RSL under fire for ‘unAustralian’ Anzac Day ruling

April 26, 2023
Clyde Mooney

As licensed venues around the country came together to celebrate the national day for acknowledging the bravery of the Anzacs, one local group was left cold as its local RSL sub-branch denied its application.

For decades the Bargara Beach Hotel has hosted a Gunfire Breakfast and day of Two-Up on Anzac Day for the Bargara Remembers Committee (BRC), after the well-patronised local dawn service.

As per the Gaming and Liquor Acts, for the Hotel to open early on Anzac Day it must apply for extended trading hours from OLGR (Office of Liquor and Gaming), which must in turn must have written approval from the appropriate RSL sub-branch. If planning to host Two-Up, venues must also secure permission from police.

Bargara – a coastal town around 12 kilometres east of Bundaberg – is subject to the Bundaberg RSL Sub-Branch, which initially granted permission, before later withdrawing it. An email dated 31 March confirmed support of the Gunfire Breakfast, but would not provide permission for the Two-Up event.

Back in 1997, the BRC approached the Bundaberg Services Club about a dawn service at Bargara and was granted permission, with suggestion it would “never take off”.

Locals began their own commemorative service at dawn, and over the years it has built to become the largest in the region.

Bargara Beach Anzac Day service

Bundaberg RSL Sub-Branch has reportedly granted approval for other venues to host breakfast and Two-Up events, notably the Services Club and clubs at Elliott and Burnett Heads.

It is said the only difference at these facilities is that they all charge an entry fee to events, which is donated to the Sub-Branch.

Greg Barnes, spokesperson for the BRC, attested there was nothing different about their application this year, compared to those from the last 27 years, suggesting the RSL simply wanted a slice of the success of the service.

Graham Crowden, former president of the Sub-Branch is said to have asked why they should support the Bargara initiatives when they “get nothing out of it”.

Since the beginning, the Committee has adopted a policy of zero cost to veterans and ratepayers, including food and drinks. They do not charge for the Breakfast or take any entry fee for the Two-Up.

Similarly, the Daly family proudly donates the use of the Hotel each year. The Committee has never paid any money to the pub for hosting the Gunfire Breakfasts, which are paid for, prepared and served by volunteers.

Any money raised by the Committee comes out of sponsorship, raffles and donations, and every cent is returned to veterans and the community. Any surplus funds are held in an audited account and used to help fund the following year’s event.

Consequently, the BRC does not raise any money it can pass back to the Bundaberg RSL Sub-Branch, and has ruled out the possibility it could implement a fee, to donate to the RSL.

Bundaberg RSL announced it would consider a reapplication from the BRC, but even if approvied this would come too late for the 2023 service.

Locals have voiced their opinions, some suggesting that charging for Anzac Day events is simply “un-Australian” and generating discussion of establishing a Bargara RSL Sub-Branch.

For the first time in 27 years, Bargara Beach was unable to host its free Anzac Day events, which forced the Committee to pull out of contracts with suppliers.

“We can no longer proceed with this service for our veterans and families this year,” offered the Hotel on social media.

“We are deeply sorry for any inconvenience; unfortunately, this is beyond our control.”


Tags

Bargara Beach Hotel, Bargara Remembers Committee, Bundaberg RSL Sub-Branch, OLGR


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