Keith Pitt MP Federal Member for HINKLER

Constiuency Statement - Toogoom RSL Sub-Branch

Mr PITT (Hinkler) (09:32): On Saturday last week, I attended the official opening of the Toogoom and District RSL Sub Branch. I was joined by state president of the Queensland RSL Terry Meehan, the Wide Bay and Burnett subbranch district president Bill Taylor, as well as Toogoom's own subbranch president Ken Higgins—a well-known donkey whisperer: a gentleman that actually takes a donkey and World War I regalia around to schools and explains to the children the role they used to play. I was also joined by the Fraser Coast Mayor Gerard O'Connell and councillors Rolf Light and Robert Garland.

It is absolutely impressive when you think the organisation started with a small group of passionate locals erecting a stone monument for military and emergency service personnel. They established a veteran's corner at the Toogoom community hall. From those humble beginnings, the Toogoom and District RSL Sub Branch was born. While many of the smaller grassroots RSL sub branches are struggling to remain viable, Toogoom is going from strength to strength. It is a tribute to the men and women of this tight-knit community.

I could talk about what the Returned Services League does for veterans and their families or what it means to be part of such a family, but it is something that most Australian's already recognise. It is why the Toogoom volunteers poured so much of their time and effort into making this happen.

I visited the site in December last year. Construction was well underway with plenty of work left to do, but the building clearly had a lot of potential. It has come so very far. I would like to congratulate everyone involved including Lieutenant Colonel Amanda Johnston and her team of engineers for bringing the building up to such a high standard.

My office has helped secure about half-a-dozen of these disused army sheds for Hinkler community groups. Previously stored at the Wallangarra army base in south-east Queensland where they sat gathering dust, would you believe, many of the sheds were used as food halls during the Vietnam War. I think it is vitally important that assets, which are no longer of use to Defence, can continue to serve the Australian community in another capacity. To that end, Ken Higgins has made a very public request for an Iroquois helicopter and an armed personnel carrier, or APC, from the Vietnam War era—things that they can display in the RSL grounds as part of the council's new military heritage trail for tourists. I explained to the crowd that I did have a flag for them to display but I could not quite fit a helicopter or an APC in my back pocket on that particular visit. However, the Toogoom RSL do have a retired helicopter fitter in their ranks, who assembled these aircraft during the Vietnam War, so they are happy to take one in any condition. There were suggestions by the local veterans of a few locations where these pieces of equipment may well be found.

My electorate has a larger than average veteran community, and it was great to see many of them at Saturday's event. I believe it is their strong commitment to service that keeps our local community strong. Their efforts during wartime and at home since their retirement are inspiring. I pay tribute to our veterans and the work that they have done for the Toogoom RSL sub-branch, and I wish all their new recruits all the best.

Authorised by Keith Pitt, Federal Member for Hinkler, 41b Woongarra Street, Bundaberg QLD 4670

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