Photography: Jay Town
Like father, like daughter.
Barry Meldrum and his daughter Amy are both dedicated to the RSL and what’s at its core – veteran welfare.
Amy, who works full-time in the insurance industry, has volunteered with the RSL over the last few years. Earlier this earlier, the 43-year-old cemented her contributions in a more formal manner when she was elected as the Woodend RSL’s new Appeals Officer.
Amy grew up around RSLs all her life. Her Pop used to take her to the Watsonia RSL where she loved meeting and chatting to all his mates.
While Amy doesn’t have her own service history she is motivated by her father.
“My dad struggled as a Vietnam Veteran, so I’ve watched those struggles my whole life. I’ve got a soft spot for veterans.”
With 100% of the funds raised during the Poppy Appeal going to veterans and their families, Amy is passionate about the cause.
“The money we’re able to able to raise is to help people, and that’s why the RSL exists. Being able to give that money to a veteran who might need a home renovation, or some mental health sessions or whatever it might be, it’s nice to be able to pay it forward.”
She says the money raised fills a gap for veterans who may otherwise never receive the help they need.
“The money is there to support veterans in need. Obviously, there is a lot of things that DVA don’t pay for necessarily that might put veterans at risk, either being out of pocket or not being able to access the right treatments and services. So, if we’re able to assist a veteran in any way then that goes to show how important the money is.”
Amy’s father Barry enlisted with the Army in 1969 and was discharged 20 years later. After multiple postings and deployments, Barry and his family settled in Woodend, where he was employed by several trucking operators.
Barry, who was recently presented with RSL Victoria Life Membership, joined the League in 1972. He’s been actively involved since, even serving as Woodend RSL’s President for 10 years, as well as volunteering his time in many other roles, including in welfare.
He says that without the RSL, life could’ve been very different.
“Everything could’ve been a lot worse, I guess. In the old days I used to get on the grog a bit, but I had a wife who pulled me into line and the RSL did the same.”
With the RSL’s help, Barry was awarded a TPI pension (Totally and Permanently Incapacitated) and retired in 1994.
This year, like many before, he will be out selling poppies to raise much- needed funds for veterans.
"We’ve got to look after these diggers that come back, some who are hurting mentally and physically. Someone has to be there for them."
After Amy’s first ANZAC Appeal as Appeals Officer this year, in which she oversaw a record $12,000 raised, she’s filled with fresh ideas and enthusiasm for the Poppy Appeal.
“I think there are so many ways of fundraising. I’m speaking with schools about doing some casual dress days, where the kids maybe dress in red for a donation, and I’m thinking of a barbeque to bring in some extra cash.”
She’s already dabbling in some exciting, new fund-raising initiatives for next year, with the hope of modernising the Appeal and enticing younger generations to get involved.
Her father Barry says volunteering in the local area to raise money is a critical part of it all and the “job” satisfaction is immense, too.
“I’d tell them to go ahead and do it. It’s very rewarding, it gets your self-esteem up and it’s nice to be popular in town, people nod and wave to you…It’s good to be there when they tell their stories and you in turn relate and share with them.”
The duo believes this year's Poppy Appeal could set a new bar.
“I just hope the public support the Appeal like they normally do, they’re pretty generous here!” says Barry.