DIRE STRAITS: Chinchilla RSL president Peter Bellgrove is afraid the community will lose the club.
DIRE STRAITS: Chinchilla RSL president Peter Bellgrove is afraid the community will lose the club. Madison Watt

Use the club or lose it

PRESIDENT of Chinchilla RSL Peter Belgrove appeals to the Chinchilla community for support as the club embarks on exciting changes. We sit down with Peter for a chat about the role of community clubs in the modern era and what the future holds for Chinchilla RSL.

Q. Peter, you have a long history of involvement in community clubs such as the Chinchilla RSL. What drives you to keep supporting them?

A. I firmly believe that our community clubs are a vital part of our communities. They are a way of drawing our communities together and of supporting worthy causes. Too many of these clubs have closed in nearby towns recently and every time I drive past one of these closed clubs it motivates me to ensure the Chinchilla RSL remains open for our community.

It pains me to drive past what was the Dalby RSL, where my dad managed for 30 years, and to see what my home town has lost through its closing and especially when the town was not aware the club was in financial trouble.

I would like to let the community of Chinchilla know that unless we get the support of the members, the club will close. Other local towns to have watched their RSL clubs close are Gatton, Miles and Goondiwindi.

Q. Chinchilla RSL has had a tough few years recently. What steps have you taken to ensure the future of the club?

A. Every local business has felt the effects of the boom and bust here in Chinchilla and we are no different. Added to this are new trends and changes in the expectations of people in Chinchilla. Our committee, with the help of our staff, have worked hard to ensure the survival of the club and to set it up for the future.

We have taken a few important steps recently, including appointing new managers to oversee important changes. They have reinvigorated our food offering and are ensuring our menu and our service provide a great experience for everyone who visits us. They are helping us to streamline our costs and ensure we are rewarding our loyal members in the right ways. We have instructed them to support our local businesses by purchasing locally as much as possible, which they are keen to do.

At the start of June they appointed a new head chef, Mark Minczanowski. The feedback we are receiving gives us great confidence we can put Chinchilla RSL back on the map as a destination for excellent food.

Lastly, we have worked very closely with our bank here in Chinchilla, Westpac. Through open and honest discussions, we have worked out manageable financial plans. To their credit, they have been very supportive.

Q. How confident are you that you can keep the club open?

A. I get great confidence from the determination of our hard-working committee members. True community spirit is seen in how hard these volunteers work to support our club. I have been encouraged to see new volunteers step up and put their fresh ideas forward. Combining this with the expertise of our new managers and the hard work and care of our passionate local staff, I am confident we have the right formula.

What we need, however, is the support of everyone in Chinchilla to check out the changes we are making around the club. The club exists to support our community and we in turn need the support of everyone in Chinchilla to ensure the club's survival.

Anzac Day was another strong motivation, as an important reminder of our club's true purpose. To see the club working with the sub-branch in putting on a successful day of commemoration was a humbling and rewarding experience. It reminds us all how important it is to save our club.

The bottom line is that the club will survive only with the support of everyone in Chinchilla. Whether that is through enjoying a meal here, booking a seminar or a family gathering, or just calling in to catch up with friends for lunch or a drink. If we as a community don't rally around our RSL club, we will lose it just like the towns I mentioned earlier.

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