July 5, 2021
Murgon’s new Welfare Drop-In Centre in Stephens Street West – officially opened on Sunday – will fill a growing need in the local veterans’ community.
The $570,000 complex was built thanks to a $450,000 Federal Government grant promised by Member for Wide Bay Llew O’Brien prior to the last Federal election.
Murgon RSL Sub-Branch contributed the balance to make the project a reality, and work began on construction last August.
Sunday’s official opening was preceded by a parade of RSL members along Gore and Stephens streets, led by a troop of Scottish pipers from Murrumba Pipes and Drums.
After a Welcome To Country performed by Wakka Wakka elder and Murgon RSL Sub-Branch director Eric Law AM, the complex was officially opened with a ribbon-cutting by Mr O’Brien.
A crowd of close to 150 people turned out to witness the official opening.
“When Trevor Williamson, then-president of the Murgon RSL Sub-Branch, first approached me in 2019 about the need for a new place where veteran services could be delivered in Murgon, I was right on board,” Mr O’Brien said.
“I spoke with the Prime Minister’s office and secured a $450,000 commitment and here today that commitment has been turned into reality, giving veterans who have served our country a place of their own to socialise and receive assistance and support.”
Mr O’Brien said he was confident the centre would become a well-used facility where the community could enjoy social activities with local and visiting veterans.
“This is a landmark project for Murgon that provides a safe and secure community facility where veterans can access mental health and well being support, receive assistance and advocacy services and access IT facilities,” he said.
The building can accommodate welfare and pensions office staff, and features a kitchen and barbecue area, and a large meeting room with conference facilities which can be booked for use by community organisations.
The new centre also houses RSL Sub-Branch memorabilia and a gallery of historic photos.
“This drop-in centre was a key priority for me and the Coalition Government because veterans deserve our support, and this facility will provide a safe and comfortable place to help those who’ve served to protect our country and secure our freedom,” Mr O’Brien said.
“Murgon RSL is experiencing rapid growth in membership, and the new drop-in centre will ensure the RSL Sub-Branch can deliver better welfare and advocacy services, and family-friendly social facilities, so our veterans are looked after.”
The project has created two ongoing part-time jobs as well as supported 40 jobs during construction among local tradespeople and suppliers.
Wide Bay-Burnett RSL District President Trevor Williamson OAM told southburnett.com.au the new centre was designed to be used not only by Murgon veterans, but also by veterans from all over the district including Cherbourg and Goomeri.
The centre’s flagpoles fly the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander flags alongside the Australian and Queensland flags to signify it is a genuine community facility whose doors are open to everyone.
Trevor said the need for the centre was increasing each year with the ageing veterans’ community.
He hoped the RSL would in the future be able to build up to 20 low-cost accommodation units at the rear of the complex to provide housing for RSL veterans, similar to housing provided by Kingaroy-Memerambi Sub-Branch RSL.
Mr Williamson said he was proud that in addition to an official opening plaque for the centre that was unveiled on Sunday, the RSL was also able to unveil a plaque that recognises the contribution Cherbourg has made to Australia’s fighting forces.
The plaque was presented to Murgon RSL by the Wakka Wakka community in 2015, but had remained in the Services Club’s office until recently because of the lack of a suitable space to display it.
The opening of the Welfare Drop-In Centre was timed to coincide with the 103rd anniversary of the Battle of Hamel, a significant Australian conflict near the Somme led by Lieutenant General John Monash – his first as a corps commander – which helped turn the tide of World War I.
After the official ceremonies concluded, guests were invited to inspect the building’s facilities and enjoy morning tea on its rear patio.
The Centre will now operate from 9:00am to 3:00pm on weekdays, and will also open on Saturday mornings when volunteers can be recruited.