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The Morwell RSL branch was first chartered in 1922, quickly committing itself to assisting returned servicemen and women with pensions, employment, accommodation and much more. By 1953, a Memorial Hall was built, and the Morwell Sub-Branch is now open to all who have served in our Defence or Allied forces, along with their family members.
Pensions & Welfare
The RSL was formed in June 1916 by troops returning from WWI. Its aims were simple: to preserve the spirit of mateship formed amidst the carnage and horror of battle; to honour the memory of the fallen; and to help each other. The underlying philosophy of the League is mateship and this is as true now as when the League was first formed.
In 1916 there were no welfare services such as we know today. The League committed itself to provide for the sick, wounded and needy among those who have served and their dependants including pensions, medical attention, homes and suitable employment. As a result, the RSL was instrumental in the creation of the medical repatriation system and the introduction of service, disability and war widow’s pensions. The RSL was also responsible for the introduction of various employment and retraining programs and for many years operated its own employment bureau, child health program and vocational guidance service.
In effect, the RSL was the first national welfare agency in Australia and continues to maintain welfare as its prime function. In 2003 in Victoria the RSL maintains over 800 beds for veterans and their dependants; it provides an average of $2million per annum in grants and financial assistance as well as providing a network of welfare and pensions officers to assist veterans and their dependants with a range of support services including assistance with DVA and MRCS pensions.
At a National level the RSL is represented on the Veterans’ Affairs Conditions of Service Committee and the National Defence Committees, amongst others. Through its involvement in such Committees, the RSL is an advocate for serving members of the Australian Defence Force and has achieved significant benefits for them. The RSL is very active in local communities, funding a range of projects such as local hospitals, youth programs, and projects for the disabled, to name just a few.
Originally known as the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia, or RSSILA, the League changed its name to the Returned Sailors, Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia, or RSSAILA, in 1940. In 1965, the name was again changed to the Returned Services League of Australia, and in 1990, to the Returned and Services League of Australia. The last name change reflects the fact that membership of the RSL is now open to all ex-service men and women who have not been on active service.
In Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory, Affiliate Membership of the RSL is available to the relatives and friends of service men and women.
With over 220,000 members nationally and 59,500 members in Victoria, the RSL remains as relevant today as in 1916.
The RSL was formed in 1916 and originally known as the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (R.S.S.I.L.A.). After several name changes, the League finally became known as the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL). The League’s motto is “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”. The Morwell RSL Sub-Branch was formed by a group of Boer War and First World War Veterans in 1919. After spending 12 months consolidating its membership, the Sub-Branch applied for affiliation with the Victorian Branch R.S.S.I.L.A. and was chartered on Saturday, 1st January 1922. The first President was David White, a Boer War Veteran and well known local identity. It has been very active since that date by committing itself to provide welfare and support, including pensions, medical assistance, accommodation and suitable employment for the sick, wounded and needy Returned Service Veterans and their families. Members of the Sub-Branch originally held their meetings in various halls and locations around the district until they purchased a small property in Elgin Street Morwell from Mrs Martha Billingsley.
The Morwell RSL Sub-Branch’s membership and welfare work increased after the Second World War when many younger veterans joined. It was during these early days in the late 1940’s that a group was formed called the “Young Diggers”. Together with the newly formed Women’s Auxiliary, their main aim was to raise funds to build a Morwell RSL Memorial Hall. It was to be used as a meeting place for the Sub-Branch members and a centre point of entertainment for the community. Their efforts were also rewarded by Mrs Martha Billingsley, who generously donated a parcel of land on the corner of Elgin and Tarwin Streets, adjacent to the existing Sub Branch’s property.
Architects for the building project was the company “Best Overend”; their local office was located in Avondale Road. Morwell RSL member and “Best Overend” employee, Mr. Stan Frew, acted as the architect’s local representative. Mr Frew advised the Sub-Branch’s monthly meeting on Thursday, 9th October 1952, that plans for the project had been finalised. The membership then gave its approval for tenders to be called and a tender notice for the project appeared in the Morwell Advertiser edition dated Thursday, 23rd October. The successful contractor was T. W. Morris and Son from Murrumbeena and they commenced construction early in February, 1953. The building was completed and officially opened by Major-General Sir Clive Steele, KBE, DSO and VD on Sunday, September 20th 1953.
For many years Saturday Night Dances were conducted in the Morwell RSL Hall and these became part of the “Casbah Club”. Later the Sub-Branch obtained a full liquor licence and the Club continued to grow. During the past 90 years there have been many changes to the Sub-Branch’s committee, membership and the overall building itself. The majority of the original building and hall is now known as the “ANZAC Function Room”. The original concept of “Serving Still” has remained unchanged and we now have an RSL Sub-Branch and building known to all as the Morwell RSL, of which the members and community can be really proud.
Membership of the Sub-Branch is now open to all persons who have served or are servingin our Defence or Allied Forces, along with their family members and others who wish to join as Service, Affiliate, Social or Community Members.
History of the Morwell Soldiers Memorial (Cenotaph)
The Morwell Soldiers Memorial was originally unveiled on June 6th 1921 near the old rail crossing in Commercial Road. It has been relocated twice since then, firstly to a site opposite Hoyle Street beside the Princes Highway, in December 1969 and finally to its present site on the corner of Elgin and Tarwin Streets in June 1990. To commemorate the Memorials 85th Anniversary, the Morwell R.S.L Sub-Branch conducted a small service on the afternoon of Sunday 4th June, 2006.