NINETY years of the Ararat Legacy Club supporting local veterans and their families culminated in a big celebration recently.
A birthday party was held at the Ararat RSL in which 100 attendees gathered to celebrate.
The following day 50 people attended a Remembrance Service at the cenotaph in Soldiers Memorial Park, followed by brunch and a tour of J Ward.
The club currently has 119 people in its care and incoming president Garry Hutton, who served in Vietnam, said he wants to continue to provide that support.
The club looks after widows and widowers and their dependents and although some of them are passing on, Mr Hutton sees an ongoing need for the club.
Part of that stems from continued military action but part of it also stems from changes to welfare.
"Our role is changing somewhat because we've found we had to support a family because the veteran was incapacitated, so we've take on the family, and that may continue to change," he said.
Traditionally the club only looks after the families of service people who have died.
"There are people still serving and dying overseas, and dying from related injuries (back home) but there obviously won't be as many (widows and widowers) as there were after the first and second world wars, but there will obviously be a need for Legacy," he said.
This ongoing need would continue to ensure people know about the club, though Mr Hutton said there are plenty who don't.
"I knew about Legacy myself but I wasn't aware of its role particularly before I joined," he said.
"But there are a lot of people you meet in the street when you're selling badges and they say 'Well I was a Legacy child or Dad was a Legatee'. There are a lot who don't know but there are a lot who do."
"What we want to do is go along the same way we have been going; our main aim for course is to look after our widows," he said.
Legacy, as an organization, was conceived in 1923 when 190,000 servicemen had returned to Australia from World War 1.
Being mindful of the diggers' unspoken, unbreakable code of 'Stand by your Mates', a group of senior ex-servicemen in Melbourne established the 'Friendship Club'.
The role of the organization at that time was to help ex-servicemen who were unemployed, were physically impaired, or their earning capacity was diminished because of their war service.
At a further meeting in 1925, also in Melbourne, the question was asked 'Have any of you blokes thought that the dying wish of any of our cobbers would be that we look after the missus and kids?'
And so Legacy, as it is known today, was born. It is 'Australia's Biggest Family'.
Being the 10th Club to be formed, Ararat Legacy was created through the auspice of Ballarat Legacy on the 28th September, 1929.
The inaugural meeting of 29 ex-World War 1 servicemen was held in the Ararat Town Hall. Its task was huge; the territory allocated to the club extended to the SA border, as far north as Hopetoun, and south past Hamilton.
With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, it was realized that the territory for which Ararat Legacy was responsible was too large to be adequately covered by one club.
Immediately after World War II, a legatee had to resettle, bring up a family of his own, and also the family of a deceased comrade.
Thus, in 1946, Ararat Legacy was the sponsor club for the formation of Wimmera Legacy and in 1948 set up Hamilton and District Legacy.
By 1962, Ararat Legacy was looking after 208 widows and 54 children under the age of 15 years.
In that decade, country holidays for metropolitan children were being held, and the personal care and help to the families of departed comrades continued unbroken.
Wood was being distributed throughout the local area and to the Melbourne metropolitan region. By the Year 2000, over 300 widows were being looked after by Ararat Legacy.
Ararat Legacy today has twenty eight Legatees from the areas of Ararat, Avoca, Beaufort, Stawell and Willaura looking after the welfare of approximately 130 widows.
Importantly Legacy's role, as it was in 1929 is the same today; the care, guidance and encouragement of the families of those servicemen and servicewomen, who through death because of their service, are no longer there to give those benefits.
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