Politics were put to one side when around 50 politicians, staffers and advisors converged on the SSAA Majura shooting complex at the end of a cold Canberra sitting day in August, with one united aim in mind: to break some clay targets.
Despite the winter chill and after-hours timing, the chance to try shotgun shooting was widely embraced by nearly every side of the political divide, the SSAA best placed to host the event on behalf of the Parliamentary Friends of Shooting group.
Sports Minister and group co-chair Senator Bridget McKenzie of the National Party proudly welcomed the large crowd to the range, supported by acting co-chair Brian Mitchell MP from the Australian Labor Party. Following a safety briefing and introduction to the basics of shotgun shooting, the group was split into two across two ranges, allowing those with little or no experience more detailed training.
New SSAA National Coaching and Membership Development Manager Gemma Dunn, an accomplished shotgun shooter in her own right, was on hand to give expert advice, along with dedicated volunteers from the SSAA ACT branch. By the end of the evening, many participants who had never held a firearm before were keen to step up and test their new-found skills against the more seasoned shooters in a head-to-head shoot-off.
Competition was fierce between Minister McKenzie and former soldier Andrew Hastie MP from Western Australia, the pair shooting clay-for-clay, back-to-back before Mr Hastie finally outshot the sharp-eyed Sports Minister. In an unsuspecting twist, a staffer for WA Liberal MP and keen shooter Ian Goodenough managed to break Mr Hastie’s reign. All in all, participants enjoyed a great evening at the range with some commenting it was a refreshing change of scenery from other parliamentary events.
Along with the impressive turnout, a photo of some of the politicians who attended was picked up by ABC’s popular Insiders program and used for its regular caption contest, giving the event – and the sport – much-deserved coverage. This was by far the biggest event yet for the Friendship group with a record number of attendees, national media coverage and positive feedback. The SSAA will proudly continue to support, host and attend such educational events.