Constituency Statement: 100th Anniversary North Sydney Sub-branch Returned and Services League

  • October 25, 2018

(North Sydney) (16:22): I rise to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the North Sydney Sub-branch of the Returned and Services League. The North Sydney sub-branch was established in the shadows of World War I on 26 November 1918, just 15 days after the Armistice. In the early days of the First World War, it was evident those returning from Gallipoli and the Western Front would require support, along with the families of those who would never return. This ethos of compassion and service remains the motivating force within the RSL today. In North Sydney 4,000 men enlisted to serve in that war. This represented something like 10 per cent of the local population at the time. It is estimated 750 never returned, and it is possible that almost double that figure came home with physical injuries.

Many of those who perished in World War I and in conflicts since are honoured on the North Sydney cenotaph in St Leonards Park, which was constructed through the donations of local residents who were determined to ensure their sacrifice was never forgotten. This imposing cenotaph stands sentinel at the top of Walker Street, North Sydney, and proclaims to all who pass that, ‘Greater love has no man than this: that he give his life for the life of his country.’ The generosity of grateful North Shore residents extended beyond the construction of the cenotaph. One of Sydney’s great citizens, Sir Thomas Dibbs, donated his imposing mansion, Graythwaite, in North Sydney to become a convalescent home for our returning veterans.

The North Sydney RSL Sub-branch has a proud history of supporting our veterans from this and conflicts since. For many years, it based its activities at the Anzac Club in Cammeray, until the club was closed. More recently the sub-branch has been located in St Leonards Park, close to the North Sydney cenotaph. While the sub-branch today is undoubtedly smaller than in the days immediately following the First and Second World Wars, what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in enthusiasm and dedication. Its work has included the Anzac dawn service, which is now attended by thousands of local residents, and each year its Remembrance Day ceremonies have grown in attendance as well. It has served as the custodian of the cenotaph and, with North Sydney Council, has worked to see it protected and restored. The sub-branch also led efforts to restore the Northbridge War Memorial, which had fallen into disrepair. I was pleased to secure some federal support for both of these projects.

I am proud to be associated with the sub-branch, and was incredibly honoured when its members, who have given so much to this country, invited me to become its patron. I particularly acknowledge the current executive of the sub-branch, led by President Alex Wilson and supported by Geoff Watson, Peter Kendall, Bronte Pollard, Len Schulz, Carolyn Watson and Stu Schon. To all the members of the sub-branch, I say thank you for keeping the mission of the RSL so strong in North Sydney. Our community remains in your debt.