TYLER SALZLECHNER AND STAFF WRITERS
Major public events, such as ANZAC day and the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II earlier this year, remind us about the service carried out by members of Australia’s armed forces, both past and present.
But one group, RSL Queensland, works tirelessly every day of the year to acknowledge the service of veterans, by providing services and programs that support members of the defence community in practical ways.
RSL Queensland has been in operation for more than a century and prides itself on being an organisation of veterans working to help veterans, through branches around the state.
Pine Rivers District RSL Sub-Branch senior advocate Mark Raison, who is also a former veteran, said advocacy was one of three of the more prominent services offered to veterans.
“We offer pension support in the way of putting in claims to the Department of Veterans’ Affairs under three legislations veterans may be covered under,” Mr Raison said.
“This is determined by when they joined and where they served during their service,” he said.
Mr Raison said in addition to their advocacy work, the RSL were also renowned for providing emergency financial assistance to homeless veterans.
“The sub-branch level are the heavy lifters, if someone came to see us, and needed a place to stay, we are obligated to help,” he said.
“The sub-branch has approval through district and state to provide 72 hours emergency accommodation, with Coles and Woolworths cards [for veterans] to buy food for themselves.”
“The reason 72 hours is selected is it gives sub-branch time to contact district or state, who will look at veteran situation and get 28 days of emergency accommodation.”
Mr Raison said the RSL also provided emergency financial aid to cover funerals and the payment of utility expenses for veterans.
RSL head of marketing, Michelle Colfax, said the RSL’s various support networks were there to ensure that veterans and their families had a stable future.
Ms Colfax said this included access to funding for training and educational scholarships.
“Higher schooling and training paves the way to opportunities, and have the potential to advance your employability, sense of drive and economic security,” she said.
“The Queensland RSL scholarship program intends to empower veterans, soldiers, partners and their children by supporting and encouraging them through tertiary or vocational training.”
“Our Ex-Defence Scholarships grant veterans the ability to develop and encompass existing skills or acquire new skills to obtain meaningful employment.”
Vietnam veteran Gordon Tunstall said his time with the RSL had been outstanding.
“The RSL is heavily involved for caring for the veterans and the veteran community,” Mr Tunstall said.
“Parades such as Anzac Day play a major part in veteran society,” he said.
“As funny as it sounds, I met my wife in the services [and] she was a darn good cook.”
Mr Tunstall said there was compulsory military service during the Vietnam War.
“Back In those days it was compulsory call up during the Vietnam conflict at Bolsta, the reserve forces were in reserve for the main army contingent,” he said.
“It’s not what our country can do for us, it’s what can we do for our country, and that was very much in my mind.”
Mr Tunstall was discharged from military service in 1978 and went on to have a career in engineering, which he retired from in 2005.
Since then he has been heavily involved in assisting the RSL.
“I have been predominantly involved in housing veterans in Gympie and ensuring that these gentlemen have a chance to have a future after their tremendous service,” Mr Tunstall said.
“The comradery of those you serve with is second to none; the oldest [veteran] is 87 and the youngest is in his early seventies,” he said.
“Which is quite sad because when they pass on, there will be no one left to keep the name alive.”
Mr Tunstall said he had no regrets when he looked back on his service and his work with the RSL.
“It gives me great pride knowing that an organisation cares deeply about veterans like us and [I] am glad to do my part,” he said.
For more information about the RSL and its services, or to find help if you are a veteran, visit their website.