PRIVATE MEMBERS STATEMENT - Tribute to Bob Geoghegan

Early last Monday morning Maitland lost one of its staunchest advocates when businessman, community activist, politician and patron of the arts Bob Geoghegan passed away following a 12-month battle with cancer. I was so sorry to hear of Bob's passing. I offer my deepest condolences to his wife, Robyn, and their beautiful family, including his three wonderful daughters and grandchildren.

Many people knew Bob as the owner-operator of the Hit-n-Dip Sports Centre at Greenhills, which was home to our city's first squash courts and indoor heated pool.

To countless others, Bob was Councillor Geoghegan. He served our community for 18 years on Maitland City Council, including stints as deputy mayor and acting mayor.

Bob led the Maitland Liberal Party for many years. He had a tilt at State Parliament and also the mayor's chair, but it was his grassroots connection with people for which he will best be remembered. His true passion for politics resided in his passion for our community.

Bob was always a fierce advocate for Maitland and a true gentleman in the political arena. In the nearly 20 years since I first met him at a Maitland Regional Art Gallery event, we only had one real barney. That was at a polling booth, but it was forgotten almost immediately.

Bob invited me to my very first Black & White Committee fundraising luncheon for Vision Australia. He was a very generous, lovely man. Despite him being a Liberal and me being a member of the Labor Party, we always enjoyed a strong friendship and agreed on most things, particularly Gough Whitlam's policy on university education. He kept reminding me of it to ensure that women in our community are well educated.

He always put Maitland and our community first. He was a great champion of the arts and appreciated how important the arts were to a city, its residents and its cultural life.

Bob served as patron for many organisations, including the Maitland Repertory Theatre, Maitland Region Society of Artists and the Maitland Musical Society. He was president of the Arts Council for 16 years, a strong supporter of Maitland Regional Art Gallery, a much valued member of East Maitland Rotary and a great sponsor and participant of Maitland basketball—supporting our Mighty Mustangs.

He was also known for his contributions to Maitland's home for the aged, Benhome, where he served as the Maitland Benevolent Society Chairman. Even after Bob's illness began to take hold, he continued to work for the many community organisations he supported, despite the challenges that cancer placed on him and, before that, the clot that he also experienced.

I was so fortunate to experience his support and generosity of spirit first hand. When I was ill a couple of years ago, Bob and Robyn were so kind to me and my family. They were the first people, outside of our own political party, that we told.

My husband, Robert, and I were very much touched and comforted by their support and friendship. It is a very generous thing to offer such support and optimism when you are going through your own illness, and I am so grateful to both Bob and Robyn for their support and friendship.

While I have recovered, I am deeply saddened that Bob did not make it. It is so fitting that Bob, a man who gave so much to the city of Maitland and its people, will be farewelled with a service in the Town Hall on Monday. The seats will be filled with people from all over our community whose lives were in some way touched by Bob. On behalf of Robert and my family, and our community, I offer our most sincere condolences and love to Robyn and the rest of Bob's beautiful family at this sad time.

I will place on the record just some of the boards and committees on which Bob served our community to give an example of the breadth of his contribution from 1999: Tenambit Recreation Board; Cultural Advisory Panel; Heritage Advisory Group; Hunter Region Organisation of Councils; East Maitland Community Hall; Economic Development Strategy Group; the library working party; Rural Strategy Committee; 2003 World Rugby Working Group; Hunter councils, as an alternate delegate; Rural Strategy Committee; Cultural Precinct Working Party; Property Advisory Panel; Waste Management Strategy Working Group; Aquatic Centre Feasibility Study Working Group; Sixth City of the Arts Advisory Group; Area Assistance Scheme Local Ranking Committee; Social Planning Steering Group; Floodplain Management Committee; Hunter Zone Rural Fire Service Liaison Committee; Greening Plan Implementation Reference Group; Maitland Local Traffic Committee; and the Heritage Committee. He also had three stints as deputy mayor and, of course, a long time as acting mayor.

Vale, Bob Geoghegan. May you rest in peace and thanks for your contribution.

Mr KEVIN CONOLLY (Riverstone) (17:22:12): I thank the member for Maitland for her generous statement and for recognising somebody who was genuinely a gentleman. I knew Bob through the Liberal Party and he contributed in lots of ways. To hear the esteem in which he is held within Maitland is very gratifying for somebody who clearly spread his talents far and wide in that community. I join with the member for Maitland and am very sad on his passing.

The ASSISTANT SPEAKER: I also join the Parliamentary Secretary and the member for Maitland in passing on my condolences to Robyn and the Geoghegan family. I met Bob many times through the Liberal Party and he certainly was an individual who put his local community—Hunter and Maitland—first. I recognise his wonderful contribution to the Maitland area, Maitland council and to the Liberal Party.

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