By Jessica Howard
Ballan RSL has re-established a lost tradition by hosting the town’s first Anzac Day dawn service in many years.
The commemorative event saw more than 150 people gather at the AA McLean Reserve in Ballan, where they stood in solidarity beside the Aleppo Pine tree.
The Anzac tree was originally planted by the Ballan Sub-Branch of the RSL from a seedling originating from the Lone Pine tree in Gallipoli.
It is unknown when, or if, Ballan last held a dawn service in the area.
The memorial event comes after the club’s recent Annual General meeting, which saw the election of a new seven-member committee.
Bob Nason took on the role of Senior Vice President as he handed his long-term
presidency role over to Rick Campey.
Secretary, Joy Geoghegan will join treasurer Phil Winter on the committee alongside members Graham Christensen, Cindy Marett and Brett Bond.
Mr Campey said he was “over the moon” with the community’s response to this year’s Anzac day events.
“The dawn service and the afternoon service were both really well supported by the local community including both primary schools, the Ballan scouts and the local CFA,” he said.
“In 2016, we had just nine members at the branch and were looking at closure, however, at the end of last year, we held a membership drive and we saw our numbers jump from nine to 58.
“It’s fantastic that we were able to avoid closing what is nearly a 100-year-old branch and instead hold the town’s first dawn service in a long time”.
Mr Campey said the RSL would see a number of positive changes, including the branch opening to the public on the first and second Saturday of each month.
“This will coincide with the Ballan Lions Club market and Ballan farmers market, which will hopefully attract more members and allow for our current members to spend time at the market before coming to the branch to grab a coffee and have a chat.
“We want to provide a safe environment for veterans to come and to be able to just sit down and have a conversation with each other”.
Mr Campey said he had high hopes for the future of the Ballan branch, but hoped to see more members join in the future.
“One of the issues we have is a lot of our members are older members and older widows, which are definitely two groups of people who really need our support, but we also have our Vietnam veterans and our younger veterans who have served in Afghanistan, which is the longest war that Australia has been involved in.
“We also have our veterans from wars in Iraq and Somalia. A lot of these guys may not be able to work due to injuries or post-traumatic stress disorder and the RSL can get them the right support or even just be someone to talk to”.
The Ballan sub-branch of the RSL opened in 1919 and is located at 146 Inglis Street, Ballan.