25 March 2024

Kemblawarra Portuguese Club president calls on community to help venue realise full potential

| Keeli Royle
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man standing in front of mural in club premises

Kemblawarra Portuguese Club president Jose Defreitas is fighting to keep the venue open. Photo: Keeli Royle.

The president of an Illawarra sports and social club is calling for community support to help reinvigorate the venue so that important upgrades can be made to help it achieve its full potential.

Kemblawarra Portuguese Club president Jose Defreitas said he’d been trying to keep the club afloat for the past three years and was now desperately fighting to keep the doors open.

“We’ve been established for over 49 years and there’s a lot of heritage here,” Jose said. “The community of Portuguese used to be big before but now it’s how it is, the young ones have gone somewhere else, but I’m trying to bring them back.”

As a former painter and carpenter, Jose has taken a hands-on approach to upgrading the club where possible, while limited by financial restraints.

“I’m here, I’m helping the club, my family’s helping the club, I’m forking out to help it,” he said.

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“I did a bit of painting so it looks better but it’s very sad because before it was very dark and you’d come in and it was like a morgue – so people are starting to come in and say, ‘Wow, it’s looking a lot better’ so I want to keep going.”

Jose hoped a loan would allow him to make some key changes to the club, in particular, better utilising the massive outdoor space available.

“I’m doing up the alfresco at the back, I’m going to start doing barbecues, charcoal chicken, pizza and all that outside so that way we can bring the young people in,” he said.

Funds also needed to be invested in improving accessibility and necessities.

“I want to do a ramp or a little lift upstairs to protect people in wheelchairs,” he said. “Because we have a chair but we have a lot of people who might be 130 or 140 kilograms in a wheelchair and if we have a lift or proper ramp, they can go up there.”

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But for continuous investment in the club to be possible and worthwhile, Jose said the community needed to get involved.

“We need a lot of help,” he said. “We need a lot of people to come and support the club and we haven’t got much of that.

“I’m 120 per cent sure that I will get this club up there by the end of the year, but I’ll need a lot of help.”

And the more people who come, the more the club will be able to offer, with the possibility of extending hours and hiring more staff.

“I’m going to open Friday to Saturday from 5 pm to midnight outside and if we can start to get more people, then we have to open more days and we have to employ more people and put more hours back on,” Jose said. “Until then, we just have to go on what we’ve got.”

To learn more about what’s on at the club, or to get in touch, visit the Kemblawarra Portuguese Sports and Social Club Facebook page.

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