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Of RDA At Irrawang Park.


Nineteen years ago, on 28th April 1979, members of the Hunter Adult Horse riding Club (HAHRC) paid a visit to RDA Kellyville and adopted a pony “Cloudy”.  Following this, the Club started to investigate the possibility of establishing an RDA Group closer to home as a memorial to one of its founder-members, the late George Hall. 

In order to gauge the need for an RDA Group in the Newcastle area a Demonstration Day was held at Newcastle Showground on 16th September 1979.  People with disabilities were invited to attend, as were guest speakers from RDA NSW.  Quiet horses were provided by Club members and the overwhelming response left no doubt that a group should be formed! 

The inaugural meeting was held on 31st October 1979, attended by 36 people and RDA Newcastle Region duly came into being.  Eric Bone was elected President, Norma Puxty,

Secretary and Lyn Tresidder, as Treasurer.  Norma’s daughter, Helen, had attended the  Demonstration Day and remained one of our keenest riders for several years. Both Eric and  Lyn were HAHRC members and it cannot be over-emphasized how much this Club contributed to RDA in the early days, in the way of horses, helpers and financial support.

Eric Bone proved to be a wonderful President, full of energy and with many useful contacts! (In fact, we have been most fortunate as both Jim Ross and John Webb who subsequently succeeded Eric, also share these valuable attributes).  In January 1980, Eric reported that he had successfully negotiated with Hunter District Water Board and BMG Pty Ltd, to obtain the use of 30 acres of land on the Pacific Highway, north of Raymond Terrace.  The Group’s first riding day was held there in February, 1980.  An Open Invitation was issued to people with disability of Newcastle and districts and again the response was tremendous (over 70 riders).

Pearl Batchelor who was to be such a source of help and support to us over the years, paid a visit to us on that day.  Ten riding horses and four horses and carts were made available.  A mounting ramp of earth was constructed, the remains of which can still be seen.  However, it was not entirely satisfactory and it was later decided to build a set of yards and timber mounting ramp (only demolished this year).

Regular riding sessions began in May 1980, using horses donated by HAHRC members, Lady, Gypsy, Radar & George (who has come out of retirement to be present today – he was named after George Hall).  Riding was held on Tuesdays for groups from the Stuart Centre & Stockton Hospital and on Saturdays for individual riders from Waratah Orthopaedic School.  Each group attended fortnightly and helpers were sometimes in short supply (nothing changes). 

The 1980/1 drought brought a 6 month long halt to activities and horses were agisted out to conserve their condition.  There was no-one living on site so that care of the horses was not able to be closely supervised.  BMG had also kindly donated a disused farmhouse, located on another part of their property, for future re-location and use as a caretaker’s residence.  However, this was not moved to its present site until early 1983, where it remained balanced on girders until the brick foundations were built in November 1983.

Until then, all saddlery items were kept in an old dairy close to the original site of the house, about a mile away and were transported from there for every riding session – so don’t complain too much about carrying saddles a few yards.  Unfortunately, not long after the house began to be used for storage, all the equipment was stolen.  Although it was quickly replaced by generous donations from local saddleries and members of the public, it was obvious that installation of caretakers was imperative.  However, the house was still in need of considerable renovation before it would be habitable.

Number of riders had increased rapidly; by November 1982 there was a total of 100 riders attending fortnightly and by November 1983 there were 150 riders on the books.  Public awareness of our existence was raised by riders taking part in a demonstration at Maitland “Trots” in August 1981 as well as participation in the Twin Rivers Festival Street Parade through Raymond Terrace for several years onwards from 1982.

Due to the hard work of helpers and generosity of various local organizations, we had been able to accumulate some funds.  After many applications for government support we were finally successful in gaining a grant of $2,500 from Youth & Community Services in 1984.  This enabled repairs to the house to be completed and our first caretakers, Bill & Jenny  Willis were installed in 1985.  Since then, a series of dedicated caretakers have contributed to the development of the Centre as it is today.

Sadly in mid 1987 the Newcastle Group was forced to disband, but RDA at Irrawang Park was quickly restarted with the formation of the Raymond Terrace Group at the end of 1987, using the same premises, horses and many of the same volunteers.  We obtained full accreditation as an RDA Group in late 1988 when our first NCAS Level 1 Coach, Rosemary Laing, (a founder member) became qualified.  We now have 13 Level 1 Coaches (including Vaulting Coaches), 10 Driving Coaches (Whips) and several Trainee Coaches (including our first trainee from among our riders).

Since 1988 RDA Raymond Terrace Group, has gone ahead in leaps and bounds.  In order to more accurately describe the geographical area covered by the Group, its name was expanded to the Raymond Terrace & Lower Hunter Group.  The emphasis is now on providing individual programmes tailored to suit the wide range and levels of disability of our clients.  This led to the introduction in 1983 of specialized vaulting and carriage driving.  Dressage commenced in 1994 and a pilot hippotherapy programme, as well as the more traditional recreational riding.  The formation of these specialized disciplines led to participation in competition,giving all our clients achievement goals for which to aim.  


We have taken riders to State & National Dressage Championships every year from 1994 and to Sydney Royal Easter Show in 1998 for Inaugural State Mounted Games & RDA Horse of the Year.  Drivers to Sydney Royal, Stroud & Newcastle Shows for the  past 2 years and Vaulters to State & National levels from 1994.  All have given us great pride in their performances and of course there is always the dream of Sydney 2000.

Although, like most other RDA Centres, we are staffed entirely by volunteers, the wide range of programmes available and the provision of facilities to run them, makes fund-raising a major concern.  We have been fortunate to receive generous financial assistance from local organizations, events such as the Morpeth Medicine Ride, Ride for Help and Charity Horse Riders, as well as several Council and Government grants to assist with our building project.  In addition, we have developed a series of internal fundraising events, all of which are only possible due to the additional hard work of volunteers.  The Annual Chicken Run (inaugurated 1990), Stroud Sponsored Ride (1991), Bushies Ball (1993), Share-A-Horse scheme (1995) and Ride for Cover (1996), not only provide much of our regular income, but also raise awareness of RDA  in the local community, as does our quarterly newsletter.  With the aid of the newsletter, our new monthly in-house Newsflash, regular meetings and training days, we try to keep volunteers in touch with our various activities.  In addition, since 1992 an annual “Think Tank” gives all volunteers a voice in planning for the future and has enabled a series of Policies and Procedures to be drawn up, covering all aspects of running the Centre.

The signing of a 25 year lease with the Hunter Water Corporation in 1993 enabled improve- ments to be made on the land.  Until then the lease ran from year to year, making substant- ial improvements impossible.  This, together with a grant of $15,000 from the Hunter Area Assistance Scheme, added to the $65,000 raised by the Group itself and its many supporters, meant that our dreams of building an all-weather covered riding arena could become a reality.  The site was prepared in late 1992 and the building erect in 1993.  It was officially opened on April 23rd 1994 by Mrs.Pearl Batchelor.  The benefits to our riders, arising from this arena have been enormous, allowing riding in all weather and extra evening sessions.  It has also enabled our Centre to host several workshops of both general and more specialized RDA interest, allowing our coaches and helpers to gain valuable information and meet with those from other centres, without too much traveling!

In late 1994 the RDA Honorary Advisory Board did sterling service in drawing up plans for extensions to the indoor arena, comprising amenities necessary for our clients, helpers and visitors.  Work was commenced in March 1995 and thanks to enormous input from people and organizations, too numerous to mention, it was completed in 1998.  We now have the wonderful

building known as “Murphy’s”, in recognition of the guiding hand (not to mention hard working hands) of Gerrard Murphy, without whom this dream would not have come true.


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© 2014 RDA Raymond Terrace & Lower Hunter
PO Box 624 Raymond Terrace, NSW 2324
'Irrawang Park', 3219 Pacific Highway, Raymond Terrace
Phone: (02) 4987 1402
Fax: (02) 4987 1434
Email: raymondterrace@rdansw.org.au
NDIS Service Provider Number: 31971831