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The passing of Mr Trevor Billingham BEM ends a present day link with an exciting period of growth in the track and field athletics movement; not only in Geelong, but subsequently throughout Victoria and nationally, Australia wide.
Trevor was an athlete himself with the Geelong Guild Club prior to transferring to the Lara Club in the early 1960’s. His own athletic abilities (a 4:08 mile), particularly in middle distance and distance events, inspired many more athletes over the years through Trevor’s coaching and encouragement and assisted in passing on his coaching techniques to many other coaches.
In the early 1960’s Trevor Billingham became involved in the administration of athletics in the Geelong region.
With the completion of the construction of Landy Field in mid 1962, the first meeting of senior Geelong clubs was held at Landy Field in October. On 10 December 1962, the Geelong Regional Centre of the VAAA (Men’s Association) was founded. Trevor Billingham was the Geelong Centre’s first Secretary.
Athletics in Geelong was now poised to take off. Whilst Ballarat (1895), Bendigo (1936) and Latrobe Valley (1955) had all formed Regional Centre’s, Geelong had long held to its successful “Guild” club competing in Melbourne. Trevor helped to lead that take off, not only in senior athletics, but also in the years ahead; in guiding, nurturing and organising what would eventually become known as the “Little Athletics” movement. In seniors it was not always a smooth journey, but hard work and persistence eventually paid dividends.
Trevor remained as Secretary until 1968, then assuming the Presidency until 1969. It was during this period as Secretary and conducting “senior” athletics at the fledgling Landy Field on Saturday afternoons, that Trevor made his now famous decision to uphold the rules and deny a group of young children the opportunity to compete in the sport, he himself gave up football to pursue, the sport of athletics.
During the period from 1964 - 1966 Trevor, along with others, including his wife, set about establishing a junior Saturday morning competition for children at Landy Field in Geelong. In 1965-66 Trevor became the founding Secretary of the Geelong Little Athletic Centre. His work here saw him travel the State in the promotion of the “Little Athletics” movement and subsequently the establishment of the Victorian Little Athletic Association.
His work in athletics extended to State level, where as early as 1963, Trevor, along with founding Geelong Centre President Rudi Hochreiter and (later Dr) Frank Larkins (later President of VAA) became three of the five member VAAA Country Committee. In 1965 at age 29, Trevor became a Vice President of the VAAA. Trevor’s visionary skills saw him become a member of the VAAA “Future of Athletics in Victoria” committee in 1966. Trevor was a State Team Manager in 1967
Trevor Billingham became Secretary of the VAAA in 1974 and held the position for a year. With the recent deaths during the early 1990’s of Rick Pannell and Lee Morrison and of Mabel Robinson in 2000, Trevor was the last surviving Secretary of the VAAA 90 year history.
Trevor was recognised at various intervals throughout his athletic career. In 1975 he was awarded a BEM. Further recognition came with Life Membership of the Corio Little Athletics Centre and with both the Lara and Corio Athletic Club’s. Most recently, the Geelong Little Athletic Centre (which was borne from Trevor’s vision and work with young athletes from the “Saturday morning” competitions) elected Trevor a Life Member.
One of Trevor’s last appearances at athletics was at the Corio Athletic Stadium in October 2004, when the official opening of the new track and pavilion was held. Again on that evening, as had been the case for the previous 44 years, Trevor’s loving and loyal wife, Christine, was never far away. As early as 1966, Christine was a member of the Geelong (senior) Women’s Centre executive. During their careers, Trevor (teaching) and Christine (canteen manager) were ever present members of the Corio Technical School community; instilling learning, sport/fitness, manners and responsibility into young members of the community.
Trevor and Christine’s children were also involved at various times in their parents sport.
Trevor was admired and respected by many who came within close personal contact with him, whether by coaching or administering athletics. His vision and foresight into athletics was well advanced for its time and the legacy he leaves will be fondly remembered by his friends and by the entire “Little Athletics” movement.
Trevor’s funeral service will be held in Geelong at Landy Field, cnr Barwon Terrace and Swanston Street, South Geelong on Friday 4 February 2005 commencing at 1.30pm. (Melways Ref. 452 B9).
In lieu of flowers the Billingham Family requests donations be made to the Victorian Little Athletics Association (VLAA) Children’s Hospital Appeal. Envelopes available at the service.
By Peter Anderson