How it all Began   

By way of explanation. During the time period referred to in this article, the associations and organisations are named as they were then constituted. The Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, St Marys (Outpost) Sub-Branch will be referred to as "The Outpost". The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, Granville Sub-Branch, is ref erred to as "Granville". The following people are referred by their first names, as I have written in the first person, They held the following offices at the time: Michael Wiezel, Secretary Manager of St Marys RSL Club Ltd; Tim McCombe and Ray Fulton, both President and Secretary respectively of the Vietnam Veterans' Association of Australia, Granville Sub-Branch; Jeff Perry, John Head and myself, Paul Devine, "The Outpost Steering Committee" (without realising it at the time!).

First Discussion

It was at the Blacktown Workers Club in 1994 that Michael, Jeff and myself, first discussed the need to provide support for War Veterans in our region. Michael advised us at the time that there was a possibility of office space being made available to us on the St Marys RSL Club Ltd's property at St Marys. He said that if Granville was interested, all they had to do was to compile and make a formal submission to the St Marys RSL Club Ltd.

The next day, Jeff and I spoke with both Tim and Ray at Granville about the concept. Some time elapsed with no response from them. As time passed, Jeff and I decided to begin asking for an update on the progress of the concept at every chance. Finally, having asked Ray a number of times about an office at St Marys, he said "Oh, for (expletive) sake get the (expletive) up to St Marys and find out what's going on!" Without any further ado, we did as he instructed.

Granville's Response

The following day we got back to Ray and advised him that there was going to be a meeting at the St Marys RSL Club Ltd where the matter could be raised. The meeting would be attended by Michael and Paul McDonald (lessee of RSL Property known as the Train) along with those delegated from Granville. When we reported back to Ray, he responded, "You two don't let grass grow under your feet do you?" Later that day Ray informed both Jeff and I that we both should go to the meeting. He told us that we were not to make any commitments on behalf of Granville. He stated that any recommendations that may come from the meeting must first be put to the Granville committee, where they would discuss any proposal that needed to be addressed.

St Marys RSL Club Meeting

The meeting at St Marys was conducted as scheduled, with a favourable outcome for us regarding the use of offices at the old Railway Station. Those who attended were Michael, Jeff, Paul McDonald and myself. The meeting concluded after about 90 minute's discussion. There were two firm stipulations that resulted if the concept was to become a reality.

  1. There was to be no smoking in the buildings, or carriages, at the Railway Station.
     
  2. No alcohol was to be consumed on the property which was being leased by Paul McDonald from St Marys RSL Club Ltd.

To this day, both of the foregoing requests are still enforced.

Jeff and I again reported the outcome of the meeting to Ray and Tim at Granville. The Granville committee accepted the offer and agreed that we should open an office at St Marys. Tim, Jeff and I attended the St Marys RSL Sub-Branch Monthly Meeting shortly thereafter. We advised the members present of Granville's intentions to create an "Outpost" to conduct volunteer activities to assist all Veterans if office space were to be made available. On behalf of The "Outpost Team" at the time, we extended an invitation to the Veteran members of the St Marys RSL Sub-Branch, who may need assistance in pursuing DVA claims for both medical treatment and pension entitlements, that we would be happy to assist them to do so, at no cost. We were officially thanked by the members who then had a motion passed at the meeting that "The Outpost" should be created, with a proviso that we would have to be self-funding as they were not in a position to offer us any financial assistance at that time.

Setting up the Office

Soon after the meeting, Jeff, John Head and myself began going to the office where we began, as best we could, to set up the office area that had been allocated to us. That was in May 1995. The office space we were going to work out of was at that time just that, 'Space'! Today, the Pension Officers work in that same space. With vacant rooms The Outpost had to begin from scratch! It took far longer than we expected to get The Outpost up, open and running. New phone cables had to be put in place, which took about six months. Here, I would like to make mention of and offer my thanks, to both Ursula Travers and Georgina Briffa (better known to all as 'George'). These two fine ladies helped The Outpost 10 function in the early days as they were a Veteran's first point of contact! They experienced some very tough days as they allowed The Outpost to use Paul McDonald's phones! They answered Outpost phone calls for us and would ring me at home if they thought the call was important, or if a Veteran was calling for assistance.

First Drop-ins

During this period, as the word got around, Veterans, began dropping in wanting to know when it would be "open for business" to assist them with their claims? They would leave their names and phone numbers so that we could get back to them and let them know when we were ready to "rock and roll." The phone lines were eventually connected. The Outpost's first phone system was an Erickson set-up which was donated by Granville.

First Outpost Meeting

The first official and inaugural meeting of The Outpost was convened on the 25th November 1995. The only agenda item was the discussion of the formation of The Outpost as a Sub-Branch. It was Andy Forsdike who introduced the St Marys RSL Club President, Mr. Col Shepherd to those present. He chaired the meeting until the election of officer bearers was to take place. Present at the inaugural meeting were Len and Wendy Schulz, Mick O'Haire, Col Doust, Paul Devine, Jim Plant, Gavin Boland, Gordon Backman, Peter Delforce, Col Chapman, George Wills, Jeff Perry, John Head and there was another whose name we can't recall.

Inaugural Committee & Sub-Branch Meeting

The report from our Steering Committee was presented. Paul Devine read a letter from Granville which gave approval for The Outpost to become a Sub-Branch based at St Marys. The Motion was put by G. Boland and Seconded P. Delforce and was Carried. Election of Officers: James Plant was asked to be the Returning Officer. Mr. Col Shepherd vacated the chair. The result of the ensuing ballot was:

 
President
Secretary
A/Secretary
Treasurer
Committee
 
 
Photographer
- Paul Devine
- Colin Doust
- Len Schulz
- Jeff Perry
- Andy Forsdike
- George Will s
- Peter Delforce
- John Head
 

The first Sub-Branch Meeting of The Outpost was convened Oll s" December 1995 at the St Marys RSL Club Ltd at 7.20pm. Ray was to become a regular visitor to The Outpost in the early days. So too were Graham Weekes and Allen Drakefield.

License Agreement For everything to be legal, a License Agreement had to be drawn up. It was signed by Tim as it was a contract between Granville and Kerriedancer Pty. Ltd. The crux of the Agreement was that: "The term of this license shall be five (5) years commencing on l " July 1995."

Overcoming Difficulties at the Office

Although we had plenty of Veterans willing to assist in the establishment of The Outpost, it was obvious to the director of the St Marys RSL Club members and Michael, that if The Outpost was to be viable and equipped to meet its aims and objectives. That it would need financial assistance to do so. Graciously, The St Marys RSL Club Ltd felt to assist The Outpost by paying some of its then outstanding accounts and they graciously made provision for some of its on-going financials. It continues to do so to this day.

Financial Help

In the same vein, through his "contacts" at the St Marys Bowling Club, Peter Delforce 'Just happened to mention" to them what we were trying to achieve and some of the difficulties we were experiencing. The result was that those "contacts" also felt to help The Outpost by making financial donations! They also came to the party with the gifting of some much needed office equipment to us.

First Social Event

Our first social activity that The Outpost sponsored was the very successful Christmas Party which was held on the is" December 11)1)5.

Furniture Rescue

By February 1996 The Outpost was really up and running! A member of Veteran helpers began attending the office regularly each week to help out in any way in which they could. Soon, it became evident that we had a major problem with not having sufficient, or adequate, office equipment to meet all of our needs. However, Kevin Duncliff, his mate Barney, Michael O'Haire and Rod O'Dell came to our rescue! These four helped The Outpost greatly by being able to obtain much needed office equipment that came available through them as the result of a business closure.

Fred Grigg

Fred came to us as a qualified Advocate from Legacy at Conlangatta-Tweed Heads. He was in Sydney temporarily to be here for his aged and ailing parents. Consulting him for his insights and advice was very helpful. He was with us for almost 12 months and in that time he volunteered to design and become the first editor of our "Western Outpost News" newsletter. He was one of the best wordsmiths that The Outpost has had.

Two Advocates Appointed

Larraine Hines came to us at The Outpost to work with us as an Advocate. She graciously worked from her own home on our behalf. Jim Plant was also appointed as an Advocate.

Local Business Assistance

During the winter of 1996 six local businesses began to assist The Outpost and its members financially. They did so by offering us various discounts on their goods and services. Those businesses who participated were Sinclair Ford, Tyretech, John Young Holden, Petlum Automotive Service, Bob Jane T-Mart and of course Martin Churchill - The Outpost's first solicitor. Thanks in the main to the driving force of Peter Delforce who made it all happen!

Golf Club & Social Club

It was also in 1996 that we established both our Golf Club and Social Club. The success of the Club came from the efforts of Trish Wills, Karen Head, Margaret Holiday, Beryl Wollstein, Rhonda Perry and Margaret Devine. All of their family members contributed greatly.

The Social Club was established because many of the members and wives of The Outpost knew how much a toll and what the hidden costs of war was affecting, not only their marriages, but family life! They had to recognise that there was a real need for social activities to be established in order to try to till some of the void that had been created in their lives!

The Outpost Golf Club was organised to give both the Veteran and his partner another means to commence a more normal and perhaps even a better lifestyle allowing blokes to do what blokes do best. I will always remember the wife of one of our Veterans saying to me, "The golf club is the best thing that has happened to us. It gets him out from under my feet for one afternoon a week! Please don't stop playing your golf." As an aside, Fred Grigg took back to the Gold Coast with him our first Runner Up Shield! On his return to his home, he was able to encourage others to replicate the same on the Gold Coast! After about twelve months or so, they had about ninety Veterans on the books, with an average of 45 to 60 playing Nine Holes every Friday morning - yes, they also became known as the "Friday Floggers!"

Parliamentary MID

On the 5 December 1996, less then twelve months after The Outpost's first monthly meeting, we got to be mentioned in our Federal Parliaments dispatches! We were written up in Hansard on page 7558.

[Here a short note to Gary Fizzell. I really don't know where you got the names for your article from, in the March 2009 issue of the Western Outpost News, on pages 8 and 9! The names given and dates offered are substantiality different to those in my notes, my recollections and the recollections of others who were there at the beginning! The Outpost Minute Book for that period records all pertinent facts.]

Summary

In closing, I wish to add that not one officer-bearer, or helper, during my terms as president of The Outpost would say that he or she did any more than anyone else to establish The Outpost. I believe that it's only fair to say that some of us had to assume more responsibility than others at that time in order to get everything organised. Please remember that when we began we were all volunteers. As a result that does not give anyone the right to say that he or she started the Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia, St Marys (Outpost) Sub-Branch! The people I have named in this document, without fear or favour, would all vouch for the veracity of the comments that I have made in this document.

Paul K Devine
The Outpost President, 1996-1998

I have read !he foregoing and can vouch for the truthfulness and accuracy of the details and happenings recorded, as they occurred during my period of association with Paul Divine and Jeff Perry during the formation and establishment of the St Marys Outpost. May 2009

Honour the Dead
But Fight Like Hell for the Living

 
 © St Mary's Vietnam Veterans' Outpost ABN 88 139 839 090, The Train, Cnr Hall St and Mamre Rd, St Marys NSW; PO Box 3049 South St Mary’s 2760; Phone: +61 (0)2 9833 4711, +61 (0)2 9833 4700; Fax: +61 (0)2 9833 4022;