Page 426 - Week 02 - Tuesday, 14 February 2017

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Sussex Inlet RSL Club

MS CODY (Murrumbidgee) (5.04): Like many of my colleagues, I took the opportunity to have some time off during the summer break. Our city and our territory have some wonderful outdoor summer activities, whether it is cycling by the lake, enjoying the bushland to our south or joining in the festivities at Summernats. However, like many Canberrans, I joined the exodus to the coast.

Whilst maps say that the South Coast is in New South Wales, I, like many Canberrans, know that over the summer the region becomes an extension of Canberra. Generations of our families have holidayed in this beautiful part of Australia, and appreciated the hospitality of the generous locals.

There was, however, one blight on my time spent on the South Coast that must be mentioned. Whilst spending what was otherwise a pleasant evening at the Sussex Inlet RSL, my husband returned from the toilets to inform me that the urinals in that club have pictures of Aboriginal men set up in the urinal. Let me say that again: in 2017, in Australia, in a club that promotes itself as championing our values and respect for our national heritage, men are expected to urinate on Aboriginals.

The Sussex Inlet RSL are a disgrace. They are a disgrace to themselves, a disgrace to the veterans they claim to represent and a disgrace to Australia. I take umbrage at the use of Aboriginal kitsch tiles in the men’s urinal. Does the Sussex Inlet RSL think it appropriate that patrons embrace Aboriginal culture in the toilet block? The RSL would think it grossly offensive to place a portrait of the Queen, the Australian flag or a Rising Sun emblem in the toilet, so why does it think caricatures of our first Australians are acceptable?

I wish this did not fall into a long history of disgraceful behaviour by this organisation. The freedom riders of 1965 protested the refusal of RSL clubs to accept Indigenous veterans as equals.

I do hope that leaders of this RSL club, people who either are or stand by racists, do not attempt to hide behind the respect that our nation owes veterans. My husband is a returned serviceman from Iraq, and I know the courage, the honour and the sacrifice he and his comrades have made down the generations. That this RSL club has taken the hard-earned and well-deserved honour Australians show to veterans and perverted it is disgusting. I hope the national and state bodies of the RSL address this filth as a matter of urgency.

HeartKids Australia

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.07): Today is 14 February. Some of us might think about Valentine’s Day and all that sugary, schmaltzy stuff that goes to fill the coffers of the florists and the card purveyors. Not a hallmark matter, to be acknowledged, on Valentine’s Day is Sweetheart Day. Sweetheart Day is the major fund raising event for HeartKids Australia.

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