Exemplifying the ANZAC Spirit: The inspiring rise of Cardwell RSL Sub Branch07 April 2023
Nestled on the Cassowary Coast, Cardwell RSL Sub Branch has made a big impact on its small town.
Cardwell RSL Sub Branch President Robert Lang
President Robert Lang shares the story behind his Sub Branch’s incredible growth, made possible by the ingenuity, mateship and endurance of his community.
Cardwell, a rural town with a thriving spirit
The town is surrounded by rainforests and the ocean
Picture a little town in Queensland’s far north tropics. To the east, sunlight sparkles off the ocean along the foreshore, and to the west, lush rainforest-covered mountains hug the horizon.
“It’s a beautiful area – a very pretty seaside village,” Robert says. “The town’s size is limited by its environment, with the mountains so close to the sea, but it has a unique quality that makes it great.”
For residents of Cardwell, life hasn’t always been smooth sailing. In 2011, the biggest storm in Queensland’s history swept through the town, putting the community’s resilience to the ultimate test.
“After Cyclone Yasi, most of the coastal side of our township was out of operation because all the sandblasting and debris destroyed all our infrastructure,” Robert says.
Elevated from the worst-hit areas, Cardwell RSL Sub Branch became the recovery centre for the SES and emergency services. It offered a refuge for people to eat and sleep, forging its place in Cardwell as a welcoming community hub.
Revitalising a community
The local RSL Sub Branch has grown into a vibrant community hub
Robert served in the Army from 1970 until 1990, retiring to Cardwell and joining the town’s RSL Sub Branch in 1992. Since then, he’s been heavily involved in the Sub Branch and over the years has witnessed a lot of positive change.
“We were having trouble attracting numbers. There would be six to eight of the same old faces, sitting around on Sunday drinking beer,” Robert says.
The solution? A combination of engaging with local schools, hosting ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day ceremonies, selling raffle tickets in town and cooking a hearty barbecue lunch every Sunday. As a result, membership has tripled in just two years to 53 social members, 31 ex-service members, and nine dedicated volunteers.
“Coming to work here is an absolute privilege, and working with our wonderful volunteers is a delight. Together, we’ve created a real sense of community,” Robert says.
“There’s WWI guys on the walls who look down upon us here, and I don’t think they would be disappointed to see how much we’ve developed and evolved.”
Bonding through mateship on ANZAC Day
A team of dedicated volunteers keep the Sub Branch going
One of the main forces driving the team at Cardwell RSL Sub Branch is the importance of providing camaraderie and mateship to their members, especially veterans. Just as importantly, they aim to welcome non-member veterans back into the fold.
“Mateship is so important, and that’s where the RSL has a big role to play,” Robert says.
“Personally, so many veterans I know suffer from all sorts of stress-related illnesses and issues. We try to reach out to genuinely support them under the umbrella of the RSL.
“Through communicating, talking, and going over things that only another veteran can understand, we can help them to recover.”
Given how highly mateship and camaraderie are valued at Cardwell RSL Sub Branch, it’s not surprising that ANZAC Day is one of their most important events. This year, Cardwell will host a dawn service and gunfire breakfast, a service at the Rockingham Aged Care home, a public service and march along the town’s foreshore, and a lunch to wrap it all up.
Leading up to this, Robert extends a warm welcome to all who wish to keep the memory and history of veterans past and present alive.
“Anyone in the whole district of the Kennedy Valley – right up north to Bilyana, and as far south as the Cardwell range – you're more than welcome to come and join us here at the Cardwell RSL Sub Branch,” Robert says.
How will you commemorate ANZAC Day?
The walls are lined with portraits of WWI veterans
Since WWI, more than 1.5 million Australians have served in wars, conflicts and peacekeeping operations.
On ANZAC Day (25 April), we invite you to honour their invaluable contribution and commemorate in a way that is meaningful to you.
Attend an RSL Sub Branch service, take a quiet moment to reflect at home or donate to the ANZAC Appeal, and help keep the ANZACs’ legacy alive.
Lest we forget.