April 2 - 8, 2017: Issue 307

Pittwater RSL Dedication of New Cenotaph

On Friday March 31st the Pittwater RSL dedicated their new Cenotpah. 

Deborah Carter, President of the Pittwater RSL Sub-Branch, welcomed The Hon. Rob Stokes, NSW Minister for Education and Member for Pittwater, Kylie Ferguson, representing the Council, The Reverend Jason Ramsay (Newport), Father George Kolodziej (Pittwater - Diocese of Broken Bay) Jason Manning, CEO Pittwater RSL Club, Aldo Sirotic, President, Pittwater RSL Club, Pittwater RSL Sub-Branch Members, Pittwater RSL Club Board of Directors and guests. 

Jason Falinski, Member for Mackellar, had sent his apologies, having been detained in Canberra.

Extracts from President Carter’s Address:
We are here today to dedicate our relocated Cenotaph and this is a combined effort between the Pittwater RSL Club Limited and the Pittwater RSL Sub-Branch.

This wonderful Cenotaph was put in place three years ago. We always had our official ceremonies at the top Cenotaph but this was rapidly growing too small for those who would gather to honour those who had served. This original place of dedication will be turned into a Garden of Remembrance as this site is still very important to us.

This new Cenotaph will be far more suitable for the growing number of people who attend our Services, such as the ANZAC Day Dawn Service and Remembrance Day Commemorative Services.

Today we gather to dedicate this new Cenotaph formally in the correct manner.

Before we begin the prayers and Dedication Ceremony I would like to share a small insight into the History of the Pittwater RSL.

Records from ANZAC House show that on the 6th of December 1934 an Executive Committee for Pittwater Sub-Branch and authorizing a charter in the name of Pittwater Sub-Branch. The early records of the sub-Branch show that meetings were held in a building situated in Mona Vale Village park. This building was situated in front of the tennis courts and in front of the bandstand, approximately where the Mona Vale Memorial Hall, the community hall, now stands. The building was of weatherboard construction with a kitchen attached and was also part of the old Newport Surf Club which had been relocated to the site in the late 1920’s. These premises were also used as change rooms by the cricketers and football players.

It has been confirmed that members who had returned from the Middle East, in approximately 1942, stayed in the club premises prior to being sent to serve in New Guinea. It also known that meetings were held in the Bayview Golf Club during the 1950’s, including 1951. 

Bayview Gold Club proposed that the Sub-Branch lease a portion of their land with a view to building a clubhouse there. However, this proposal never came to fruition. Records indicate there was a problem with fundraising.

In 1958, following repeated requests for assistance to the then Warringah Shire Council, a site was dedicated and a piece of land on Huxley Street, Lots 25 and 26, was given to the RSL Sub-Branch. The Sub-Branch purchased an old army hut from the Dame Eadith Walker Association and this was our first clubhouse. 

Decorated with army boots filled with geraniums, this early clubhouse played host to a number of social dances and ANZC commemorations. There was a dance floor, a small kitchen, a single poker machine and a billiards table which had been donated by a member. 

In 1960 the land was reclaimed and redeveloped by the council as it was thought to be suitable for recreation – the site that is now where Winnermerrery Bay is. council purchased the land back from the Sub-Branch for £2, 000.00 and this was the beginning of our kitty.

Our then-president, Bill MacKenzie, negotiated the purchase of a block of land on Mona Vale Road. It was a controversial decision being further out of the centre of Mona Vale, but the purchase went ahead with the help of a generous loan from Harbord Diggers Club who loaned us £13, 000.00. The land was purchased for £15, 000.00 and cleared by volunteers. We then began to raise the funds for the building of a clubhouse.

Thanks to a clever deal with Miller's Brewery, further funds were raised through the sale of debentures, fundraising events through the Women’s Auxiliary and including a couple of Sub-Branch Members actually mortgaging their homes, the club was finally built.

Memberships grew quickly and extensions to the club were frequent - by 1968 we had a new auditorium, dining room and gaming area and repaid the loan to Harbord Diggers Club.

Following a meeting on the 16th of August 1972 it was decided that the Sub-Branch hand over the club to Pittwater RSL Limited. The records state the club was transferred on the 23rd of October 1972.

Over the last 40 years we've welcomed people from all corners of our community and our premises have continued to expand along with our membership. We now have extensive sports, dining and recreational facilities, a wide range of sub-clubs, and an exciting calendar full of entertainment and events. In December 2016 we completed a massive refurbishment of the club, resulting in the beautiful and contemporary interiors you see today.
I would now like to call upon the Honourable Rob Stokes to give the Dedication Address.

Hon. Rob Stokes – MP for Pittwater:
Thank you Madam President.
Distinguished Guests, Returned Servicemen and Women, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great honour for me to speak on behalf of myself and Jason Falinski and to be here at the Dedication of this crucial centerpiece of our community. As Deborah has indicated in her history of the Sub-Branch, the wisdom of our forbearers was inherent in ensuring a space and a place that is centrally located in our community in which we can now dedicate a cenotaph. 

Now what is a Cenotpah and why is it important?
The word itself derives from the Greek:  kenos, meaning "empty", and taphos, "tomb". The word literally means ‘empty tomb’. In those two words put together is the power and the symbolism of a Cenotaph. 
It is empty; it is a place of loss – it is a tomb; it is a place of sacrifice.
It is a place of grief.
It is a place of Remembrance.
But also, by putting those two rather sombre words together, there is actually enormous power in the concept of the empty tomb. 

In remembering that Anzac Day each year, in the Christian tradition, falls around the same time as Easter, the importance and symbolism of the empty tomb is also one of loss, also one of sacrifice, but putting those two words together points to the building of and renewal of the community – it points to new life, to new hope, and in doing so is a connection between past communities, between people who have passed, and the generation that is here and that yet to come. 

That is why this is a powerful symbol of the legacy that has been bought for all of us at a very great price by those who have served in the name of Australia over the past decades in past conflicts and those who continue to serve today.

Yes, a Cenotaph is a place of emptiness and of loss. Yes, a Cenotaph is a tomb and a place of remembrance of loss and remembering sacrifice. But as a wholistic concept a cenotaph is a place of hope – it is a place that points to a community with a great future that has been built upon the sacrifice of many brave men, Australians all, who have served us with great dignity and strength of purpose and whom we, as a community, choose to remember, in their sacrifice and the legacy we are so privileged and proud to have today.

I say this with particular recognition to those Returned Servicemen and Women who are among us today. We thank you so much for your sacrifices on our behalf.

It is our duty to remember those sacrifices, to remember the great cost that the freedoms we enjoy today levied upon you. We choose to recognise with the dedication of this Cenotaph, here in the heart of Pittwater, that that empty tomb is a place of sacrifice, a place of loss, a place of Remembrance – but also a place of hope.


The unveiling of the plaque following the Dedication Address followed. 

The Reverend Jason Ramsay and Father George Kolodziej read the prayers for the Commemoration of the Fallen.
President Deborah Carter read the Ode of Remembrance prior to the Last Post and Rouse.

The Reverend Jason Ramsay and Father George Kolodziej read the Final Blessing together:
"To the honour and glory of God the Father, in whom is our humble hope of a joyful resurrection and reunion; in the Name of God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; and in memory of those departed this life in His faith and fear; we dedicate and set apart this Memorial.
God grant that all who look upon this Cenotaph may enter the peace of sins forgiven, the joy of faithful service and the power of endless life, to which He may vouchsafe to bring us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."

Sub-Branch Veterans then marched off the Cenotaph grounds prior to those present being invited to share afternoon tea with the Members.

The Dedication Ceremony was a moving tribute to those present and those who have served, installing a marker of respect and love from a community at what has become a Pittwater landmark, not based solely on the clubhouse size in our landscape but on its dedication plaques and their place in our hearts.

The ANZAC Day Commemoration Service at Pittwater RSL will commence with the 5.45am memorial service. 

Pittwater RSL Sub-Branch traditionally have their March to Mona Vale Cenotaph in the Village Park for the Commemoration Service on the Sunday prior to ANZAC Day. This year that will take place on Sunday April 23rd: Muster at Vineyard Street 12.30 p.m. 1.00 p.m. March to Mona Vale Cenotaph.

The Hon. Rob Stokes, who has recently returned from his annual leave, also took the opportunity to personally present Deborah Carter with her Pittwater Woman of the Year Award, recently awarded in recognition of Deborah's outstanding and long serving support of Veterans in our community.

Below run some images from the Dedication Ceremony.

Report by A J Guesdon, 2017