By Meg Kennedy
It could be hard to believe that just three years ago the future of Ballan RSL was uncertain.
But the local Returned Services League is preparing to celebrate their centenary anniversary this month, cementing its place as a historic part of the Ballan community.
The Ballan RSL sub-branch will officially turn 100 on Friday, 9 August, with celebrations to be held on Saturday, 10 August.
The Ballan Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League sub-branch was formed in 1919, after the region saw 810 men and women serve in World War I.
In April 1958 the Ballan RSL bought the Fayrefield Hat Factory and converted it into clubrooms, which official opened on Tuesday, 11 November 1958. The clubrooms remain active today.
The celebration will include a range of events including a live band, an art installation of hand-knitted poppies, with World War II veteran and past Ballan RSL member Peter Poole to cut the 100th anniversary cake with member Joan Parslow, daughter of the first Ballan RSL President Mr H. Chambers.
Mr Poole served as Leading Aircraftman for 200 Flight, a top-secret RAAF unit in Queensland that trained paratroopers for the Z Special Unit; packing parachutes to be deployed behind enemy lines in South East Asia.
The Ballan RSL has also released a limited edition, specially-labelled local port which will be on sale on the day as part of the celebrations.
Ballan RSL President Rick Campey said the celebrations are open to all current and former members of the RSL and the wider community.
“This event is a great way for our community to acknowledge the great work done by the Ballan RSL members, past and present, in supporting veterans and their families in times of need,” he said.
The history of the Ballan sub-branch has been tumultuous.
Though the Ballan RSL has had its charter issued since 9 August 1919, it did shut down for a period – like many RSLs did – throughout the years of WWII.
“Since 1945 the Ballan RSL had remained strong with many WWII, Korea and Vietnam veterans, but as they aged, the membership dwindled,” explained Mr Campey.
The club experienced a serious decline in membership in 2016, leaving the club with just nine active members and in limbo.
Yet a resurgence of the branch within the last couple of years, including a membership drive, has seen numbers become strong once again – the League now boasts around 83 members across all different age levels.
“The RSL has become active, reconnecting with the Ballan community and supporting veterans and their families,” said Mr Campey.
Anyone who is a past or current member of the Australian Defence Force, family member of a past or current ADF member, member of an allied force with at least six-months service, or a member of the Police, Fire brigade, CFA, Ambulance or SES is eligible to join the RSL.
The Ballan RSL Sub-branch will hold its 100th Anniversary celebrations on Saturday 10 August, beginning with a service at the RSL hall, located at Inglis Street, Ballan, at 11:30 am.
For further enquiries email – email@example.com or contact President Rick Campey on 0407 870 013.