August 23 - 29, 2015: Issue 228

  2015 Pittwater Community Service Award: Commodore Graham Sloper Rtd. 

 2015 Pittwater Community Service Award – Commodore Graham Sloper (RAN Rtd.), President of Avalon Beach RSL Sub-Branch

23rd of August 2015

Member for Pittwater Rob Stokes announced retired Commodore Graham Sloper AM as the recipient of the 2015 Pittwater Community Service Award on Thursday August 20th. 

The award was presented at an annual reception for community leaders at Mona Vale Golf Club and recognises outstanding voluntary service to the Pittwater community.

Commodore Sloper is the President of Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch, founder and convenor of the annual Avalon Beach Military Tattoo, Vice-President of the Northern Beaches RSL District Council, a member of the Northern Beaches Anzac Centenary Committee and has been instrumental in helping improve veterans’ support services on the Northern Beaches.

“Serving and supporting others is inherent in Graham’s character,” Rob Stokes said today. 

“Following a highly distinguished career in the Royal Australian Navy, Graham has continued working tirelessly to assist those in need, particularly the Veterans in our local community.

“Graham was instrumental in founding the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches to ensure former and current defence personnel get the financial and emotional support they are entitled to. He currently serves as Chairman of the VCSNB. 

"When we think of Veterans in our community we think of those who served in the Second World War, the Korean War, provided National Service or our Vietnam Veterans whose Day of Remembrance was held on Tuesday of this week. 

"Graham’s focus is also on our younger Veterans, people who have recently returned from places like East Timor, the Solomons, Iraq and Afghanistan and the needs of this younger generation of Veterans. 

"As a small insight into this work, I was recently fortunate to travel with our Mayor, Jacqueline Townsend and Tamara Sloper Harding of the Pittwater Friends of Soibada to Timor Leste and the village of Soibada. While there I had the opportunity to meet Graham’s brother Bruce, who was helping a young Veteran named Tom as he was struggling with some of the legacy of his Service. To see the way Bruce just took Tom under is arm and did all he could for him was symbolic that it’s a familial trait, that the Slopers are built to serve and have this clear love for younger Veterans and the need to look after their concerns. 

“Like so many of our local volunteers, Graham’s efforts often take place behind the scenes and away from the spotlight.

“Graham’s efforts centre around recognising all those who have served our country, aiding local charities and support groups and ensuring assistance is available to the most vulnerable members of our community.

“The number of groups, associations and initiatives that Graham has contributed towards is truly remarkable.

“Graham’s experience and expertise is a tremendous asset to our community and it’s fantastic this knowledge is being shared.

“This award is a fitting acknowledgement of Graham’s ongoing service to our community and an important opportunity to applaud his efforts,” Rob Stokes said.

"I must also recognise Graham’s wonderful wife Danni who does so much in our community and in supporting Graham’s endeavours. 

Graham Sloper, in acknowledging his thanks, stated the award was a surprise.

“I’m not into the kudos for this work,” he stated “I’m very proud of the way our community works together, particularly of our RSL involvement in the community on the Northern Beaches where we really have shifted our focus on being part of the community and engaging with everyone here, particularly the younger generation. 

"I’ll give you an example. We had a competition called ‘Australia My Country’ through which we worked with the schools. In the Australia My Country competition the children are invited to put a submission in about what they think makes Australia their country. They can do this through a whole range of topics and in many forms – this could mean poetry, a composition, art or IT. 

"Unfortunately on the Northern Beaches, it was so well run, with such co-operation from the schools, we were getting 45% of the prizes for New South Wales. The powers that be decided there must be something wrong with the system and cancelled it. 

"We refused to have it cancelled because we think it’s so valuable to the schools. We continued running it ourselves – now we get 100% of the prizes!

"On the Veterans side, and funnily enough we have an Afghanistan Veteran, Ben Webb helping us now. When we set up the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches it initially was to help pensioners and welfare cases for current ex-servicemen and women. We’ve expanded that through to dependants, widows and are know looking at children and organising greater social programs.

"In closing – I’d like to thank you Rob, you did catch me off guard. We have had a magnificent year so far – we had a great community response to the ANZAC Centenary Commemorative Service held at Narrabeen.

"From Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch’s point of view, I’m proud that we have the largest ANZAC Day Commemorative Service outside of the CBD. The Veterans lead the March and everyone else is invited to be part of this March and Service – the Nippers, Scouts, Girl Guides, Soccer and Ruby Players, the Schools all follow after the band – they are as much a part of ANZAC Day as the rest of us.

The President of Avalon Beach RSL was also the initiator of the Warringah & Mackellar Federal Electorates Centenary of Anzac Commemoration Service and worked tirelessly for years prior to this Service to ensure each detail accrued to make a successful day. Through discussions with the President of the Forrestville RSL Sub Branch, Bill Hardman and current President of the Northern Beaches District Council of RSL Sub-branches, Graham shared the role of Chairman - Centenary of ANZAC Organising Committee, and was able to March with the members of the Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch – which is where he clearly wanted to be.

A member of the ANZAC House Trust and the Australian Forces Overseas Fund, Chairman of the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches and President of Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch, Graham Sloper remains indefatigable in spirit.

We spoke to Mr. Sloper on Saturday August 22nd, after he’d put in more work to finish off his week, to congratulate him on his award and hear about changes that have recently taken place regarding the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches. 

Congratulations on being awarded the Community Service Award – how did this feel?

Well it’s a wonderful acknowledgement but it caught me completely by surprise. 

There are some recent changes that have occurred at the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches – could you outline those please for our Veterans?

This began in the Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch and then became an undertaking of the Northern Beaches District Council of RSL Sub-branches in our community has led to the establishment of the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches. This is a combination of all the ex-service person organisations that previously used to handle pensioner and welfare wok for current and ex-service people, their families, their dependents and their widows. We’ve been able to amalgamate all these under the one autonomous heading. In the RSL you have Legacy, Peacekeepers, Peacemakers, Vietnam Veterans, National Servicemen. In 2011 we started, with the great assistance of the RSL Life Care and through the War Veterans at Collaroy Plateau providing us with accommodation and community support.

We expanded far too quickly for the money we had. We needed our own specific case management system and IT system. We asked some of the larger RSL Clubs if they could contribute to this work and Dee Why RSL Club came forward with a tremendous sponsorship agreement. This week we should be able to introduce our new CMF. We have been able to employ a full time Veterans Liaison Officer who has been seconded to us as an Office Manager, Ben Webb. 

Dee Why Club have given us brand new office facilities and the official launch of the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches in this new venue will take place on the 16th of October as part of Veterans Health Week.

That’s fantastic news sir. What can the community do to support this work?

If they hear of anyone who is a service person that needs some help we’d appreciate them getting in touch with us. We are linked now to Homes for Heroes Program and now have 37 people at the War Veterans, or any other help we may be able to provide, we’d appreciate them coming forward. We are now handling a whole range of  cases ranging from inappropriate behaviour to people in Service or ex-Service, to accidents and an increasing number of PDSD and we anticipate that this will increase and may become one of our biggest challenges. 

People can get in contact with the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches through phoning (02) 9454 4015. They can also email me at the Sub Branch – .

We also have Lynn Murphy as a Pension an Welfare Officer two days a week  now too and people may contact her via email at and she is at the Veteran’s Centre Sydney Northern Beaches on Tuesdays and Thursdays. We also have 9 RAR who have 30 members who have volunteered to man the office for us as well.

We are looking for more people to be Pension and Welfare Officers, they do not have to be Service people. If anyone is interested in being a Welfare or Pension Officer they contact me as well. We do also need pro bono Barristers for when we go to court during Appeal processes – if there is anyone who could help us there we’d appreciate them getting in contact. 

During your short speech of thanks you mentioned the Australia My Country competition, which is sponsored by the Northern Beaches District Council of RSL Sub-branches – will this continue?

Yes. I’m extremely happy to be able to visit schools and engage with the younger members of our community. I think it’s very important that the RSL Sub Branch is seen as part of our community and remains as such in its contributions. 

Avalon, for example, just paid five thousand dollars for buses to send the children from the Avalon Public school to the Kokoda Track at Concord because they’d never been there, didn’t know it exists – and this is a good outing for the kids and it’s great that we can do those sorts of things for them.

Avalon Beach Sub Branch's Commemorative Services throughout the year are attracting more and more people. Remembrance Day on the 11th of November – is that Commemorative Service open to the public as well?

Yes. Every Service the Avalon Sub Branch holds is open to the public and they are welcome to attend. 

 Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary's Eileen Gordon with Mayor of Pittwater, Cr. Jacqueline Townsend

 Peter Mayman – Avalon Beach Preservation Society, Robyn Mayman, Richard Cole - President Avalon Beach SLSC, Geoff Searl – Avalon Beach Historical Society 

 Roberta Conroy – Bayview Church Point Residents Association, Janet Forrester – Clareville & Bilgola Plateau Residents Association 

 Steve McInnes – CEO Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches, Penny Gleen – Church Point Ferry Service, Doug Menzies – President Surf Life Saving Sydney Northern Beaches

 Denise and Alan Taylor  – Northern Beaches Prostrate Cancer Support Group, Hon. Rob Stokes - MP for Pittwater, Mary and Ron Jones – Northern Beaches Prostrate Cancer Support Group

 Insp. Craig Wonders – Crime Manager Northern Beaches LAC, Sergeant B Ellis, Mayor of Warringah Michael Regan, Deputy Captain Warren Cree – Warringah & Pittwater Rural Fire Service

 Steve Euers – General Manager Royal Motor Yacht Club Broken, Bryce Ross-Jones – Palm Beach & Whale Beach Association

 Colleen Russell – President Native Bird Liberation Alliance,  David Palmer – Pittwater Natural Heritage Association, Marita Macrae - Pittwater Natural Heritage Association

Andrew Johnston - Office of Hon. Rob Stokes MP,  Cr. Kylie Ferguson - Pittwater Council, Jo-Anne Steeves - Friends of Northern Beaches Palliative Care, Cr. Sue Young - Pittwater Council, Gail Carew  and Eileen Gordon - Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary

Former Mayor Pittwater Harvey Rose with wife Wilga Rose 

 Margaret Randall - Computer Pals for Seniors Northern Beaches, Helen McHugh – Computer Pals for Seniors Northern Beaches

 Gillian Langley – Northern Beaches Community Connect, Toby Williams – Office of the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop MP, Parry Skene - Office of the Hon. Bronwyn Bishop MP

 Peter Addison – Terrey Hills Progress Association, Lloyd Pearce - Terrey Hills Progress Association

 Betty Mair – Narrabeen Lakes Ladies Probus Club, Valerie Vickers - Narrabeen Lakes Ladies Probus Club

 Michael O’Flynn – Volunteer Photography, Peter Middleton – Newport Residents Association, Tony Tenney - Clareville & Bilgola Plateau Residents Association, John Waring - Northern Beaches Rotary Club

 Brita Benjamin – Pittwater Community Garden, Cr. Alex McTaggart – Pittwater Council, James DeVitt – Radio Northern Beaches, Jessica DeVitt - Radio Northern Beaches

 Leonie Gallard – Mona Vale Public School, Shirlee-Ann – Deputy Principal Mona Vale Public School, Keryn Langridge – P&C Association Barrenjoey High School

 John Scifleet – Vice President Forrestville RSL Sub Branch, Tamara Sloper Harding Chairperson Pittwater Friends of Soibada, Ben Webb – Veterans Centre Sydney Northern Beaches, Graham Sloper – President Avalon Beach RSL Sub Branch

 Sylvia Cummings – Elanora Heights Community Preschool  with Nan Bosler OAM - President Australian Seniors Computer Clubs Association (ASCCA)

 Shahram Noorgostar – Australian Baha’I Community with Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary's Eileen Gordon

 Sue Benson – Zonta Club of Northern Beaches Inc., Evelyn Whittaker - Zonta Club of Northern Beaches Inc.

 Phil Ingram – Anglers Action Group Pittwater, Bryce Ross-Jones – Palm Beach & Whale Beach Association, Andrew Tiede - Anglers Action Group Pittwater

 Eileen Long – Mona Vale Hospital Kiosk Committee, Lyn Smith – Mona Vale Hospital Auxiliary 

The Sloper and Sloper Harding Family (most of them) with Hon. Rob Stokes - MP for Pittwater 

Photos by A J Guesdon, 2015