Belconnen RSL Sub-Branch

Speech in the ACT Legislative Assembly

24 September 2015

I rise this afternoon to talk about the Belconnen sub-branch of the RSL. On Tuesday, 25 August I had the pleasure of attending the dedication of a plaque commemorating World War I enlistees from the Belconnen region. The plaque is a joint venture between the RSL and both the ACT and commonwealth governments. The plaque was dedicated on the day by Senator Zed Seselja, with Dr Andrew Leigh MP in attendance. The plaque is placed in the Ellen Clark Park, Weetangera, on the ACT heritage trail. This site is also where the old Weetangera school was located, which 11 of the 18 World War I servicemen from the Belconnen region attended.

One of the stories told on the day was about John Webb, known as Jack, who was born and raised in Weetangera. Branded as a larrikin, Jack was a barman at the Royal Hotel in Queanbeyan and played rugby for the Red and Blacks of Queanbeyan. In January 1916 Jack enlisted and served with the 55th Battalion, 14th Brigade of the 5th Division. Jack was known as a “snowie”, a man who enlisted after joining the men from the Snowy River march from Delegate to Goulburn, which passed through Queanbeyan.

On 2 April 1917 John Webb was killed by machine gun fire after an attack on the village of Doignies in France. In this Anzac centenary year it is important that we are able to remember all those who fought and died for our values and freedoms, particularly those who lived in our region. This is why plaques such as these are so valuable and why they are an important community resource.

It was an honour to attend the plaque dedication, and I thank all those who were involved in the ceremony. In particular, I note the work of the Belconnen sub-branch president, Air Vice Marshal Mac Weller, RAAF (Ret’d); the secretary of the branch, Mr Dennis Wilkes; and the treasurer of the branch, Mr Doug Brown. I know that Mr Bill Hyland also served as the project manager for the plaque dedication. He did a wonderful job, and I congratulated him on the day.

I also pay special tribute to the staff and students at Weetangera Primary School, who hosted the event and were also involved in giving a very warm and welcoming reception to all the attendees. Also deserving of thanks is Mr Peter Eveille, who provided the ode on the day, as well as Mrs Catherine Savage, who did a wonderful job playing the bugle. As I have just said, students from Weetangera Primary School were in attendance and laid wreaths on the day. I know that the sub-branch is very grateful for the assistance of Mr James Barrett, the principal of Weetangera Primary School, who kindly accommodated the plaque dedication ceremony inside the school when rain prevented the dedication occurring outside.

I again thank the Belconnen RSL sub-branch for the plaque dedication and all they do supporting veterans in our community. I encourage all members to take the time to visit the plaque. For more information on the Belconnen RSL sub-branch, I encourage members to get in touch with the sub-branch at www.actrsl.org.au/sub-branch.htm.