Australia is fortunate to have a passionate and very active range of ex-service organisations that play a leading role in preserving our nation’s history of service. The National Servicemen’s Association of Australia (NSAA) or NASHOS, as they are commonly known, is one such veteran organisation with branches across Australia. Chances are that you’ve bought a poppy or lapel pin from a former National Serviceman during Anzac Day or Remembrance Day commemorations. The NSAA represents the interests of some 278,000 men who were called up for service during Australia’s two national service schemes, between 1951 and 1972.
The Tweed Valley-Murwillumbah Sub-branch of the National Servicemen’s Association was founded in 2007 to provide way for former national servicemen and other veterans in the area to connect. Since then the NSAA has been active in the community, raising funds and awareness about Australia’s veterans and history of service along with the local RSL Sub-branch and Legacy Division.
The Nashos Sub Branch have been particularly busy engaging Tweed Shire Schools with the Bears to School initiative. According to the Project Committee spokesman, there has been a renewed interest from schools coinciding with centenary of the First World War:
“We have been getting good response from schools taking part in commemorative events during the past five years, organised in partnership with the RSL. 18 out of the 25 schools in our area have actively participated, whereas ten years ago we would only have four or five schools involved”.
It’s therefore little wonder that the NSAA saw Bears to School as the perfect way to use this renewed interest in Australian history to reach young students. By working with the community and encouraging people to donate bears to their local school, the Tweed Valley- Murwillumbah Sub-branch has notched up more than 55 donated bears. One very special bear was even donated to the Villers-Brettoneaux Primary School in France, where Australians famously saw action during WWI.
The NASHOS canvassed widely in the Tweed Shire and donations have been forthcoming from all parts of the community, including businesses, ex-service organisations, charities, churches and former pupils. One of the key benefits of the Bears to School initiative is that registered not-for-profit organisations, such as the NSAA, receive 25% of the cost of each donated bear. It’s a great way for community organisations to preserve our history and raise funds at the same time. The Tweed Valley- Murwillumbah NASHOS have used their share to purchase and donate bears specifically to local schools that did not receive donations from the public. In total, 20 primary schools in the sub-branch’s district have already received donated bears.
According to the Project Committee spokesman, the Bears to School initiative has been a resounding success in the community: “Schools are now using these great teaching aids and we are receiving encouraging feedback”.
It is hoped that even more Great War bears will become permanent fixtures in Australian classrooms so that young students can have a tangible link with our Anzac heritage – the Tweed Valley-Murwillumbah NASHOS have set a sterling example of how this can be achieved!
If you would like to donate a bear to your local primary school, visit AnzacBears.com.au.