By Mal Lynch – Forest Lake & Districts RSL Sub-branch
The Forest Lake RSL sub-branch was formed more than twenty years ago to serve the local community and provide support for its members. During much of that time the ‘club’ was without a home, relying upon the good graces of local businesses and other clubs. Approximately two years ago, Club President Steve Ford undertook to resolve the issue by establishing a permanent venue that the members could call ‘home’.
Part of the process involved legal incorporation of the club so that property and assets could be managed as well as dealing with liability issues.Several possible venues were canvassed including community facilities. Such shared facilities presented problems with the storage of assets. Time was also expended in rearranging ‘deck chairs’ so other users could conduct their activities in the available space.
The club membership was growing and as it approached 100 members, space was becoming a problem in some of the venues. Apart from general meetings, the facility would also serve as a venue for members to meet for coffee and other random activities during the week.
The president and committee sought an alternative proposal that would provide a long-term solution. Such a site existed. It had its inception in 1942 when the US Army established Camp Columbia in the Wacol catchment area as the largest Ordnance Depot in the Pacific. Following WWII, Camp Columbia was repurposed. In 1951 the 11th Battalion took over the site for National Servicemen training.
Although most of the buildings have since been removed, several remained, two of which house the National Servicemen’s Association of Australia (Qld) Inc., and Papua New Guinea volunteer Rifles, and the ex-members Association Inc (NGVR/PNGVR). The buildings are heritage listed.
A third building was offered to our club on a lease arrangement. The building had many problems including asbestos, the roof, an uneven floor, lack of power and water, but was solid in construction. It would take considerable work and money to restore it to a habitable state. Due to our limited funding, this would be a self-help project coupled with fundraising activities. The optimism of the club members was impressive. Led by Steve, the team gutted the building and restored it well beyond its former glory. Some had trade skills, but those of us who didn’t were able to handle a tube of silicone and a paint brush or conduct the demolition work.
Steve’s wife Sharron, who holds the position of club Secretary, was a key organiser in working bee rosters, organising lunches but more importantly seeking grants and project managing Steve and the rest of us to hold course towards a successful conclusion.
Jan 2021 – Building gutted, President Steve commences rewiring. Photo credit: Sharron Ford.
Over the past twelve months the project suffered a set-back when a gumtree fell on the roof during a storm. This not only created additional work but delayed the installation of solar panels, creating a possible loss of grant monies. Somehow Sharron managed to resolve the issue with the benefactor.
The final project was the creation of a memorial garden in honour of her royal highness Queen Elizabeth II, and to the memory of the 42 club members who have passed since the club was formed 24 years ago.
Dec 2022 – ‘Coffee Club’ – Greg Amey with club Secretary Sharron Ford. Photo by author.