Naval Association

ESO Corner: Once Navy, Always Navy

18 June 2020

This year, the Naval Association of Australia celebrates 100 years.

“It was an accepted condition of a sailor’s duty that there is never a moment at sea which is completely free of danger.” – Anon

This year, the Naval Association of Australia (NAA) celebrates 100 years of service. The Association was established following WWI, during a period when Australia was faced with the task of reintegrating an unprecedented number of Defence personnel back into civilian life. A total of 400,000 enlisted in WWI and those who survived returned home with more struggles to contend with.

The NAA began one evening in the vicinity of Young and Jacksons Hotel in Melbourne. An ex-naval man, out for a stroll with his wife, saw a former shipmate on point duty as a policeman. From this chance meeting, they decided to get together again with as many old shipmates as possible.

This led to a “Smoko” in May 1920 in the old Manchester Unity Hall in Swanston Street. About 100 ex-naval men attended and agreed to form the Ex-Navalmen’s Association, which was inaugurated in November 1920.

Original committee of the Naval Association

In 1960, the name was changed to the Naval Association of Australia to better reflect its aims and a membership that included both current and ex-serving naval personnel. While the actual date is unknown, the formation of the Association in Queensland can be traced via early committee photos as far back as the late 1920s. The State Council was founded on 15 January 1954, when two sub sections, Sandgate (Northside Wavell) and Brisbane, were formed from the Queensland Section.

The first State Conference was held at the main Drill Hall at the Naval Depot in Alice Street on Saturday 26 November 1955.

This year, State Section President Ray Sandford and his team had planned several events over the weekend of 22-23 May to celebrate the Association’s milestone.

Naval Association President Ray Sandford

The Association is made up of Sub Sections, which are normally formed geographically under a State Section. These combine to form a non-profit National Council.

Currently, the Queensland Section is made up of 20 geographical Sub Sections, a Navy Women Sub Section and an internet Sub Section. Like the RSL, the Association has an award system including Certificate of Merit, Life Membership, Meritorious Service Medal, Long Service Certificate and honorary awards.

Recently, Ross Wiseman of eFLEET Sub Section was awarded Life Membership for exceptional service over more than 15 years.

The Association has lobbied the Federal Government to have service within both the Royal Australian Navy and Merchant Navy recognised by the variation to federal legislation.

The work by former Naval Association National Presidents Commodore Nobby Clark and Admiral Mike Hudson is significant. Former National President Les Dwyer is widely recognised by the submarine service for his advocacy and tenacious lobbying for the advancement and recognition of Special Operations (Black Ops) service.

The Naval Association currently has a robust relationship with the RSL, Department of Veteran Affairs and ESOs across Australia.

They are also a founding member of the Alliance of Defence Service Organisations (ADSO). ADSO engages directly with the government and political parties and lobbies on various issues. Young veterans, reservists and serving sailors will find an ESO/ advocacy fit for purpose when the need arises. The Association is ready to welcome members on board.

Naval Association members, left to right, Ross Wiseman, Ray Sandford, Jacky Tradd, Helen Yench and James O’Connor.

Being a member sustains the legacy of past service and sacrifice. The Association pursues four pillars that underpin their mission:

  • Care (welfare): diverse and crucial support of Navy and ex-Navy men and women. The State Section Hospital visitation officer John King is also on the board of the Beenleigh RSL Club.
  • Commemoration: maintaining the legacy of past service and sacrifice.
  • Navy Cadets: assisting youths to become better citizens through support to the ANC.
  • Camaraderie: meet and socialise with like-minded Navy and ex-Navy men and women.

The Naval Association is the only national organisation with the sole purpose of looking after the interests of serving Navy and ex-Navy men and women. Its motto is “Once Navy, always Navy”.



Membership is open to:

  • Current or ex-serving naval personnel from the Commonwealth or Australia’s allies and their declared partners.
  • Current or ex-serving Australian Army and Air Force personnel who have been posted to HMA ships and establishments.

Contact us:

Facebook: @navalassociationaustraliaqld
Email: or



In each edition of Queensland RSL News, the ESO Corner will shine a spotlight on different ex-service organisations. These groups provide valuable assistance to the Defence community, and RSL Queensland is proud to partner and collaborate with many of them.

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