Creswick RSL will celebrate its centenary this Sunday.
A conference of returned soldiers and associations formed the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia in June 1916, post World War One, in an effort to continue the camaraderie and mateship displayed during war time. The Creswick RSL branch was opened in 1919.
"There was a bunch of WWI diggers [who had] not long returned from the war. The war ended in November 1918, so they all got together and said they wanted to have their own branch of RSL here [in Creswick] because Ballarat was too far," Creswick RSL President Alan Morris said.
He said the RSL was formed as a means to provide companionship for all the returned servicemen.
"The main reason the RSL started was because there were blokes who had been through a lot and [the RSL meant] they could get together and talk about it," he said. "The general civilian population didn’t really understand what happened to them."
He said more recently returned war veterans, such as from Iraq and Afghanistan, were not readily joining the RSL. Many branches are struggling to stay afloat.
Branch member Paul McGuinness said the fraud associated with some clubs closing down needed to be wiped out if RSL branches were to remain viable for another 100 years.
"One of the reasons the RSL was originally created was to provide a voice for ex service personnel returning from the war. We also need to become more engaged with more modern organisations like Soldier On and Young Veterans," he said.
Vice President Ken McMillan said Creswick RSL worked hard to engage the community.
"We are a small, professional RSL which doesn’t have poker machines. We don’t have a bar. We depend on the generosity of our community and members," he said. "As such we endeavour to give back on ANZAC and Remembrance Day. Without community support we wouldn’t be here."
Mr McMillan began purchasing books for local primary schools and laying them down at services instead of wreaths. By doing so, he hopes to pass down the history of wars to the younger generations.
"Each school gets two books - one for older readers and one for the junior readers. We are continuing to do it and will now start focusing on the aftermath of the war, maybe going into the depression so they have an understanding of that and of the nurses [who went to war] too," he said.
RSL centenaries will occur across the nation this year.
Celebrations will commence from 2pm, with state MP Louise Staley and federal MP Catherine King to attend.