By Dongyun Kwon
Yarra Glen RSL president Stephen Shortis will step down from his position in January 2024.
Mr Shortis officially announced it to the public during the Remembrance Day service.
He has served the RSL as a president for five years after taking a treasurer position for a few years.
The president said he decided to step down because he has moved to Montrose.
“I moved to Montrose in June but the AGM doesn’t come up until January next year. So I will keep a position till the AGM,” he said.
His journey for the welfare of veterans and soldiers started after he got back from the Vietnam War.
Mr Shortis said he wanted to help soldiers and veterans who suffered from PTSD.
“When we came back from Vietnam, we were very unpopular. Everybody was anti-war [stance] by the end of the war. We were shunned by everybody,” he said.
“Our generation was probably the first time we got an understanding of what PTSD really was, so we decided to set up the welfare organisation.
“It was just another opportunity to help the community.”
Mr Shortis has a military family background and could deeply relate to those people who suffered from the aftereffects of the wars they participated in.
His father served in the Australian Army being dispatched to several conflicts including in the Middle East and Papua New Guinea and retired as a warrant officer which was the highest rank he could reach as a non-commissioned officer.
“Before my father, my grandfather was gassed in World War I in France and he suffered severely from that when he came back,” Mr Shortis said.
“My uncle Ned on my father’s side was my first knowledge of PTSD, the impact that has on soldiers. He came back from the war and never settled down at all. After a few years, he was found drowned in a dam up the Riverina.”
One of the accomplishments he has done as a president of Yarra Glen RSL is to move the cenotaph to a safer place.
It had been located between the Yarra Glen Memorial Hall and the Melba Highway and has now been moved to the current location at Anzac Avenue facing Mackenzie Reserve to better accommodate larger crowds during Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services.
Mr Shortis said it was a traffic hazard when the crowd started to swell during the services and people were spilling out onto the roadway, which became a dangerous situation.
Another thing Mr Shortis has been working on is to display a scale model of the Huey helicopter.
“We’ve got the helicopter bill and the council’s approval, but we didn’t get it underway. Hopefully next year I’ll be able to come back and take part in the ceremony,” Mr Shortis said.
After many years of devotion to improving the lives of veterans and soldiers, Mr Shortis has received acknowledgment from other RSL members.
Yarra Glen RSL secretary and treasurer Edward Bartosh said the president has done a really good job and it would be difficult to replace him.
“We will have to replace him so that we can continue doing a remembrance service. It’s really important that we stay active and keep in the minds of the community to pass on to the next generation,” he said.
Mr Shortis said he was happy to turn to another stage of his life.
“We have always been very humbled by the support we get from the locals and my job was made a lot easier by an extremely talented secretary,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed what I’ve done here and I’ve done what I could,” he said.
“It’s somebody else’s turn to start moving on.”