Settling veterans remembered in Wandoan avenue of honour08 June 2021
The Western Downs township of Wandoan has a new reason for locals, grey nomads and curious explorers to stop and smell the roses.
In partnership with Western Downs Regional Council, the Wandoan RSL Sub Branch recently officially opened the Wandoan Soldier Settlers ‘Avenue of Honour’ in O’Sullivan Park as a memorial to local soldier settlers.
Soldier settlers was the name given to honourably discharged soldiers who were selected in a ballot between 1952 and 1954 to settle in Wandoan and given land to establish working farms. In total, 103 families settled in Wandoan after being granted blocks of land in the scheme.
HONOURING THE PAST
Wandoan RSL Sub Branch Secretary Pat Devlin says it has been wonderful to see his and other local families honoured.
“The ballot for the soldier settlement blocks was in 1952 and 1954, so most people living in Wandoan now wouldn’t have direct access to someone who took part in the ballot. This avenue lets us honour those veterans who are very important to us and Wandoan’s history.”
“We came up with the idea of an Avenue of Honour and with approval from the Western Downs Regional Council we were able to use the pathway in O’Sullivan Park,” he says.
The project was made possible thanks to the local Council’s COVID-19 Recovery Package which included items that boosted liveability in the region.
“Thanks to additional funding that was available because of COVID-19, we were able to have it fully funded and create a place to remember the local soldiers who served for their country. If it wasn’t for that we would have been fundraising to create this memorial for a very long time.”
The memorial walk is lined with 103 plaques and rose bushes for each of the local soldier settler families, information boards telling the story of the soldier settler scheme, and a stylised entrance by local artist Lisa Stiller.
“We contacted each of the 103 families for the soldiers honoured on the plaques along the walk,” Pat says. “Which in itself was a massive effort as many of these people have been gone from Wandoan for more than 60 years.”
“They were all invited to attend the opening of the memorial on April 24, and we had over 500 people attend. It was pretty amazing.”
KEEPING THE ANZAC SPIRIT ALIVE
Pat, who has been an RSL member for more than 20 years, says he’s seen a lot of changes in his time with the Sub-Branch.
“I’ve seen all our Second World War fellows disappear and we had one Vietnam fellow. He’s gone too,” he says.
“The rest of us are reserves, CMS and National Service. Wandoan had a very strong RSL Sub-Branch in the late ‘50s and there used to be more than 80 men marching on ANZAC Day, which was pretty big for a small town.”
“The march we had this year would have been our biggest in a long time with all the people who came back for the opening of the avenue. It was amazing.”
“The best support we can have is that anyone passing through Wandoan is to drop in and have a look at it. It’s really impressive and for those of us with family connections it is actually quite emotional to walk through."
Photography by gerkies.com.au.