You are here

Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch

Mr MATT KEAN ( Hornsby ) ( 18:43 ): With Remembrance Day fast approaching I pay tribute to the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch. In my opinion the sub-branch is the heart and soul of our community and represents what is best about all of us. It is an organisation that is particularly close to my heart, as it was the sub-branch my grandfather Jack Kean joined when he returned from the war. It provided our family with enormous support when my grandfather was alive and when he passed it was again there for the family. The Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch has a long and proud tradition in our local area dating back 98 years. On 16 June 1919 the Hornsby RSL Sub‑Branch held its historic first meeting in the Hornsby Literary Institute. Back then the small but dedicated sub‑branch had 29 foundation members, with Mr W. L. Prentice serving as its inaugural president. I was fascinated to learn that the sub-branch's first president shares a family lineage with one of Hornsby's other most famous residents, the explorer and geologist Sir Edgeworth David.

In the following years the Hornsby sub-branch continued to grow its membership base as men returning from the war felt that this association would enable them to continue the friendships forged throughout the war years. This renewed support from returning soldiers helped the young sub-branch gain support to have Australia's then Governor-General, Lord Forster, join them and open the area's first World War I memorial on 27 April 1923. The Depression years of the 1930s that followed were difficult for many, with unemployment and poverty on the rise. The sub-branch, like many local community organisations, faced challenging financial times with limited resources available to help its growing members. Many of the sub-branch members dug deep to assist their mates during this time by paying the annual subscription fees of others to give them the support they needed during difficult times.

But it did not stop there. Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch took the remarkable step of writing to Hornsby council and offering to contribute 60 pounds if the council helped subsidise the offer and give two weeks' employment to 12 of its sub-branch members. The council accepted and joined with the sub-branch to aid those who served their nation. In 1940, soon after the outbreak of World War II, the Home Front News became a pivotal publication for our diggers and was sent to all serving personnel from the Hornsby Shire until the end of the war. The Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch raised a total of 17,000 pounds during the war, which helped the group purchase two army huts in July 1946 that would later form what the locals affectionately called the local watering hole. This was a place where the sub-branch members could come together and converse over a drink—something for which the last founding board member, Harry Oliver, was fondly remembered. The hut tenancy later came under the control of Hornsby RSL Club in 1956 and has gone from strength to strength ever since.

The management committee and its members at the RSL club have played an important role and worked closely in supporting the RSL sub-branch for more than 60 years. I thank the RSL club's president Colin Bourke and chief executive officer Mario Machado for their valued contributions towards the sub-branch and our local community. By 1969, the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch had grown its membership base to 1,320 members, making it the largest in New South Wales. Today, the RSL sub-branch is led by my dear friend, president Terry James, who does an outstanding job in serving the sub-branch's 320 remaining veterans. Some of these veterans from World War II are now aged in their nineties but still manage to attend memorial events such as Remembrance Day and Anzac Day. I thank president Terry James for his countless hours of service behind the scenes to make days like these possible. Terry is a man of great character and a leader in our community who always puts others before himself.

Terry is well supported by a proactive and hardworking executive committee. I particularly acknowledge the contributions of vice presidents, John Deane and Garry Keenan—especially Garry for his constant flow of free advice and jokes, which are usually at my expense. I also acknowledge the work of honorary secretary, Steve Topp; honorary treasurer, Ivan Brisot; and committee members, Ray Davis, Doug Caple, Tony Mills, Mark Myers and Vince Greck. The RSL sub-branch is truly a team effort with many people often behind the scenes who also play a crucial role in continuing this fine institution. I acknowledge the continued contributions of sub-branch members who perhaps are not known to the wider public but who play a crucial role. These members include Barry Rees; youth club president, Kerry Vivian; welfare/pension officer, Roslyn Hutchinson; and trustees team members, Mario Machado and Peter Blaxland.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the great work of former Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch president Rod White, who is now serving our nation as the National President of the RSL. In June this year I presented Rod with a New South Wales Government community service award for his 27 years of service to the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch. Rod is a life member of the Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch and will always be a valued friend of our local community. Preparations are now firmly underway for Hornsby RSL Sub-Branch's 100th anniversary in 2019. I take this opportunity to recognise all previous sub-branch members over the years who, like my grandfather, played an important role in establishing the fantastic community organisation that we have today.

To read the full hansard transcript, click here.