Book celebrates club centenary

Former Premier Jeff Kennett sees a future for declining RSL clubs by opening them up to “first responder” emergency service workers.

Speaking at the book launch of 100 Years, Duckboard, Fighting Spirit, by Alan Jackson, at the Mail Exchange Hotel on August 10, Mr Kennett said the issues that brought returned soldiers together 100 years ago existed among emergency workers today.

He said retired emergency workers such as police, firefighters and paramedics needed the kind of support systems that the RSL offered.

Mr Kennett said the loss of comradeship often led to mental health issues.

Mr Jackson’s book tells the story of Victoria’s original RSL club, known as the Duckboard Club, which was established in the CBD on August 8, 1915 by returned soldiers.

The club still exists, although its membership is now less than 100 and it operates on a part-time basis from premises at 180 Spencer St.

“Duckboard was born out of a need for men to support each other, to share stories and regain entry into everyday life,” Mr Kennett said.

“May the club find the energy to keep existing but also provide comradeship to those who need it.”

“This might not be the end but, rather, the brick on which to build for future years.”

Mr Jackson told the gathering of returned service men and women that their story was “truly magnificent”. 

He said he was humbled by the opportunity to write the book.

He said the men who founded the club 100 years ago were not war heroes. 

“They were absolute heroes,” he said. 100 Years, Duckboard, Fighting Spirit is available in bookstores for $49.99.

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