TEN years in the making, it was a proud day at Toora on Monday when the official re-opening of the thoroughly refurbished Returned Services League (RSL) clubrooms took place, and the many people who contributed to the renovation were thanked.
The Federal Member for McMillan, Russell Broadbent, was the guest of honour. He congratulated the RSL sub-branch on a job well done, making special mention of the deft brushstrokes of the paintwork. “You have set up a place that’s going to be very important to you and the generations to come,” he said.
Toora RSL president/treasurer Rod Coughran-Lane and secretary John Milroy welcomed the 40-strong crowd, which included RSL State Executive Member Ian Caines, representatives of other local RSL sub-branches, such as Bruce Lester (Foster president), Ian Park (Fish Creek president) and South Gippsland Shire Councillors Bob Newton and Jeanette Harding, and members of the Toora RSL sub-branch and the Toora community.
“Toora has certainly got something to be proud of. It’s a credit to all of you,” said Mr Caines, speaking on behalf of the RSL State Executive. “The RSL relies very heavily on volunteers. They are the backbone of the RSL organisation.”
“This little hall has had a chequered life since it was moved here from Korumburra Camp in 1948,” said Mr Coughran-Lane. “Back then there was a thriving RSL community of returned men and women from the second war.”
Membership began to wane for some time, he continued, until the late 1990s which saw an influx of people, mainly retirees, moving to Toora. They rejuvenated the membership and started fundraising in earnest, organising regular sausage sizzles (Thursdays in the main street in front of the post office, continuing to this day), jumble sales and a stall at the Toora market. Money has also come from bar trade at the regular pool and dart competitions.
Toora sub-branch has been fortunate to receive grants from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs and the local Community Bank branches of Bendigo Bank, and donations from the Toora Lions Club and Leongatha RSL.
The clubrooms are now looking very fine indeed. The building has been restumped, re-roofed, replastered and painted, and boasts a new bar and toilets (including facilities for people with disabilities), a renovated kitchen and, most recently, new floor coverings.
Mr Coughran-Lane paid tribute to a long list of people who have helped turn the old Nissen hut into a cosy clubroom and a shining community asset.
He mentioned in particular local veteran John Benton, who sadly passed away before he got to see the finished hall. He also thanked former member Bernie O’Lynn, Toora postmaster Greg Stewart, Bill and Sue Ryan, John and Lynn Milroy, Barry (‘The Builder’) and Maureen Ramsay, Sue Harvey, Dawn Allsop, ‘Ski’ who arranged the memorabilia and displays in the hall, and the various tradesmen who helped with the project, in many cases as volunteers. Finally, he thanked the membership of the Toora RSL sub-branch and the citizens of Toora for all their support.
“All of this is only possible because of your generosity and unconditional support,” he said. “We now have a hall that’s an asset for the community of Toora. Already there are small groups using it for community meetings. It provides a handy alternative to the Toora Hall, being smaller and cosier, and people are welcome to use it.”