Over its long history, the Darwin RSL Club has witnessed many events that have not just shaped Darwin, but also Australia.
The Darwin RSL club was founded in 1917 by WW1 soldiers and sailors returning to Darwin.
In the Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 23 July 1917 there was a call to action for a meeting of returned servicemen to meet at the Club Hotel.
Soon after the Darwin RSL was founded with the purpose of being a community club serving Australian Defence Force personnel and their families local to Darwin.
To raise money, they held a dinner dance at the old town hall on 13 September 1917 to raise funds for the emergent organisation. which was packed to capacity. On that night they raised 40 pounds 10 shillings towards building a venue.
In October 1922, the Soldier’s Memorial Hall was completed by local builder Harold Snell and opened in Darwin in a timber and galvanised iron building located at….Knuckey St? (in what became Paspalis Centrepoint building at the end of the Smith St Mall?)
It quickly became a focal point for the Darwin community. A place for gatherings of all kinds, a place to meet friends and a place to reflect quietly about people who went to war but didn’t come home. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s the Darwin RSL grew in reach and membership to support the new wave of WW2 veterans. It became the place where dignitaries were greeted and entertained.
The Soldiers Memorial Hall served members well for half a century weathering the 1937 cyclone and Japanese bombings of 1942. A decision was made in 1970 to relocate from the aging venue to a new location on nearby Cavenagh Street into a temporary shed while a new RSL building was built and opened in 1972.
Only two years after the new building was opened, it was severely damaged by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day 1974. It was quickly repaired and open again by New Years Day.
In September 2017, Darwin RSL celebrated its 100-year commemorations. Major renovations were carried out the following year but unfortunately, a fire that swept through the Cavenagh Street premises on 23 June 2018 leaving the Darwin RSL without a club venue for the first time in more than a century. At the time of the fire, the Darwin RSL Social Club had more than 2500 members.
Design plans for a new iconic venue to be developed at a site adjacent to where gun emplacements defended the first major military attack on Australia’s soverienty, beside the Darwin Cenotaph and the opportunity to transform what is currently a public car park were unveiled this year.
The proposed iconic venue has been designed to befit the significant role Darwin continues to have in our nation’s military history and future.
Defence of Darwin House will be a beacon of leisure, history and tourism for visitors, veterans, service personnel and the wider community.
Moving forward, we hope to continue to provide services for past, present and future Australian Defence Force Personnel, as well as the greater Darwin community as we continue to evolve with a contemporary venue while fostering our unique Top End identity and strong community values.