Hawthorn Rifle Club members Kevin Saunders (left), president Alby Jackson (right)and Martin Stockdale before a ‘Christmas Shoot’ to mark the closing of their club. Photo: Chris HopkinsEvery Monday night, 47-year-old Martin Stockdale picks up his rifle, grabs his shooting jacket, ammunition, mitt, and a sling and heads to Hawthorn to shoot.
There, at the 20-metre range, he lays his mat on the floor, slides the bolt, loads a bullet and take aim at a paper target.
The father-of-four has been making the trek to the Hawthorn Small Bore Rifle Club for 33 years.
Recently, he has been joined by two of his children – Thomas, 17, and Renee, 14. They are the fifth generation of their family to shoot at the 100-year-old club. They will also be the last. This Monday, the club will shut its doors after the Boroondara City Council deemed the club house unsafe.
Mr Stockdale said it was a sad time. “I have been a member of this club my whole life,” he said. “We have always had a member of the family in this club – my great-grandfather, William Hall, started at the club. It is an end of an era.”
The atmosphere inside the club house, which is located next to a community garden, is a bit like a home. Children run around the room, while mothers line benches along the wall.
Esther Birchall, who introduced both her husband Geoff and daughter Erica Fox to the sport, watches on while knitting a bonnet for her grandchild. Trophies, some dating back to the 1920s, line the walls of the dilapidated building.
The club can make claims to an illustrious history – it spawned an Olympic athlete in Noel Hall – but Boroondara mayor Coral Ross said it would have cost more than a $1 million to replace the range.
Cr Ross said the council acknowledged the history of the club, and the important role it has played in the community, but given the low patronage – the club has just 19 members – the council could not justify spending what was needed to bring it up to a safe standard.
“In March 2014, council obtained a report from an independent structural engineer which advised that the building was unsafe for ongoing occupation,” she said.
“In response, council funded temporary repairs allowing the club to continue to occupy the building until the end of its lease in June 2015 and provided the club with 12 months’ notice that the lease would not be renewed.”
Cr Ross said after the demolition the land would return to open space.
Club treasurer Kevin Saunders said the Camberwell Rifle Club in Surrey Hills had offered to share their premises in the short term, but the future remained uncertain.
“It is very hard to know what the future of the club will be when it won’t have its own range, and there is no way we will get another place to build a range,” Mr Saunders said.
“We wouldn’t have the money.”
Every week, the Stockdales pick up the club’s 86-year-old president, Albert ‘Alby’ Jackson, and give him a lift to the club. Mr Jackson said he had been going to the club for 62 years, and the members had become part of his family.
Mr Stockdale said he was proud that his children had been able “to join the club and shoot”. “It is something we are able to do together,” he said.
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