Second wind for the Leslie Street Centre after half a century of community

The Leslie Street Centre has been a social hub for the Mandurah community for over fifty years, as the first established to cater specifically to seniors.

The city’s population was only 10,000 strong when the hall was opened by MP Stuart Runciman in 1966, but with rapid changes to the landscape of Mandurah, this little club is striving to maintaining its tight-knit community spirit.

Mandurah MP and Leslie Street Centre trustee David Templeman said the centre offered an essential role in providing local seniors with activities, events, and most importantly, companionship.

“The centre has ensured many seniors, including those that may be vulnerable because they lived alone, or those that had lost a partner, had a place to go where they knew they would be supported and looked out for,” Mr Templeman said.

“It’s allowed many people to remain connected to their local community and valued participants in our city.”

President Norm McVeigh first got involved with the centre as a way to keep himself busy after his wife passed away, and offer skills he gained while he was principal of Frederick Irwin.

“Table tennis is the most popular activity, we’ve got about 50 people involved in that, and then there’s bingo, darts, fitness,” Mr McVeigh said.

However, beyond these light activities, Mr McVeigh said ultimately the club’s mission was to provide support to its members, who as seniors can often face unique challenges in life.

“Coming here, a lot of them who haven’t got the resources, we help them out,” he said.

“One lady’s mobility scooter broke down, and she couldn’t get it fixed, and she didn’t know who to call, and she was just sitting here in darts one day, very very miserable and crying.

“I said: ‘What’s wrong?’, and she told me about the scooter.

“We got a couple of guys to get a trailer, they took it to Mandurah Mobility, got it fixed within two days and got it back to her... That’s the sort of thing we do for each other.”

He said though the centre had struggled to maintain relevance in a community where many big private retirement villages offered internal clubs and activities, the Leslie Street Centre’s community and history provided members with a unique support network.

Situated on some of the most valuable real estate in Mandurah, there has been pressure to sell the property in the past, but Mr McVeigh said “we’re just going to hang on as long as we can.”

Mr Templeman said the location was ideally central and accessible for members.

“As time goes on there may be calls for some rationalisation of some of the land to make the centre's operation more sustainable, but the interests of members will need to always be front and centre of any future considerations,” he said.

“If you come here, it’s like joining a little family, we look after each other,” Mr McVeigh said.