The despair of veterans over the park plan

Navy veteran Max Francis thinks the redevelopment of Anzac Pool and Anzac Park leaves much to be desired by Bundaberg veterans. Photo: TAHLIA FACER

By Tahlia Facer, Bundaberg Today

The veterans’ community has been disappointed with the council’s and state government’s response to the outcry over planned redevelopment work at Anzac Park and ANZAC Pool.

The swimming pool facilities are now closed and the water has been decanted following the demolition work which began on July 7th.

Environment Minister Meaghan Scanlon said she would not issue a stoppage order as she was not satisfied on reasonable grounds that the location was likely to meet one or more of the cultural heritage criteria contained in Section 35 of the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

Eight criteria are listed in section 35 of the Act, two of which are of particular interest.

Item (g) requires the place to have a strong or special association with a particular community or cultural group for social, cultural or spiritual reasons, and item (h) requires the place to have a special association with the life or the work of a particular person, group or organization of significance in Queensland history.

A spokesperson for the Department of the Environment echoed the Minister’s message that the ANZAC Pool is unlikely to meet one or more of these criteria.

“Heritage experts within the department advised the Minister that, on reasonable grounds, he was unlikely to meet one or more of the relevant criteria in the Act regarding the significance of the State’s cultural heritage, and on this notice, the minister did not issue a stop order,” the spokesperson said. said.

“The Department has yet to make a recommendation to the Heritage Council regarding the Queensland Heritage Register application for ANZAC Park Memorial Pool, Bundaberg.

“The department is carrying out a full assessment of the nomination and public submissions received, and will make a recommendation to the Queensland Heritage Council on whether the place is of significance to Queensland’s cultural heritage.

“When it makes a heritage recommendation, notification is provided to all participants in the application process, including the owner, applicants and all who submitted submissions.”

Former Navy marine engineer Max Francis said Bundaberg veterans felt the decision left much to be desired, given that the memorial baths, which opened on August 25, 1923, were built by servicemen from back for rehabilitation exercises.

Although he was aware that the board had held meetings to post the new plans, the methods for providing feedback were limited.

“Returning World War I veterans built the memorial baths and used them for rehabilitation and employment,” Francis said.

“Until the pool closed on the last day, veterans of the Department of Veterans Affairs and local sports exercise physiologists were using the pool for rehabilitation (for) physical and mental injuries.”

Mr Francis noted that a special device for lowering disabled people or limbs lost in the water was still installed in the now empty pool.

He said the design concept from the initial plans around 10 years ago had completely changed and older veterans still believed the council was redeveloping the site to those old impressions which resembled Brisbane’s eternal flame.

“We’re all a little miffed,” Mr. Francis said.

“There were a lot of details in [the new concepts of the water park]but there were very few details in what was to be a memorial to the Anzacs and the conflicts we have fought since.

Mr Francis reiterated that he was not against the water park, but thought it would be better suited elsewhere, somewhere that had not been specifically set aside for the remembrance of the local Anzacs.

“To see the development in our city is fantastic, but it’s happening in the wrong place,” Mr Francis said.

“A zero depth water park and adventure play area would be welcome in our town like the skate park upgrade, however I believe what (the council) is trying to do with ANZAC Pool and Anzac Park removes the importance of the original justification of this land for this location.

“In 1946, the site of Anzac Park was donated by the Australian Government to the people of Bundaberg for the purpose of memorial and commemoration.

“As veterans, the sacrifices and obligations we have made to our country, we want to ensure that these traditions of camaraderie and camaraderie continue. The Anzac is a living history, it is not something that passes away. Stories need to be nurtured.

Becoming heritage listed would not mean that the ANZAC Pool could not be redeveloped, but that BRC’s redevelopment of the pool would have to follow eight criteria and a rigorous process under the Queensland Heritage Act 1992.

A final decision on heritage claims can take up to a year, but the current situation could speed up the timeframe.

Mr Francis said the history of the ANZAC Pool as a rehabilitation venue for veterans currently closed was a worrying factor in managing people’s transition back to service from their conflict work to reintegration and participation in everyday society.

It comes as the Royal Commission’s interim report on veterans’ defense and suicide was released last week.

General practitioner and veteran Dr Kieran McCarthy, who specializes in the treatment of veterans, said many issues related to veteran suicides occurred during the transition period.

“It’s literally stepping out of a world that’s completely different from normal civilian life…you leave the military but the military never leaves you, and that’s a big part of the struggles,” said Dr. McCarthy in the report.

The report details that many veterans have found the process of leaving the Defense Forces and re-entering civilian society to be a significant and challenging life event, as the cascade of changes that occur during the transition can increase the risk of suicide.

The interim report says just over a quarter of transitioning veterans have been medically released, which has increased in recent years – from less than 10% in 2007 to 19.2% in 2019 -2020 and 27.2% in 2020-2021.

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