Senate debates

Tuesday, 19 October 2021


Returned and Services League of Australia

7:20 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to draw attention to the great work of the Returned and Services League of Australia, the RSL, and in particular to recognise the sub-branches spread across my home state of Western Australia. The RSL was founded by returned soldiers in 1916 to address the lack of organised repatriation facilities and medical services available to those returning from the Great War.

World War I was badly felt in my home state of Western Australia. Thirty-two thousand men were sent into battle, approximately 33 per cent of WA's male population aged between 18 and 41. Seven thousand of them did not return. The impact of these losses on the state's small population at the time was absolutely devastating. But the suffering didn't end there, with those who survived often receiving poor treatment upon return to Australia. Of course, we know the history well. The RSL stepped up where governments and others had failed our returned servicemen. They helped provide care to those carrying the physical and mental scars of war. RSLs also provided much needed assistance to affected families. Their clubs served as a place of remembrance and support, and they continue to look after veterans and their families to this very day.

One very active sub-branch in my home state of Western Australia is no exception to this proud heritage. The Highgate RSL branch is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. While officially founded in 1947, I understand Highgate RSL has direct descendants all the way back to July 1921. In fact, the West Perth sub-branch, which later amalgamated with Highgate, was responsible for maintaining the first 404 memorial plaques dedicated to fallen soldiers in Kings Park in 1919. A remarkable 19 Highgate sub-branch members have been wardens of our state memorial at Kings Park and many others have served on the RSL WA state executive. It's an impressive legacy for members to reflect on during this year's centenary celebrations. I rise this evening to sincerely thank them and the families that support them for extending to our community such tremendous care, gratitude and concern.

I was delighted to accept an invitation to participant at a very significant event on 10 September. Unfortunately, home quarantine arrangements following my return from parliament in Canberra have made this impossible. Although I had been optimistic about attending their upcoming Remembrance Day event, home quarantine requirements again following this current setting will mean that this is highly unlikely. That is why I am glad to at least be able to make these brief acknowledgements here tonight in the Senate chamber and to say that I hope I will be with them in person before too long. To the RSL Highgate and its many members past, present and future and all RSL sub-branches throughout Western Australia I extend my gratitude. I say thank you for all you do and for the service you provide to the community in Western Australia.