10.4 C
Byron Shire
June 24, 2024

An alternative for returned sailors in Ballina

Latest News

Ballina MP mostly welcomes state budget announcements

Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith has welcomed some of Labor’s funding announcements in last week’s state budget, including a new Fire and Rescue station for Byron Bay and more firies.

Other News

Occupiers of North Lismore buybacks report no eviction past deadline

Supporters of people occupying otherwise empty bought-back houses in North Lismore say Monday passed peacefully without any eviction attempts.

Why have NSW Labor failed to hold their promised drug summit?

On budget eve the banner ‘Premier, you promised. Drug Summit Now’ was dropped across from NSW Parliament calling on NSW Labor to set a date for the long awaited NSW Drug Summit.

Koalas? Act now

The Forestry Corporation’s Planning Portal shows that forest compartments are on the chopping block before the Great Koala National...

Iron Gates L&EC appeal hearing comes to an end:  decision reserved – Part I

The long-standing, controversial Iron Gates case came to an end in the Land & Environment Court (L&EC) last Friday after a two-week Hearing commencing at Evans Head on 3 June and finishing in the Court in Sydney on 14 June. 

Emergency tower works stopped

Installation of an emergency services mobile tower on a popular visitor look-out in Wilsons Creek is on hold, after a local NSW MP raised concerns that the area had been misidentified as regrowth.

Contradicted council

Local government elections are scheduled for 14 September 2024 and ‘Team Cadwallader’ of Ballina Shire Council have scored an...

Allan Watt, President of the Northern Rivers Naval & Mariners Association. Photo David Lowe.

Ballina’s Allan Watt is looking for new members to join the Northern Rivers Naval & Mariners Association, a social group with an emphasis on getting together rather than protocols and pokies.

Mr Watt told The Echo that the old Naval Association had close to 100 members in Ballina but folded six months ago, so he and a group of mates decided to get together and form a local branch of the Northern Rivers Naval and Mariners Association (there are also associations at Maclean and Nambucca Heads).

Speaking as the new president, Mr Watt said the group was designed to be attractive to younger blokes and their families as an alternative to older vererans’ organisations. Ex-mariners have already come from as far away as Iluka, Kyogle and Tweed Heads.

‘The idea is to try and include families too. We meet every Friday afternoon down at the Ballina Anglers Club for a couple of drinks. Blokes can bring their wives along and kids or grandkids.’

How does it help?

Mr Watt says there are lots of younger returned sailors around the region who don’t really feel like they have a place to go. ‘And we hear all the time about the younger blokes committing suicide, the Afghanistan fellas.’

He said that people want to get together, but the old-fashioned groups aren’t working for them. ‘We want to convince them that it’s not the old-style thing, we want to just be a social group, and help as much as we can.

‘We’ve got a retired Navy doctor who can help members with any claims through Veterans Affairs and the like. He’s volunteered to do that. We’ve also got a qualified advocate, who will take them through all the steps that they need to go through, if they want compensation, or they need anything from the department.’

Allan Watt with his fifteen year old self in uniform. Photo David Lowe.

Beyond practical assistance, Mr Watt said ‘the idea is to get everyone back together and realize that we’re a brotherhood.

‘Some of the blokes that we’ve got down there have never been in any association before, and they’re having the time of their lives!’

Mr Watt said the Naval & Mariners Association aims to help those suffering with PTSD from past conflicts and also raise money for young people in need, such as the local naval cadets, who are ‘really struggling’.

A life at sea

Allan Watt was raised ‘out in the bush’ in Tabulam. ‘The biggest ship I’d ever seen in my life was a 30 foot trawler,’ he remembers. ‘So I joined the Navy at the ripe old age of fifteen, did a year’s training and then promptly got drafted on to an aircraft carrier, which was something new. My eyes nearly fell out of my head when I first saw it!’

At 17, young Allan went to Vietnam, ‘and got my first experience of seeing what wars were about. After nine and a half years, I got out of the Navy on compassionate grounds. But I’ve always had it in my heart.’

Since then he’s made an effort to keep in touch with the blokes he served with, but ‘a quarter or more are dead already’. in 2024 all the fifteen year old boys he joined up with will be 75.

One of Allan Watt’s former ships HMAS Sydney, en-route to Vietnam with fuelling ship and escort in 1965.

Now there are many younger veterans from the wars since Vietnam, including in the Gulf.

RSLs a thing of the past?

‘I think what the problem is, from what I can see, the younger blokes don’t trust the RSL,’ said Mr Watt.

‘They think it’s a thing of the past. And so our idea is that we’re no different than anyone else, you know, whether we’re younger or older blokes, we just want to try and help one another.

‘The most important thing is that there’s no protocols with us. We have our meetings as casual as we can.

‘I think the biggest problem with the younger blokes, they think the RSL clubs are run by veterans. They’re not, they’ve been sold out,’ said Mr Watt.

‘Myself, I think they should be made to change their names, they’ve got nothing to do with veterans. They’ve got the officers down there, and they might help out a little bit with the sub-branch, the actual veterans. But most people think that the clubs are run by veterans, and they’re not. They’re just a money making machine.’

Allan Watt, President of the Northern Rivers Naval & Mariners Association. Photo David Lowe.

Mr Watt is keen to attract more younger veterans, and also women who have served. Merchant seaman are also most welcome.

‘We’ve got one bloke who was a just an ordinary stoker in the Navy. But when he got out of the Navy, he became captain of a merchant ship. He donates quite a bit of stuff to us.’

Mr Watt is also a keen volunteer at the Ballina Naval & Maritime Museum, and he’s hoping the new association can help the museum as well.

Anyone who would like to know more about the Northern Rivers Naval & Mariners Association is invited to contact President Allan Watt directly on 0402 749 582 or email [email protected].


Support The Echo

Keeping the community together and the community voice loud and clear is what The Echo is about. More than ever we need your help to keep this voice alive and thriving in the community.

Like all businesses we are struggling to keep food on the table of all our local and hard working journalists, artists, sales, delivery and drudges who keep the news coming out to you both in the newspaper and online. If you can spare a few dollars a week – or maybe more – we would appreciate all the support you are able to give to keep the voice of independent, local journalism alive.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Whilst I live 260km from Ballina I do have a strong connection to the area and I am ex-Navy, ’69-76. One of the few who did a up-top deployment in HMAS Stalwart, aka Dockyard Building 215. ps. what I am also trying to get off the ground is providing Internet tuition to children of current serving military members. Half of my SCU degree was gained living in a caravan at Lakeside Park, short walk over to Nth wall for a surf. I shall be in touch.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Daniel Mookhey walks the line with NSW budget

NSW Treasurer Daniel Mookhey's second budget in nine months, unveiled last week, was a classic Labor document in its support for education and health, somewhat brave in its slugging of property investors, and disingenuous in its blaming of the GST carve-up for the financial woes of NSW going forward.

Drones not detonation

The extraordinary popularity of the Vivid light shows in Sydney has exploded this year, but quietly, thanks to the ‘Love is in the Air’...

Cars and other items stolen from Brunswick Heads

Local police are warning residents in the Byron Shire to be diligent in maintaining their home security after personal items and vehicles were stolen from Brunswick Heads yesterday.

Yes, peace is the solution

Both Duncan Shipley-Smith and John Scrivener yet again display the same responses that I talk about over, and over and over again. They do...