RSL our true blue mates

By NATALIE GALLENTI-BREKALO

AS people from Melbourne’s West prepare to commemorate Anzac Day this Friday, veterans continue to remind us of the importance of the local RSL.
President of the Caroline Springs RSL sub-branch Peter Burquest told Star the RSL remained a very important institution for returned service personnel, despite its popularity declining in recent years.
Already the Caroline Springs branch, which was officially opened in February this year, has gained widespread support from the community.
“The response has been great, we already have just over 100 members in the past few months,” Mr Burquest said.
The Vietnam veteran said RSLs were established to assist veterans and their families after serving their country.
“We need to maintain what the RSL is all about, we are hoping to attract the younger generation to become members … eventually military personnel will run out but Anzac Day still needs to be held dear as one of the most important days of the year.”
In recent years at least two RSLs in Melbourne’s West have been forced to shut their doors.
The Maribyrnong-Maidston RSL closed after the club discovered it was $57,000 in debt, while Spotswood RSL faced closure in 2012.
President of Altona RSL Tom Crooks said despite recent closures the RSL still played a key role in the lives of veterans and their families.
“The RSL was all about the welfare of veterans but it has become a lot more … to me the most important thing is getting the younger generation involved,” Mr Crooks said.
“We explain to them that they are the future, it’s them that will keep us going.
“It’s all about mateship, we all get together … Vietnam vets, soldiers returning from Afghanistan and East Timor.
“We’re trying to get away from the old man’s club, but when an RSL gets into trouble we work together.”

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