Saturday, 9 July 2022

Rod and I, as RSL SA/NT patron, are pleased to join you tonight in celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Largs Bay RSL Sub-Branch.

I thank your Sub-Branch President, Peter Cates, for the invitation.

This is the first RSL event I have attended since your Branch President, Cheryl Cates, did me the honour of presenting me with Honorary Life Membership of the RSL SA/NT Branch at last week’s AGM and my first opportunity formally to thank you, Cheryl.

My late father, Ian Adamson, would have been pleased about that.

As some of you will know, Dad was a member of this Sub-Branch, serving as Vice President in 2007 and then as President from 2008 to 2010.

I think he would also have been pleased – actually he would have said “tickled pink” – to know that I was making a return visit to Carnarvon Terrace thirteen years or so after he brought me here for a drink.

He said it was for a drink, but actually I think it was really to show me the new bar, in which he and his committee had invested much time and effort to good effect.

I know Dad was proud to offer his business skills to the Sub-Branch and often he spoke fondly of the camaraderie he found here among the members and the volunteers.  He knew that volunteers were the lifeblood of the Sub-branch, enabling it to function and to grow as part of the wider community.

I cherish being the custodian of his service medals, as his National Service influenced much of his life, borne out of his respect and pride in the RSL and the Australian Defence Force generally.

It is a sentiment that I share, based both on my long professional association with the ADF during my career as a diplomat, and having experienced the sense of mateship and community spirit at the heart of all veterans.

As Rod and I have travelled the State, we have been struck by the community spirit within the RSL.

Not only does the organisation provide an important link in keeping the Anzac spirit alive and supporting veterans and their families, the RSL is an integral part of the wider community.

On the occasion of a significant milestone such as a 75th anniversary, it is important to pay tribute to the past.

In 1947 a small group of World War II veterans transferred from Semaphore and started to meet in a small Army depot on Jetty Road at Largs Bay.

The Sub-Branch was issued its Charter on the 1st of April 1947.

They subsequently moved into a garage at the back of the present land and later to a small bar and club room.

That building was sadly destroyed by fire in 1973 and rebuilt as the building we know today.

It is certainly a neat and attractive landmark in Carnarvon Terrace enhanced by the William Roy Sharpe Drummond MM Memorial Walkway and Garden.

The Memorial Walkway and Garden have been a labour of love.

I understand the Garden has become a place of respect and quiet reflection for the entire community.

The mural along the side is a striking tribute to all the eras of conflict and the service that the RSL members and people of the area gave in service to the nation.

Fittingly the mural also pays tribute to support services such as nurses, the merchant navy, the Papua New Guinean Fuzzy Wuzzy Angels and war animals.

However, a building is so much more than its exterior and walls. It is a place for people to meet, to belong, and look out for their mates.

I congratulate the Largs Bay sub-branch members on being at the heart of your community - a position I have seen occupied by the several RSL Sub-Branches I have visited across the State.

I particularly mention the Le Fevre Peninsula Veterans Centre established in 2016 to provide advocacy and welfare services to the Western Suburbs.

The Victuals for Veterans program is helping to address the social isolation confronting elderly and more vulnerable veterans, particularly during the Pandemic.

I am sure that as well as providing a nutritious meal, you are also providing sustenance for the soul.

Friends.

Rod and I offer congratulations to your President, committee members and volunteers on the 75th anniversary of the Largs Bay RSL Sub-Branch.

75 years is a long time and much has changed since the Sub-Branch was formed.

Many of its first members would have suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese during the Pacific war and many of their mates never returned.

It would have been incomprehensible to them then that Japan would become an important trading partner for Australia, our people-to-people relations would grow, and Japan would come to be a vital security partner for Australia and our common ally, the United States of America, in the Indo-Pacific region and globally.

Today, for the first time ever, we flew the Japanese national flag at Government House in sympathy and solidarity with the government and people of Japan following the assassination yesterday of Japan’s longest-serving Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe.

As Prime Minister, he was a powerful advocate for what he termed a free and open Indo-Pacific and what we call a peaceful, inclusive and prosperous region.

I had the honour of meeting Mr Abe on several occasions, including in November 2018 when he became the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit Darwin since it was bombed by Japan in 1942.  Those present were deeply moved as Mr Abe offered condolences, laid a wreath and met veterans.

As the world continues to change in ways we, too, will find difficult to predict, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the important work you do in supporting the advocacy, mateship and remembrance that is at the heart of the RSL.

May you long continue to do so!