About Us

Peter Hayton


Peter Hayton served in the Royal Australian Air Force for 25 years. During his service he worked at a variety of operational Squadrons – 5 Squadron AS-350B Squirrel and UH-1H Iroquois helicopters from 1986-1990 and 37 Squadron C130E Hercules aircraft, CH47B Dakota aircraft. He was selected to train with Lockheed Martin for the acquisition of the C130J Hercules Aircraft. Peter worked with Lockheed Martin and brought the first Australian crewed C130J back to Australia in October 1999. Peter was then posted to develop 285 Squadron Training for all C130 aircraft utilised by the RAAF – C130E Hercules, C130H Hercules C130J Hercules. Peter served at various RAAF bases throughout his service, including Wagga Wagga, Laverton, Amberley, Fairbairn, Pearce, Richmond and Townsville. Following his discharge from the RAAF in 2002, he worked with Queensland Health as a Payroll Officer and later as Assistant Manager Clinical Administration. In 2007 Peter joined Department of Housing and Public Works as a Program Officer until his retirement in 2013.

Jeffrey 'Blu' langham


Jeffrey recently discharged from the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) after 40 years of unbroken service. These years of service have, he believes, provided him with a range of professional qualities and personal attributes that would stand him in good stead to undertake this role and contribute to the RSL and the ex-serving Defence Community.

Jeffrey enlisted in the (RAN) as an Adult recruit in August 1979 from Sydney. He undertook recruit training at HMAS Cerberus before undertaking Basic Survey Recorder training at HMAS Penguin. After completing this training, he joined his first ship; HMAS Flinders and over the next 40 years served in many units and many roles.

Jeffrey worked his way through from Seaman to Warrant Officer and decided to change over to the commissioned ranks and was promoted to Lieutenant. This role was a divisional role and required further expansion to utilising previous experience.

As a father of three boys who grew up while he was deployed, Jeffrey is very aware of the consequences and effects of Military Service on children, spouses and partners. He has personal experience of this himself as his father undertook two tours of Vietnam while he was a child. Jeffrey has concentrated on his family since separating from the Royal Australian Navy and wishes to provide more support to his partner as she focuses on her career. He believes that he is now able to give back to the local serving and ex serving community and can be a bridge between the older veterans of his earlier eras and the younger Veterans of today.

Ben Hemphill


Ben Hemphill graduated from the Australian Defence Force Academy in 1994 and rose to the rank of Lieutenant. He obtained his Seaman Officer qualification in HMAS Cessnock, which he would later return to as the Executive Officer. In between these postings, Ben served as the last Navigating Officer of a Western Australian Patrol Boat in HMAS Geraldton before he was part of the crew that relocated the Patrol Boat to Darwin. Ben’s naval career was heavily involved in Operation Cranberry and Operation Relex. After completing his time in Patrol Boats, he was posted as a Divisional Officer for the New Entry Officer’s Course in HMAS Creswell. From here Ben undertook a two-year posting as the Maritime Surveillance Advisor to the Republic of Marshall Islands. Upon his return to Australia Ben was appointed to the Commanding Officer’s Course, where he then decided to leave the Royal Australian Navy. Along with a extensive experience in the Military Ben also holds a number of graduate qualifications. A Working in the corporate world, Ben has been exposed to new leadership and management styles and believes that these are beneficial to the Sub-Branch.

Neil Turnbull


Neil’s family has a long service history in the RAAF with his father serving in PNG in WW2 as an instrument mechanical fitter, his mother serving in the RAAF in WW2, and both of his sisters and their husbands all serving in the RAAF.

Neil served in the RAAF for just over 20 years, joining in 1981 and completing his trade training as an Instrument fitter in 1983. Neil was initially posted to 481 Sqn in Williamtown for Mirage maintenance after his training was completed, and was then posted to 492Sqn on P3-C Orions where he served for 5 years on the Maritime Patrol Aircraft, which took him overseas on regular deployments to Malaysia, Singapore and the United States.

Neil then volunteered for posting to a new base being established in Tindal in the NT in 1988 as part of the initial avionics maintenance crew to work on the newly acquired FA/18 Hornets of 75 Sqn, where he served for a number of years deploying to Malaysia, The Philippines and Singapore, before being promoted and posted back to Adelaide to ARDU (Aircraft Research and Development Unit). At ARDU his duties included supporting the test and trials of various types of modifications and weapon trials on both F111 and FA/18 aircraft both in Adelaide and at the Woomera Rocket range, as well as maintaining the PC-9 & DC-3 aircraft the unit also operated. Neil accepted a short notice posting back to 75 Sqn Tindal in 1993, continuing his work on the FA/18s, where he was again promoted and performed in the role of an Independent Inspector on the FA/18s, until being posted out in 1999 to take up a similar role at 2OCU in Williamtown which also operates FA/18 A & B aircraft to train new Hornet pilots. This was Neil’s final posting prior to discharge in 2001. Neil had the opportunity to fly in the FA/18s on a number of occasions, and says it is a memory that he will always cherish, along with the camaraderie of the awesome people he had to privilege to serve with.

Neil decided to move to Cairns after discharge from the RAAF, initially taking up a position in the Maintenance Training Division of Flightship, Wing in Ground Effect assisting in the registration of the world’s first commercially registered Wing in Ground Effect (WIG) Craft with Germanischer Lloyd,  before going into business for himself in Cairns, which he has done so for nearly 15 years. Neil hopes that the professional experience he has gained outside of the forces, and in business, along with the connections he has made within the Cairns community, coupled with his defence knowledge, will be a valuable asset to the Board and ultimately the Sub-Branch members which it represents.

Nathan Shingles


Nathan Shingles was born in Canberra and is the son of a Vietnam Veteran, he joined the Royal Australian Navy as a chef in April 1995 after already completing 2 years of a civilian chef apprenticeship prior to joining. Several operational sea postings included HMAS Torrens, HMAS Westralia on operation Dirk and Stanhope operating in the Southern Ocean and also as a member of aft damage control during the tragic fire in 1998, HMAS Bunbury during operation Cranberry in 1999 and 2000, HMAS Gladstone 2001 during border protection duties and HMAS Wewak 2001/02 during Operation BEL ISI II Bougainville. Upon promotion to Leading Seaman an opportunity to work as the Maritime Commanders Chef in Sydney arose and he had the opportunity to work as Admirals staff for Rear Admiral Geoff Smith and Rear Admiral Raydon Gates AO,CSM until discharging December 2003. Nathan also volunteers as a Justice of the Peace (Qualified) and offers his experience for the greater good of the Sub-Branch and Veterans.

Rob 'brucey' lee


Rob ‘Brucey’ Lee joined the Australian Army in 2001 serving for ten years as an Infantry soldier before transferring to logistics spending the remainder of his 16 years of service as a Company Quartermaster Sergeant. Rob saw operational service in East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan as well as deploying on training missions to Malaysia and Germany. After a brief hiatus in New Zealand working as a contracts administrator for a civil engineering firm Rob returned to Australia and established the Cairns Mates4Mates branch.

After working for 18 months establishing the Mates4Mates brand working as a Liaison Officer Rob moved into the sales department at Pacific Toyota. Rob wishes to transfer skills learnt through his military career and experience in dealing with veterans with physical and psychological injuries with Mates4Mates to the Cairns RSL sub-branch.

gordon burgess


Gordon enlisted in the Royal Australian Navy as a direct entry Seaman Officer at HMAS Creswell in 2007. After completing the Junior Warfare Application Course at HMAS Watson, Gordon was posted to HMA Ships Tobruk, Manoora, Diamantina, Ararat, Pirie, Leeuwin and Melville to gain his Bridge Warfare Certificate which he achieved in 2010. On completion of his BWC and promotion to Lieutenant, Gordon was posted to HMA Ships Shepparton and Benalla and completed the Maritime Geospatial Officer Hydrographic (H2) course in 2012.Gordon was then posted as the Navigator of HS Red Crew. Gordon was selected as the Executive Officer HMAS Benalla in 2014. In 2016 Gordon was posted to the Defence Community Organisation as the Military Support Officer Navy In Cairns where he worked with most ESO in the Cairns region and built strong connections within the defence community of Cairns. During his career Gordon was deployed to Operation Resolute, Operation Render Safe, Operation Queensland Flood Assist (Brisbane). Gordon recently transitioned from the ADF. Gordon wishes to use his experience and connections to encourage young Veterans to be active with the Sub branch.

Andy dunn


Joining the Regular Army in 1990, Andy transitioned to the Reserves in 2017, he is currently serving with the 51st Battalion Far North Queensland Regiment which is of great importance to him. Andy is now looking to expand his involvement and experience in other avenues whilst maintaining a connection to his service.

In achieving the rank of Warrant Officer Class 1, within the Australian Intelligence Corps, Analyst Intelligence Operations, his military career has given him significant experience in the area of maintaining personnel, equipment compliance and maintenance. Andy understands and has experience in developing, maintaining and reviewing compliance/governance records to ensure workplace operational integrity.

Throughout his career Andy has been both a team member and mentor. These experiences have enhanced his awareness of group dynamics and methods of dealing with conflict. The ability to work both as a member of a team and autonomously is essential in any organisation. He has worked within teams of various sizes and with various objectives, and has always enjoyed a good rapport with work colleagues.

Andy believes he has the attributes and capacity to serve those who no longer serve and the community in general. Although sometimes struggling with the environment outside of the Military, he has had some success within sporting organisations. For this reason he now feels ready to take on the role of Board Director for the Cairns RSL Sub Branch.

Gerry tooth


Gerry joined the Royal Australian Air Force in 1966 at the age of 16 and was posted to Wagga Wagga in NSW to complete an Engine Fitter Apprenticeship.

He completed that course and was posted to his first squadron in 1968. The next 17 and a half years included postings to Townsville, Darwin, Amberly and Edinburgh, working on a variety of aircrafts. In 1986 Gerry retired from the Airforce with the rank of Sergeant.

After spending time adjusting to civilian life, Gerry then worked for the next 20 years at an Engineering supply company before retiring.

In 2012, after requiring assistance with a DVA claim and realising the need for more volunteers, Gerry joined the Sub-Branch as an Advocate. He has now been volunteering for over six years and is qualified as a level three advocate.

Gerry has been involved with a number of community organisations for most of his life including being on the National Board of APEX Clubs Australia, President of the Darwin APEX Club, President of the Elizabeth APEX Club, President of the Edge Hill APEX Club, Whitfield Progress Association and Yorkey’s Knob. He is also a life member of the Cairns APEX Club.

Lee-ann greenwood


Lee-Ann joined the Navy in 1997 as a Combat System Operator and served Active Service on board HMAS Melbourne in the Solomon Islands and Afghanistan. Following promotion to Leading Seaman Lee-Ann transferred to Naval Police Coxswain then posted on board HMAS Bundaberg, Armidale Class Patrol boats until discharging in 2009.

The RSL is a peer-to-peer organisation founded by veterans to support veterans and their families

In 1916 a ‘Welcome Home Committee’ was formed in Cairns to support the Veterans returning from the First World War.  Later that year the Cairns RSL Sub Branch was established, showing that Cairns was right at the forefront of the formation of the RSL across Australia. Although the culture of the Cairns RSL Sub Branch has changed over the past 100 years, the ethos of “mates helping mates” is still very strong.

Today the Cairns RSL Sub Branch prides itself on the role it plays in looking after its core constituency –  current and former serving men and women and their families. Our motto – Caring For Our Defence Family.  In order to make the organisation more relevant to the younger members, a younger veterans advisory board has been formed which formulates ideas and suggestions to assist in attracting the younger demographic to the Cairns RSL Sub Branch.

The Welfare and Advocacy work is varied and includes such things as hospital visits, home visits, arranging home help, medical treatment and assisting with preparation of claims for pensions, compensation, rehabilitation. The Cairns RSL Sub Branch also provides activities for our members including a Day Club and is responsible for the planning and delivery of commemoration days as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and Vietnam Veterans’ Day as well as various other events throughout the year.

Our History

The Cairns RSL Sub-Branch has been supporting our Defence family since 1916 when the Welcome Home Committee was formed.  Later that year the Cairns Sub-Branch of the Returned Soldiers Association was officially formed.  The Welcome Home Committee purchased a block of land on The Esplanade and on 16 December 1918 the adjoining block with a house called “Tower Villa” to be renamed “The Rest Home for Returned Soldiers” was purchased.

The house had been relocated from Kuranda in 1908 by the owner George Mayers, and the purchase was made on behalf of the RSL by Arthur Francis Moody and James Steven Gomm as Trustees for the Cairns Sub-Branch of the League.

The Rest Home was to be used and enjoyed by all returned soldiers and sailors in the Cairns District as a rest and recreation home.  Extensions were made by 1922, with substantial accommodation to the South-East and a connection to the original tower by an enclosed veranda.  In 1932 the mayor of Cairns (W.A. Collins) donated land for Warhaven, another property to be used and administered by the Sub-Branch as a rehabilitation home for returned servicemen.  In 1937 the original house was relocated to the rear of the block and a new substantial masonry building erected in front.  The front portion of this building forms the current façade with its distinctive three arches.

On 9 September 1948, two more blocks of land were purchased.  Some confusion followed this purchase, as in 1952 it was discovered that the RSL had built on land that did not belong to them.  This led to discussions between Sir Thomas Covacavich and the Premier of Queensland and Vince Gair, resulting in Sir Thomas drafting an act called the “Cairns Welcome Home Club Transfer Act”, which apparently put right the problem.  In 1953 the original house was demolished, and a hall built at the back.  The bar that was in the house up to this point was moved into the hall built at the back.  The bar that was in the house up to this point was moved into the hall.  The Club operated successfully even though a liquor licence had not been obtained, but was allowed to operate with the tolerance of the authorities.

On 4 July 1963, the buildings were destroyed by fire.  The Rest Home section was completely destroyed along with the first-floor section of the front building.  The bar and lounge section of the ground floor were only smoke damaged.  The greatest losses were however, the many irreplaceable historical articles and photos, particularly the Roll of Honour, and all the Legacy, historical and office records.

The front portion of the building was repaired, and in time the front hall and back section.  The old Rest Home was replaced with new accommodation.  The new building was officially opened in 1965.  In 1968 the Cenotaph was moved from the centre of Abbott Street to its present location on the Esplanade, centred on the main entrance.

1971 saw extensions to the north-west utilising the block towards Florence street.  This housed the “Coral Sea Bar”.  Few changes were made until the 1990s, which saw a number of alterations and additions.  Architectural drawings of 1991 show the Coral Sea Bar still existing and a fence to the Esplanade and Florence Street corner block.  In July 1992, drawings show the Functions room at the rear of the main building, and in a further drawing of August 1992, this area is shown dedicated to poker machines.  This appears in sketch plans for the present Bistro and outdoor light-weight covered garden area on the corner of the Esplanade and Florence Street, although this work did not proceed until September 1993.

Since 1999 further work has been carried out over the years, but this consists mostly of interior upgrading and refurbishing and has not substantially alter the basic form of the complex.

Your donations no matter how big or small will help Veterans in our community in a BIG way.