City stalwart steps down
After three decades of leading community projects, City of Karratha local legend John Lally will leave big shoes to fill when he steps down from a long list of public roles at the end of the year and moves on from the Pilbara.
The former Perth maths teacher turned Pilbara educator and leader has been a tireless advocate for improving the City since he arrived in Dampier for a stopover on a work trip in 1987.
Thirty years later, he has contributed to the community in the roles of deputy mayor, Karratha and Districts Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive, Hampton Harbour Boat and Sailing Club commodore and serving on several school boards.
It began when Mr Lally decided to set up a camp school in Dampier, teaching children kayaking, sailing and fishing through an experiential learning process.
The school is still there today and celebrated its 30th anniversary this year.
He went on to set up more experiential education opportunities in Dampier including a naval cadets unit and a centre for whale research, which has grown to become a Statewide institute.
In 2006 and 2007 that work even put him in the running for the Senior Australian of the Year Award.
“I found over the years that the environment has a positive effect on students,” he said.
“Even walking kids through national parks and looking at things, it’s just about getting them away from their situation and getting them out into the environment.”
Mr Lally had initially planned to retire in 2007, but that idea did not last for long and he instead decided to run for a seat on local council with the aim of establishing a youth shed in Karratha.
Once elected, and stepping into the role of deputy Shire president to leader Nicole Lockwood, Mr Lally worked on several ambitious projects during the mining boom, including extending Sharpe Avenue, starting the underground power project and building the Karratha Leisureplex.
He said drastic change had been needed because the community had been through a long period without new infrastructure.
“The town was basically focused on the resources industry. When I became a councillor, they hadn’t built a building for 15 years,” he said.
“Now that’s not anyone’s fault necessarily, it’s just it was time for change.”
During a break from the deputy Shire presidency in 2011, he put his hand up for the KDCCI chief executive position with a plan to raise the profile of the chamber.
Six years later he has brought the Pilbara chambers of commerce together into a regional group and was the driving force behind establishing the New Pilbara Conference in 2016 to promote emerging investment opportunities in the region.
Mr Lally did not run in the recent local government elections and has tendered his resignation from the KDCCI leadership.
This time, he plans for his retirement to stick because, as he puts it, “you can hang around too long”.
He plans to move to Mandurah early next year with his wife and two dogs and go travelling on a refitted coaster bus. But he will visit the Pilbara to see family.
On reflection, Mr Lally said he hoped he had made a difference to a place and community he had loved living in.
“I don’t like to think of achievements, I just like being part of the process that changed the town,” he said.
“It was a team effort here, but what I’ve felt is sometimes I’ve given things a prod.”
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