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Bevan Lawrence - a sense of belonging through sport

He’s been a prominent barrister and lawyer and a City of Nedlands councillor, but it’s Bevan Lawrence’s contribution to the sport of hockey and to the local community that have occupied much of his spare time over many years.

He loves hockey and has done so since he played for Aquinas, his alma mater. He won Old Aquinians Hockey Club Fairest and Best award in 1971, and while playing for Aquinas, the team won the A1 Grade premiership in 1974. He then went on to play at state level a couple of times.

Bevan has been instrumental in establishing hockey at primary and high schools around Nedlands and Dalkeith for many years.

It all started when his son started playing junior hockey at the Cricketers Hockey Club, at the time the best hockey club in WA and based at Melvista Oval. He was asked to coach a junior team in 1985 and he didn’t look back.

Later he was asked to coach minkey at Loreto Nedlands - minkey being a modified form of hockey designed for primary school children, and originating in Australia. He loved coaching minkey and began to develop some very good players.

When they were old enough to move onto junior hockey they joined Westside Wolves, Cricketers’ successor, which had its home ground in Swanbourne and was then a very large junior club.

Bevan felt that some of the juniors weren’t progressing in this large club, and decided to start his own junior team. The Riverside Lions junior team was made up of 13 players (12 boys and one girl) from Loreto. Three short years later that team won the under 11A boys’ competition.

He was instrumental in developing players at Lions from East Claremont Primary, Dalkeith Primary, Nedlands Primary and St Thomas’s. He also recruited players from MLC, Christ Church and Scotch Unsurprisingly, all this took its toll – he was exhausted and running out of steam. In came Garry Fitzpatrick, who took over much of the development work. Garry is currently president of the Suburban Lions Hockey Club, and between them, they have established 16 boys’ teams and 15 girls’ teams based around the schools and playing at Melvista Oval, Highview Park and Lemnos Turf in Shenton Park. It’s the second biggest junior club in the state.

“Garry was critical in all this. He’s is a good organiser and a good manager,” says Bevan.

While hockey is his passion, it’s the sense of community that being involved in any sport brings that inspires him.

Bevan believes team sports give people a sense of belonging to their local community.

“Once you get to know your community, it’s a very nice thing. You feel like you belong. It feels like home,” he says.

He also believes it teaches children to cope with adversity.

“In team games, you’ve got to compromise, you’re not the centre of attention and you’ve got to be able to give and take,” he says.

“And at a basic level it keeps them fit and healthy. You can’t play hockey unless you’re fit.”

And it’s not just the players who benefit – he says the mothers will do anything to help out with things like raising money and organising social events. The mums and dads even have their own teams now and on Friday nights in summer at Highview Park they have a program that involves the whole family. Adults play a modified game with their children and everyone socialises afterwards at dinner.

Marion Granich, City of Nedlands Manager Community Development, said, “Few people have done more for the sport of hockey in the City of Nedlands than Bevan.”

“He’s a wonderful man and continues to push the boundaries on local sporting facilities,” she said.

He’s now in charge of the women’s program at Suburban Lions. His aim was to get the women’s team promoted to A Grade, which is exactly what he did – they got there in September this year. His job is to fundraise, find coaches, assist the juniors into senior hockey, scout for good talent and find people who will support the club and its players in many ways including managers, mentors and general administrators.

He has only just retired from the legal profession. Bevan says the law was never his great love, though he has had an interesting and fulfilling career. He was a founder, in 1989, of People for Fair and Open Government, the activist group which campaigned for political reform in Western Australia during the “WA Inc” era. People for Fair and Open Government played a significant role in persuading the government led by Carmen Lawrence, who also happens to be his sister, to request a Royal Commission into “WA Inc”.

He stood for Council in back in 1999, primarily on a hockey ticket – in pursuit of the perfect hockey playing surface he wanted the grass cut shorter on ovals where hockey was played. Just as he put his nomination form in, City staff started cutting the grass shorter anyway, but under the Local Government Act, you can’t withdraw your nomination. He ran and was elected.

Of course in his four years as a councillor it wasn’t all about hockey. Heritage and development were very much issues that interested him. He’s not tempted to return to local government though.

He still lobbies Council to upgrade hockey playing surfaces and loves a carefully tended lawn – on his own tennis court and on the hockey pitch.