Thursday, 5 February 2009
Mr Jack Pompei
I rise today to speak about Jack Pompei OAM—a man who touched many lives and helped shape our local community. Jack was born in Italy and came to Australia with his family at a very young age. They settled in Mordialloc in the 1920s and Jack never left the town until his death on 30 December last year. I feel it is important to talk about Jack today in this place for two reasons: to recognise his hard work in making our area a better place and to discuss why it is important that the campaign to rename Mordialloc Bridge in his honour is successful.
It would surprise no-one who knew Jack that hundreds of people lined the streets of Mordialloc to farewell him. Jack was best known for building boats, many of which still sail the waters of Port Phillip Bay. His creations are dotted all around the globe. Boating must be in the Pompei blood, because Jack’s father was a sailor and fisherman and taught both Jack and his brother Joe how to build boats. Jack and Joe became famous locally for their boats. The Pompei Boat Shed, located on Mordialloc Creek, is a local landmark. The landing on the creek near the boatshed had already been named ‘Pompei’s Landing’ before he passed away—an honour I know he was very proud of.
Another honour Jack received was the Medal of the Order of Australia back in 1987 for his phenomenal work in marine search and rescue in Port Phillip Bay. It is estimated that he rescued more than 600 people over the years; some believe it was more than 1,000. Regardless of the number, it was a remarkable effort to head out into the bay, day or night, no matter what the weather, and pick up distressed people who had fallen foul of the sea.
Jack was a local activist to whom the phrase ‘the personal is political’ could well be applied. He was a determined defender of Mordialloc Creek, harassing the state government to fix up the dying creek and constantly meeting with the Environment Protection Authority and local politicians to do more for one of Mordialloc’s defining features. Jack once said, ‘Take the creek out of Mordialloc and there would be nothing here.’
I was lucky enough to meet with Jack last year, at his boatshed where he explained to me what needed to be done to improve Mordialloc Creek and how it could be done. It was a privilege to spend time with him, and I came away with a more resolute belief that a lot more needs to be done in restoring Mordialloc Creek. The Kingston City Council and state authorities are looking at a proposal to do just that: to restore Mordialloc Creek. I am sorry that Jack will not be with us to share in the effort—one that I hope the whole community will be a part of—that will improve what, in a sense, has become a degraded environment.
I am sure that Jack’s family has been touched by the outpouring of support following his passing, but I doubt that they would be surprised by the amount of it. It was no surprise to see the local police stopping traffic on the Nepean Highway at the time of his funeral, and it was no surprise to see the many hundreds of people who turned out for the funeral.
Jack used to be called ‘Mr Mordialloc’, and I can think of no better honour for Jack than that the newly renovated Mordialloc Bridge be renamed ‘Pompei’s Bridge’. The City of Kingston and state parliamentarians Janice Munt, the member for Mordialloc, and Jenny Lindell, the member for Carrum, support this idea. I sincerely hope that the state Minister for Roads and Ports, the Hon. Tim Pallas, to whom I have written, can make this happen.
Many words of condolence and appreciation have been said about Jack Pompei over the past month, and it has been moving to see our local community remember someone special—someone who was one of their own. I would like to join them. Our community thanks you, Jack, and may you rest in peace.
Question agreed to.