The grass is greener for Bundaberg veterans

20 June 2024
  • Mateship

Three dedicated RSL Sub Branch volunteers are giving back to veterans, one lawn at a time.

Laying the turf 

About two years ago, Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch identified a crucial service gap for veterans in the area.

“Veterans with a DVA Gold Card can qualify for yard maintenance services, but there was a gap for veterans going through the DVA claims process or those in hospital,” Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch Secretary Dannielle Brearley explains.

“So, the Sub Branch President at the time decided to start up a mowing group. We purchased the mowing equipment, got the trailer together and it’s taken off.”

Since launching, the mowing program has grown to be much loved by the veterans whose yards are transformed.

Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch mowing group

“Our volunteers take time out of their day during the summer months, slogging it out in the heat. Our boys do it because these are fellow veterans and volunteers themselves,” Dannielle says.

“It’s a free service, but I would say 99.9% of the time our volunteers come back with a donation from each of the individuals they’ve mowed for, or they’ve been provided tea and some nice home-baked goodies.”

Aside from maintaining local yards and the local Veterans Support Centre grounds, the mowing program also serves as a tool to build camaraderie among the veteran community.

“The best thing about the program is that it’s an informal welfare check on those veterans,” Dannielle says.

“The volunteers receive a lot of positive feedback for their people skills. The veterans love that interaction; it shows that we’re here to cater to their needs and provide for them where needed.” 

Rays of sunshine

The Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch mowing program services three to nine lawns at any time, thanks to a group of three dedicated volunteers. One of those volunteers is Army veteran and Sub Branch member Malcolm Jeffrey.

“When I joined the Sub Branch, they asked for volunteers to do lawn mowing and yard maintenance, so I put my hand up,” Malcolm says.

“I’ve got a volunteer mentality. When I was working, my wife and I used to volunteer on cattle stations out west. We’ve always done volunteer work, so this was a natural progression.

“There are three of us who are mowing at the moment. We’re all well past retirement age and we look after yards for people who cannot look after it themselves. It’s a service we feel quite happy providing.”

Bundaberg Veteran Support Centre

For fellow volunteer, Army veteran and Sub Branch member Paul Sullivan, the interaction he has with other veterans through the program makes all the hard work worth it.

“I look forward to assisting other veterans in maintaining their gardens. It gives me a sense of fulfilment and purpose,” Paul says. 

“Some people can’t physically go into their yards anymore and keep them to a reasonable standard. We’re not perfect either, but when we leave you can certainly see that we’ve been there, and that we’re appreciated.

“We speak to veterans, have a friendly chat and sometimes share a cool drink. We can also have a bit of an informal welfare check and report back if we think they need extra assistance.”

A growing need

Heather Mackenzie-Scott’s yard has been on the receiving end of Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch’s mowing program. She finds the service hugely beneficial.

“Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch is very supportive. From the time the volunteers started the mowing group, I asked to go on the program. There was a year-long waiting list but when they arrived, they were absolutely fantastic,” Heather says.

“Even when it has been raining here for nearly two weeks and the grass is really thick, they don’t shirk their responsibilities; they come in to mow and whipper-snip and have a chat.”

Bundaberg Veteran Mowing Group

As demand for the mowing program continues to grow in Bundaberg, Heather would like to see more volunteers like Malcolm and Paul in veterans’ yards.

“Sometimes volunteers in Sub Branches outside of big metropolitan areas get forgotten. I’ve seen people come and go, but Malcolm and Paul are stayers; they’ve been doing it for that long,” Heather says.

“These volunteers are absolutely wonderful and they treat you really well. I think every veteran should get involved in their local Sub Branch.”

The Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch mowing program runs one day per week in summer and one day per fortnight in winter. Contact the Sub Branch for more information.

Keen to join or volunteer with RSL Queensland? Find your local RSL Sub Branch and become a member.