'UN-AUSTRALIAN': Vet kicked out of Remembrance Day lunch
MATESHIP, getting a fair go and egalitarianism.
Those are what some might call the pillars of Australian culture, especially for those who've served.
But those ideologies were seemingly forgotten last weekend, when an ex-serviceman was banned from attending the Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch's Remembrance Day luncheon.
Former Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch treasurer Tony Kimber, 73, and his wife arrived ready for a feed at the Bundaberg Services Club on Sunday morning, shortly after paying their respects at the Remembrance Day commemoration event at Anzac Park.
However, the pair barely made it past the foyer when Mr Kimber was refused entry.
The veteran told the NewsMail a representative of the Bundaberg Services Club intercepted Mr Kimber and barred him from entering the licensed premises.
"When he asked me to leave I said 'no I'm not leaving, I am attending the luncheon and intend to go upstairs,'" Mr Kimber said.
"He then said he'd call police, I told him to 'go ahead'. So he turned and asked staff to ring them."
Mr Kimber said the confrontation was a consequence of a letter he'd received from the services club weeks ago, informing him he'd been suspended from the premises because he'd "brought the club into disrepute due to his actions in relation to an article published by the NewsMail" on October 18.
The vet stressed he'd be pushing the issue and would no doubt attend the disciplinary hearing, listed for November 24.
"All I did was share what happened those years ago," Mr Kimber said.
The NewsMail article in question revealed that local veterans were accusing the Bundaberg Services Club of receiving a bequest that was allegedly intended for the RSL Sub Branch but wrongly addressed to "Bundaberg RSL" by a former member in 2016.
A few days after Mr Kimber received his letter, he tried to attend a RSL Sub Branch general meeting at the Services Club (where the sub branch is a tenant).
There he was also stopped at the foyer, where he was reminded of his suspension.
"It threw me a bit," Mr Kimber said.
He confessed he'd tried to object, claiming he had a right to access the building through a lease agreement between the sub branch and the club.
"There's a clause which gives members access into the building for certain events," he claimed.
Bundaberg RSL Sub Branch president Helen Blackburn told the NewsMail she'd done her "absolute utmost" to try and get Mr Kimber to be allowed onto the premises for the luncheon, following the general meeting saga.
"I made some advances to try to allow the member that had been disallowed from the premises... to attend. I had a very lengthy meeting to try and appeal those members attended the luncheon," Ms Blackburn said.
"Every single RSL Sub Branch member will have the full support of the committee to attend any function they lawfully can attend. They would 100 per cent be supported.
"But the Services Club and their constitution is a matter for the Services Club, not (us)."
According to Mr Kimber, there were at least 20 people in the foyer when he and his wife turned and left. "Being the centenary of Remembrance Day, it's a big event on the sub branch calendar. But it was spoiled for us and a lot of others," he said.
"If the services club wants to suspend me, so be it, that's their loss, but it didn't need to happen on that day, in that environment. "My wife and I were embarrassed, disgusted and extremely disappointed that we couldn't finish what started out as such a nice day."
The incident struck a chord with former RSL Sub Branch board member John Thomas as well.
Describing the scene as "utterly disgusting", Mr Thomas said what transpired "drew everyone's attention to how a veteran (could be) treated there".
"It was a shocking set of circumstances. It's totally 'un-Australian'", he said.
Mr Thomas said in the 'Aussie digger culture', it was bred into you to "stand by your mates, your cobber, and protect them all the time".
"But that did not happen on Sunday. It all just goes against the Australian grain. Nothing should stop you from being there for your fellow servicemen," he said.
The Bundaberg Services Club responded to the NewsMail's inquiries, saying Mr Kimber was currently suspended from the club, pending the outcome of an investigation and disciplinary hearing before the Management Committee regarding a separate matter.
"Under the Club's Constitution and By-Laws, a member who is temporarily suspended is not permitted to enter the licensed premises," the statement read.