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Local RSL turns to GoFundMe to maintain veteran graves

Regional News

The Port Lincoln RSL is having to ask for public support after federal funding that helped volunteers maintain their local cemetery for veterans was withdrawn in June.

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Owned by the Port Lincoln RSL and overseen by volunteers, the Garden of Remembrance is the final resting place of more than 550 veterans and their spouses.

The cemetery has traditionally been maintained with the support of donations and annual Federal Government grants of $25,000 to maintain war graves.

Port Lincoln RSL president Gary Clough said that the loss of funding has been hard for the RSL to absorb.

“To lose $25,000 a year, just on maintenance and everything else, let alone any more development, that’s a fair hit in the back pocket for a small RSL,” he said.

“We are one of only four cemeteries [in Australia] purely owned and maintained by the RSL – everything else is under local councils.”

The GoFundMe campaign was suggested and launched by RSL secretary Allison Southon on Monday and has so far achieved more than half of its $5000 target.

The funding will go towards cemetery maintenance, which includes replacing the automatic watering system to ease volunteer workload.

Clough said that there are around five volunteers dedicated to the maintenance of the cemetery.

“Most of them are in their late 70s and above,” he said.

“They have to go to the shed, drag the sprinklers out, drag the hoses, get down on their knees, stay there for however long it takes to water and then move the sprinklers again.

“It’s pretty involved for them.”

Clough said that finding volunteers with the time and wherewithal to get out and help is becoming more difficult also.

“With the economic crisis at the moment a lot of people are feeling the pinch,” he said.

“They’re doing what they can around the home and for jobs, and they don’t have the dollars to spare or ways to take time off or get the fuel to get out here.”

The RSL is looking into other government grants and avenues for funding the upkeep of the cemetery, however Clough said that the process is slow.

“With only a small number of volunteers, trying to find the time to actually go through and check all the other grants and funding avenues that are available is very time consuming,” he said.

“I’ve been in touch with the Department of Veterans Affairs, and with Veterans SA as well, and no information has come back as yet.

“Once a grant is applied for, a lot of them take forever to be closed off and approved, and you can’t live off the hope of funding.

“You still have to pay the bills and maintain things as best you can.”

Clough said that the RSL is appreciative of the public support that has come through since the launch of the GoFundMe campaign.

“The community will is out there, which is gratifying,” he said.

“We certainly appreciate the attention and the good will that has been shown to us by the local and indeed the state community, and some of the local businesses.”

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