Ball’s in council’s court following problems at tennis centre

Problems: Part of the camp that has been set up by homeless people behind the tennis courts.
Problems: Part of the camp that has been set up by homeless people behind the tennis courts.

Young female tennis players have been the target of lewd behaviour and officials threatened by members of a homeless camp that has been set up near the Woodriff Gardens Tennis Centre.

Nepean District Tennis Association (NDTA), which manages the facility on behalf of Penrith City Council, has written to the council asking for a strategy to be developed to deal with the issue after problems began escalating last month.

NDTA chief executive Chris Woodland said the camp set up about six months ago at the western end of the facility behind the courts, with two or three large tents erected on the grass area.

“Originally we would see them in passing and they would ask to use the bathrooms, which I didn’t really have a problem with,” he said. “There were only two or three people there.

“Now it’s up to five or six at a time and some of them have taken to drinking quite excessively. As that happens, they are becoming … rowdy and engage with whoever is around.”

Behaviour such as mimicking the coaches and students soon progressed to “inappropriate and lewd” comments to some of the female players, and one report of indecent exposure.

“We had one report from a mother that a gentleman dropped his pants and exposed himself to her daughter,” Mr Woodland said.

Last week a shirtless man drinking alcohol walked in and demanded to use the showers, he said.

“Council advised us to report it to the police, which we have done. We have had at least five incidents reported,” he said. “Police attend when they get the chance, but it’s not always straight away. They speak to them about their behaviour but it’s got to the point where … the strategy isn’t working. Up to 48 hours later we have exactly the same behaviour. We need another strategy.”

Council spent $1.3 million installing new state-of-the-art courts at the complex, which were only open to players early last year, and other courts had been resurfaced and change room facilities upgraded. 

Mr Woodland said the new courts brought international standard facilities to the local area, and four Tennis Australia-sanctioned events had been held at the venue between September and November of this year alone including the ITF Pro Tour. 

However, he feared the centre could be in danger of losing events if incidents continued. 

“[In November] we had the Junior Development Series state finals with 300 kids from all over NSW competing,” he said. “We had an incident during that event.

“Some gentlemen started fighting and an official told them to break it up. They told him they would attack him.

“Officials have to write a report [after the event] … I would be foolish to think they would not have included that.” 

Cr Bernard Bratusa brought up the issue at the November 27 council meeting, saying he would like all councillors to be kept informed of developments.

“We have got a very valuable facility down there … it’s not right that they’re being subject to this indiscretion,” Cr Bratusa told the meeting.