When asked what ANZAC Day means to the average Australian, the words rarely fail to evoke a mixed sense of profound loss yet paradoxically, personal pride as a nation’s identity is forged in the searing hell of global conflict. ANZAC is the acronym for Australia New Zealand Army Corps and is a term which had its roots in the first major military adventure fought by young Australians and New Zealanders on the bloodied shores of Gallipoli during the First World War. The abject failure of the mission with the numbing loss of thousands of young lads in the prime of their lives drove deep into the national psyche and the indelible ANZAC legend was born. On ANZAC Day each year, the memories of those whose lives were lost at Gallipoli and all theatres of war ever since has etched deep into the pages of Australian history and melded into the souls of all Australians in subsequent generations.
Australia today is markedly not the Australia of 1918. Today’s Australia is a vibrant, multicultural modern nation basking in a robust economy and booming population. What can Australians whose backgrounds are not steeped in the inner-meanings of the ANZAC tradition learn from those who live by and respect those very traditions?
We interview Mr. George Cooney, President of the bustling 4,000 plus member Waverley RSL located n the heart of Metropolitan Melbourne of whose immediate population has a high percentage of residents of Asian descent.
TAE: What do you believe to be the essential message about ANZAC day that resonates most with present day Australians in peacetime?
GC: The enormous loss of lives of young Australian men and women and the futility of war.
TAE: What does ANZAC day mean to you personally in terms of your own life and family connections?
GC: To me, ANZAC Day is a day of national pride when we remember the bravery and commitment of Australian Service Men & Women in their endeavour to maintain world peace. On that day I also remember family members who lost their lives on the battle field in WW1 and of my Father and Uncles on both sides of the family who served in the Army & Air Force during WW2 and who have since passed on.
TAE: Is there a concern that as Australians from past theatres of war diminish in numbers that with it, the relevance of ANZAC day also diminishes?
GC: I am not concerned as I believe that the families of the men and women who served in our Defence Forces in all wars and Peace Keeping Operations have a great pride in them and will never forget the sacrifice they made to keep Australia and other countries of the world free.
ANZAC Day is a day of national pride and remembrance of the sacrifice the men & women of our Defence Forces gave to the nation. Australia will never forget them I am sure.
TAE: How does it make you feel when you participate in the combined commemorations with other RSL clubs around the state in the city on 25 April?
GC: I feel very proud to have been a member of Australia’s Defence Force and most grateful for the respect and gratitude shown toward the veterans and our current day Defence personnel.
TAE: Glen Waverley has a high proportion of residents of Asian descent. How does Waverley RSL integrate its mission goals and services to this highly multicultural locality?
GC: We are very aware of that our community is made up of people from many countries who have come to Australia to find a better life, education and opportunity. We welcome all members of our community to the Waverley RSL and have many people from all backgrounds, including a large number of people from Asia, as active members of the Sub Branch.
The RSL has a Social Membership category for members of the community who have not served the Defence Force of Australia, Britain or Allied Nations and we welcome people from our community and from all backgrounds to take up Social Membership and join us.
During our ANZAC Commemorations, we involved young persons from schools, Army, Air Force and Naval Cadets and the Scouting movement to participate. A large number of those young people are from an Asian background. Their parents and family members usually accompany them to the event and we invite and welcome them all to the RSL for a light meal and refreshment following the ceremony.
The Waverley RSL conducts an annual Scholarship Program for students from schools within the City of Monash and students who live within the City of Monash. The scholarship provides the winner with a substantial amount of money to continue their education. Many of the students who participate in the program are of Asian background and several have been successful in winning the scholarship.
“To me, ANZAC Day is a day of national pride when we remember the bravery and commitment of Australian Service Men & Women their endeavour to maintain world peace. On that day I also remember family members who lost their lives on the battle field in WW1 and of my Father and Uncles on both sides of the family who served in the Army & Air Force during WW2 and who have since passed on.”
– George Cooney, President of Waverly RSL
The Glen Waverley Sub-Branch of the Returned Servicemen’s League, Victoria was formed on the 9th September 1950, when 25 Returned Servicemen met at the Mechanic’s Institute Hall (The Waverley Hall) Springvale Road, Black Flat.
In 1960, the club’s name was changed from Glen Waverley Sub-Branch to the Waverley Sub-Branch, at the time the City of Waverley was created from the Shire of Mulgrave.
In 1963, an adjoining block of land was acquired and the first major expansion of our club rooms took place.
In 1968, newly liberalised Liquor Laws made it easier for clubs to obtain Liquor Licences. At a special meeting of the Sub-Branch in August 1968, it was decided that a Club should be formed and application made for a Liquor Licence. Membership by this time had increased to over 200 ordinary members.
Since that time the WRSLSB has achieved significant growth in its membership and following two major redevelopments in 1994 & 2005 the venue boasts a membership exceeding 4,000 in early 2008. The venue also has a very high profile in the hospitality venues within the Glen Waverley precinct.
Supporting the well being and betterment of our members, former and serving members of the Australian Defence Force, and their dependents, through the provision of welfare and commemorative services, high quality facilities and hospitality for members and guests and, where appropriate, contribute to the needs of the disadvantaged within the City of Monash.
161 Coleman Parade
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Phone: (03) 8558 4700
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