AFTER 21 years in office as President of the Sebastopol RSL, Doug Higgins quietly handed over the reins to Bryan Nicholls on February 4th.
Mr Higgins felt it was time to step back but not too far, he has taken up the role of treasurer. He has had more than 30 years service in the RSL, a stellar career in the Royal Australian Navy and was recognised for his service to the veteran community with the award of the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2009.
Some of his career highlights include leading the march through the streets of Sydney on 25th April 1965 as a member of the Colour Guard.
“Afterwards I got talking to Gough Whitlam, he was Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I had a gripe about pensions for service people,” he said. “The following day was a public holiday in Sydney and I spent a lot of time at his house in Cabramatta discussing the inadequacies of the DFRB Scheme.” When Whitlam came to power in 1972 changes were made to the Scheme and while Doug does not take credit for the change he likes to think he played a part in it. In 1977, with more than 20 years service, Doug was discharged from the R.A.N. with the rank of Warrant officer and he began civilian work.
In the same year he was appointed Secretary of the Sebastopol Fire Brigade and spent a total of 12 years there (8 as secretary). There was also a role as Vice President of the Sebastopol Foot ball Club from 1992-1995.
As well as the OAM Doug has received a number of accolades including a Life Membership to the RSL of Australia in 2002; aw3arded Centenary Medal for service to returned ‘Diggers’ and community service in 2003; and in 2007 was presented with a Life Membership of the RSL with Gold Badge. The Sebastopol RSL was formed in 1946 after purchasing land at the corner of Birdwood Avenue and Beverin Streets. The RSL Memorial Hall was built, in stages, entirely by the returned ‘Diggers’ and voluntary labour. The Women’s Auxiliary was affiliated in the same year. “They have been a backbone of our sub-branch,” Mr Higgins added. “We have always been very active. One of our big things is we hold two dinners a year here – a Smoke Night and a Christmas Dinner, and in 1971 we believe we were the first to allow the ‘fairer sex’ to our Smoke Nights and the credit for that goes to our president at the time, Frank Wilson.” In its history the Sebastopol RSL has only had a handful of presidents, Bryan Nicholls will be the sixth in 70 years.