Afghan war memorial draws critical comment

Two Wells RSL accused of ‘doing its own thing’

TWO Wells RSL is engaged in another war, albeit on a much smaller and less volatile battlefield known to its many veterans, coming under criticism from local councillors for failing to follow approval procedures.

The club has taken large steps towards completing its memorial to soldiers lost in the recent Afghanistan war, although some District Council of Mallala elected members have conveyed their opposition to some aspects of the RSL’s activity.

Two Wells RSL president, Tony Flaherty, said the club had done a mountain of work on the memorial site, improving the World War I monument and extending the site with a second memorial site for soldiers who lost their lives in the Afghanistan war.

The problem is; several aspects of both the improvements and construction of the newer portion of the site did not have either prior approval from council, nor community consultation.

This has led to criticism from some councillors, who claim they are simply carrying the comments from community members into council meetings.

The RSL’s Afghanistan memorial will be unique to South Australia, featuring 42 memorial stones for those who lost their lives in that war.

A large granite dog is also planned to go on the site to acknowledge the eight canine companions lost. The site will be completed with a backlit metal sign featuring the Rising Sun logo and the word “Afghanistan” emblazoned across the top.

While Mr Flaherty admits people and council have predominately been supportive of the project, some comments against the new memorial coming from the community through council have incensed RSL
members.

Criticism to date includes the fact none of the soldiers in the Afghanistan memorial are from Two Wells and the war was politically motivated.

“Every vet who has lost their life in war deserves to be in every war memorial in the nation,” Mr Flaherty fired back.

He said members were offended by the opposition towards putting the word Afghanistan on the sign with the Rising Sun.

“It’s just so negative and it’s breaking these guys’ hearts,” Mr Flaherty explained.

Brenton Lawrence, formerly of Lower Light and now living in Dublin, said some of the thoughts expressed were “un-Australian”.

Mr Flaherty admitted there were times the RSL had carried out work before receiving council approval, including the re-alignment of the World War I monument.

He said it was found the structure was not pinned together and presented a safety issue if unattended to.

With that in mind, he consciously opted to get the matter quickly sorted, rather than wait for council approval.

The plans for the granite dog and Afghanistan sign are also on public consultation at the moment, although both the sign and the dog have been built and are awaiting installation.

“Sadly, it is an issue that we did it, when we did it,” Mr Flaherty said. 

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