17 April 2023

With a little help from Friends, Moruya RSL reaches out for community connections

| Claire Sams
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Friends of the RSL who want you to join them are (from left) Michael Weyman, Cheryl Sutherland, David Sutherland, Mick Power, Vicki Mennie and Gail Sutherland. Photo: Gary Traynor/Facebook.

A new outreach program has been launched, offering a chance for Moruya residents to serve their community.

At Moruya RSL Sub-Branch, a vice-president, Gary Traynor, has taken on another role – that of coordinator of the new Friends of the RSL program.

The Friends were launched recently with a small group that included sporting star Michael Weyman, but they are now looking to grow their network of individuals able and willing to help when called upon.

“Most people don’t really think of the RSLs until Anzac Day or Remembrance Day comes along, or a day similar to that,” Mr Traynor said.

“We wanted to create an outreach program where the public will learn that we are more than just two days of the year.”

The sub-branch is looking for people willing to help with a variety of events, including those marking Anzac Day.

“If people are physically capable, they can help us prepare and set up an Anzac Day presentation, or even doing something as simple as cooking a sausage on the barbecue for the post-march lunch,” Mr Traynor said.

Once someone has been in touch about becoming a Friend, the sub-branch will note their contact information and add the person to the Facebook group if they have social media.

As each major event approaches, the Friends will be contacted to see who can contribute and in what way.

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Other activities undertaken throughout the year may include selling badges to fundraise, visiting ill or housebound veterans, setting out commemorative wreaths, placing small Australian flags at the graves of servicemen and women buried in Moruya, and assisting in a march to mark the 15th anniversary of the Battle of Khas Oruzgan in Afghanistan.

The Friends could contribute as much or as little time as they wished, Mr Traynor said.

“Your commitment could be one day a year – you might only want to help out for Anzac Day – or you might want to be involved on a weekly or monthly basis.”

Would-be participants do not need to be veterans, with the program open to anyone in the community who would like to be involved.

“Most people think you have to be a returned veteran to have anything to do with the RSL, but this Friends program is a wonderful way to be involved without having served yourself,” Mr Traynor said.

The idea was inspired by the Australian War Memorial and the Shrine of Remembrance in Victoria, which have similar programs.

Those who participate will also learn about the experiences of Australia’s servicepeople, including stories that have been passed down through the Friends’ families.

“Every man and woman in the sub-branch has a story, and quite often it’s even just a matter of sitting down and having a nice little chat,” Mr Traynor said.

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Mr Traynor said the program hoped to contribute towards a sense of connection among the Friends of the RSL.

“It’s a sense of community and belonging and just gratefulness for that generation of men and women who went away and gave the best years of their life in defence of Australia, and also those who continue to serve.”

It was also another chance for residents of the Moruya area to come together and make a difference, he said.

“There’s so many other organisations which serve our local community when you consider Moruya was hammered by bushfires and floods in the last three or four years,” Mr Traynor said.

“To give service of any nature is giving back to your community.”

Those looking for more information should check out the Moruya RSL Sub-Branch’s Facebook group.

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