By Taylah Eastwell
Lilydale RSL’s new president Bill Dobson is hoping to begin efforts to get younger veterans involved in the club.
Mr Dobson has stepped into the top role after the tragic passing of the sub-branch’s previous two presidents, Don Parsons and Paul Payne, who both passed away last year.
“We want to maintain the core values of the RSL which is welfare and looking after the ex-servicemen and their dependants. That is really important to us,” Mr Dobson said.
“But I also want to introduce a lot of younger people, whether it be the Afghanistan or Timor veterans and their families into the club because we want those people to run the club eventually,” he said.
Mr Dobson said around “80% of members of RSL clubs in Victoria are all over 70 years of age”, with “not many” members at Lilydale under 50 years of age.
“There are RSL’s closer to the city that have got Afghanistan veterans but we have not got them out here yet, so it is up to us to find them. They are out and about so we want those people to join and run the club in the future,” he said.
Mr Dobson is a former Vietnam Veteran. He was conscripted into the army and served with the Royal Australian Army Ordnance Corps in Vietnam between in 1969 and 1970.
“When the prime minister at the time, Menzies, decided that our country would support America in the war against North Vietnam, he realised that he didn’t have enough soldiers to do the job so he introduced conscription,” he said.
“I was conscripted in 1968. My ‘lucky’ marble with my birthdate on it was drawn out of the barrel to let me know that I was required to serve 2 years in the army from May 1968 to May 1970,” he said.
Mr Dobson said he was a compositor in the printing industry prior to his conscription and “wasn’t worried about going into the army, it was an adventure”.
“Of course, when any soldier arrived in Nui Dat Vietnam his thoughts would quickly change, it was about getting through the next 12 months and getting home again,” he said.
Mr Dobson spent 12 months, 16 days and 4 hours in Nui Dat Vietnam in the 10FP unit, which was regarded as the ‘sharp end’ for Australian forces.
“Yes, I was counting towards the end,” he said.
Mr Dobson said he has not held any previous RSL executive or commitee position as he was told in 1971 that Vietnam was considered a conflict and not a war.
“As a result they wouldn’t accept my service membership, later the number of casualties were announced and between 3 and 5 million are estimated to have died during the 1960s in Vietnam, most people would consider that a war not a conflict.
Mr Dobson said he decided to get involved after noticing the efforts of previous presidents Don Parsons and Paul Payne and realising they had projects in place that needed completing.
“I would like to be part of finishing the work that these two dedicated past presidents started, not suggesting it is entirely up to me, the experienced executive of Chris Newell, Terry Hickey and Rupert Johnston would get the projects completed without my input.
“We are all volunteers that believe in the core values of the RSL, mateship, empathy, respect and we exist to commemorate the sacrifices of previous generations and to provide help for those that have served this country and their dependents,” he said.