Committed to community

Committed to community

As far as people go, you won’t find many better than Kavanagh St resident Peter Duras.

As an active member of groups such as Rotary Central Melbourne, the Melbourne Men’s Shed, and Youth Projects among others, there are very few community initiatives Peter is not across.

While his community credentials are impressive, the former Essendon resident originally made his name as a decorated sports physiotherapist. Having worked at the Sydney Olympics, seven Commonwealth Games, four world championships and two AFL clubs over more than 40 years, Peter said he was a self-confessed “sports tragic”.

With an apartment littered with Olympic and other sporting memorabilia, Peter said his passion for Olympic history was born out of attending the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games with his father as a 16-year-old. “I was already a bit of an athletic follower but I’ve been hooked on the Olympics ever since,” he said.

“I’ve got an extensive memorabilia collection. I’m a member of the Australian sports historians society. I work as a volunteer at the sports museum a couple of Thursdays every month, so I’m very enthusiastic about Olympic history.” Having moved to Australia from Germany as a refugee in 1937 to become a professor in physical education, Peter said his father had been an inspiring influence growing up.

However, it was his father’s commitment to his local community through Rotary, which has shaped Peter’s own passion for giving back.

Since moving to Kavanagh St four years ago with wife Sue, Peter said he strongly believed in applying that same passion in Southbank.

“My father was very community orientated and Sue and I have been the same.

We’re both very interested in trying to build community in a high-rise area,” he said.

“We have an absolutely exceptional concierge service that gets the message out. We have barbecues and drinks together in other people’s places so we are proactively trying to establish a community here.” While he said the Boyd Community Hub had been a wonderful community initiative, he said his only regret about living in Southbank was that it was a suburb run by developers.

“There’s been no planning, no money set aside for public amenities and we’ve been left now at crisis point where we have a desert of glass and concrete,” he said.

“There’s a lot of money taken out of this area and there are a lot of people living in this area and nothing has been put back.” As a member of the Owners’ Corporation (OC) Network of Victoria and chair of the liveability sub-committee at his own apartment complex, Peter continues to work to ensure a better home for his neighbours.

Through his work at Rotary, which has spanned over more than 40 years between Essendon, overseas in Burma and now Melbourne, he also continues to strive for a better life for those less fortunate.

Having been an integral part of the establishment of the Melbourne Men’s Shed at Federation Square, Peter has also become heavily involved with assisting Melbourne’s homeless community through Youth Projects in the CBD.

“The men’s shed is very well equipped but it’s trying to diversify its activities and also look at linking with Youth Projects because there are a couple of days where it’s not used at all,” he said. “We have a huge homeless problem.

It’s really escalated in the last 18 months. We can’t fix it but it’s going to take time and a lot of money but we can take some of the hard edges off it and that’s what Youth Projects are doing.” Peter and Sue have opened the doors to their apartment for fundraisers and meetings on a number of occasions and continue to work tirelessly to improve the lives of those around them.

While he said giving back was important, the most rewarding part of it all was networking with others to create a community of change.

“I feel much happier if I’m giving back, but I’ve given a whole lot of other people an opportunity and I think that’s more rewarding,” he said.

“If you can create those networks that allow other people to contribute and the end result is huge that’s what is satisfying.

I could write a cheque for $500 but there is very little satisfaction in that.”

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