Speech: Local RSL Sub-branches

Speech: Local RSL Sub-branches Main Image

Mrs PHILLIPS (Gilmore) (12:00): I relish any opportunity to talk about the wonderful work the local RSL sub-branches across my electorate are doing every day. As a community with a large defence presence, it is no surprise that we also have a strong RSL sub-branch network that works tirelessly to support our veterans. This year has been tough on our RSL sub-branches, as it has been for everyone. Our normal commemorative services, which are usually large affairs on the New South Wales South Coast, had to be either very pared back or cancelled altogether. This was tough for everyone. These events give us the opportunity to come together to remember those who fought for our community and thank all our serving and veteran Defence Force members. They are incredibly important for so many reasons.

While services were small across my electorate for Remembrance Day this year, I was pleased to have several members of the local community lay wreaths on my behalf at the services that could go ahead. This year, parliament was sitting, so I was not able to attend services in person, but I was pleased to be represented at services held by RSL sub-branches in Batemans Bay, Berry, Bomaderry, Callala Beach, Culburra Beach, Gerringong, Huskisson, Kiama-Jamberoo, Milton-Ulladulla, Moruya and Sussex Inlet. It was also lovely to have representatives at services held by the Keith Payne VC Veterans Benefits Group and Coastal Waters Retirement Village. Thank you to everyone who made these services possible. Sadly, the Nowra, Shoalhaven Heads and Tomakin services were unable to go ahead this year.

To help commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War this year, the Department of Veterans' Affairs produced a special commemorative medallion. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to present a number of these medallions to our surviving World War II veterans, thanks to the efforts of some local RSL sub-branches. There are obviously a number of challenges involved in organising events such as these, particularly when it comes to protecting our precious veterans. Not all RSL sub-branches have been able to do that, and that is no fault of theirs. It is a logistically very difficult task, but I want to make special mention of a few who did.

On Vietnam Veterans Day in August, I had the privilege of attending the Sussex Inlet RSL sub-branch's combined commemoration day service. The service honoured the sacrifice of our Vietnam veterans, national service personnel and Korean War veterans and recognised the 75th anniversary of Victory in the Pacific. I was delighted to have the opportunity to present the commemorative medallion and certificates to a number of their veterans. In September, I was honoured to join with members of the Huskisson RSL sub-branch at Coastal Waters in Worrowing Heights to present a local World War II veteran with his medallion as part of a small ceremony. I also joined with the Nowra RSL sub-branch at a special service at the Nowra Ex Servos club to present medallions and certificates to a number of their well-deserving veterans. Thank you to all the members of the Sussex Inlet, Huskisson and Nowra RSLs for making this possible. I was absolutely overjoyed to be part of these special commemorations.

My office has also worked closely with the local RSL sub-branches across the South Coast to arrange the medallions and certificates for many local veterans. I know it means a lot to them and their families and it just wouldn't be possible without the hard work of our sub-branches. Thank you to you all. All of the RSL sub-branches across the South Coast do a fantastic job of supporting our veterans.

There are varying shapes and sizes, but each and every executive and member works hard to do what they can for their fellow ex-servicemen and women. It does not go unnoticed. COVID-19 has certainly made that tough, but it hasn't stopped the fantastic efforts that are going on. Volunteer veterans' advocates form a critical part of the work the RSLs do, and I regularly hear from people who are grateful for that support. Being veterans themselves, this can be challenging work for them, but they do it because they care so much about getting positive outcomes for veterans who are doing it tough. Thank you to you all.

I also want to give a special shout-out to all of our current and former Defence Force members. You have dedicated your lives to protecting our community and many of you have continued that selfless work. Our community is forever indebted to you.