Monday, 24 February 2020
Statements by Members
Footscray RSL Sub-Branch
I rise in this place to acknowledge the recent centenary of Footscray RSL. Established in 1920, two years after the end of the First World War, the sub-branch absorbed some of the 160,000 Australian men who returned gassed, maimed and mentally traumatised. While nearly 10 per cent of the Australian population enlisted in the First World War, there were no Commonwealth programs for the welfare of injured veterans. For some of the traumatised population, the Footscray sub-branch, like the others, offered care and camaraderie. They've been doing this for 100 years now, extending that care and camaraderie to veterans' families also.
In the 1920s, the Footscray sub-branch of the RSL was distinguished by its size and activity, its political voice and its actions on behalf of its members. They were the first sub-branch to honour their dead comrades with a monument funded by themselves, with no public funding. A hundred years later, the Footscray sub-branch today is distinguished in a different way. Today, the majority of the members of Footscray RSL Sub-Branch are South Vietnamese armed forces veterans, members who served beside Aussie diggers in that conflict before making Australia their home after the war.
I'd like to acknowledge former President of the Footscray RSL Clem Davis and, in particular, the current President, Long Viet Nguyen, who did so much to renew Footscray RSL after falling membership threatened its existence a decade ago. Under the leadership of Long Viet Nguyen and his committee members, the reinvigorated Footscray not only has been able to continue a century-long legacy but also is a model for how Australian multiculturalism makes our nation stronger.