movies they have seen. When Elaine goes to the movies she enters the theatre after the preview trailers have finished, takes her seat, third row centre,  then becomes engrossed in the movie. The theatre is about to undergo further changes including an expansion.

Monday 21 May 2018                 Lt.Col .Peter Sweeney - “The Bombing of North Australia.”  

Lt. Col. Peter Sweeney was a member of the Army Reserve for 35 years and is now a Military Historian who is currently completing a Masters Degree in Military History through the Australian Defence Force Academy in Canberra. He also acts as a battle field guide. He has been our guest speaker before and was popular enough to ask him to come back.  His talk on the bombings by the Japanese during 1942 and 1943 was very interesting and covered facts that many people were not aware of.  There were 64 raids on Darwin and a further 33 on other areas between Learmouth in W.A., across to Townsville in Qld. and down to Katherine in the N.T. There was a rather poor defence system in Australia at the time as most of our Divisions were alsewhere. The Japanese had much better equipment and more experienced pilots than Australia.  There was a lot of damage done and people killed, especially in Darwin where the raid was considered to be more damaging than Pearl Harbour. There was also damage done in Broome where the flying boats were mistaken for military craft, even though they were carrying refugees from Dutch East India. Due to his popularity, Lt. Col. Sweeney will be guest speaker again next year.

Monday 16 April 2018                 Peter Little - Radio Station Manager, Coast FM  

Peter Little has been in radio broadcasting for most of his working life and told us about his exoeriences in this field.  He worked at 2LT Lithgow in the late 60"s and found that he could supplement his rather meagre wage by selling advertising for the station. He enjoyed his life in Lithdow but moved to the Central Coast in 1971 to further his career at 2GO. Here he not only sold advertising, he made the advertisements himself. The radio station was a very important part of the local community and was owned by a local group. Since then, Peter managed country stations in Gympie and Coffs Harbour. At one stage he had a career change by becoming the Public Relations Officer for the Central Coast Leagues Club. He joined the community radio in 2006 as a volunteer presenter where his ideas and experience led to the relaunch of 2CCC as Coast FM963. He is currently Station Manager and a volunteer presenter on Tuesdays and Thursdays. He was a very interesting speaker and had a very pleasant speaking voice.

Monday 19 March 2018              Annual General Meeting  

There was no guest speaker due to the AGM.

Monday 19 February 2018          Narelle Villa - Kincumber Computers - “Fun with Computers.”  

Narelle Villa has lived on the Central Coast for 26 years and has been in Kincumber for the last 6 of those years. She spoke knowlegdeably about computers starting with their history; from the huge machines in 1955 with punch cards to the touch smart, small computers of today. She also mentioned the many and various uses we have for our computers, from information to social connections.  Narelle then warned us about scams and how to avoid them, or where to get help if a victim of them. She told us it was very important to back up our important documents and photos on the cloud as onedrive is more secure than most other methods. A flashdrive is not infallible and could be ruined by a power surge whereas an extra hard drive such as Seagate, is quite good. It is important that we back up often. We should also install security programmes such as Norton, Trend or Mc Afee, etc on our machines. ABG is a free one suitable for android phones whereas Apple products have their own security. She was a very informative speaker and answered some questions.


Monday 15 January 2018            Merv  Rosen - National Maritime Museum - “MV Krait.”  

Merv Rosen trained as an industrial engineer but spent most of his working life in the building and construction industry. He is now an active volunteer and guide at the Maritime Museum and his interests include the ships connected with the museum. He spoke to us about the vessel, Krait, which had a fascinating history starting as a fishing boat. However, its raid on Japanese ships in Singapore during World War II was the most famous. This intelligence operation was performed by some very brave commandos who disguised themselves by staining their bodies and dying their hair. They sailed into the harbour without being stopped by the Japanese and performed a successful operation. Truely a fascinating story.