Since the early years of the Second World War, the Association has been a hands-on contributor to the support of families concerned for the welfare of loved ones who were prisoners of war. When the war ended, the ex-POWs joined the Association for support and lobbying and camaraderie. The Association has had several sub-branches at Geelong, the Latrobe Valley and Numurka, as well as a Ladies Auxiliary.
Today’s emphasis is on assisting ageing ex-POWs and their wives, widows and families. A quarterly News Bulletin continues to be published. The Association conducts an annual Memorial Service at the Shrine of Remembrance, and assists members to travel to the Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial Service that is conducted at the National Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial at Ballarat in February each year. The Association organises two luncheons each year – a Christmas Luncheon and a Ladies Luncheon in July, which gentlemen members attend with alacrity. The Association supports services such as the Sir Edward Dunlop Commemoration Service held annually on 12 July, and the Rodney Breavington Award service held in September each year. The Association assists veterans to nominate for and prepare for various overseas Commemorative Missions, as and when they are offered by the Australian and Japanese Governments.
1940s to the present time in summary
In July 1942 the Australian Prisoners of War Relatives Association (Victorian Branch) was established.
Approximately 1,000 people attended the first meeting held at the Central Hall, 203 Little Collins Street, Melbourne. Minutes disclose the gathering together by Relatives was to assist each other to learn more about their missing loved ones. The Association grew rapidly. Membership at 31 December 1942 was 1,021. By November 1944, membership was recorded as 4,454.
With membership of more than 4,000 in 1944, thousands of letters were sent to POWs on behalf of relatives who could neither write nor type them, as were welfare phone calls made to give families’ news of their men. Families could gather to be updated on POW developments. A ‘Listen Bureau’ was established to pick up POW messages from enemy radio broadcasts; 5,000 requests from relatives were handled. In January 1943, over 240 messages broadcast by Batavia radio alone had been recorded and sent to respective families: all by volunteers. ‘Ye Olde Dutch Café’ was established in the Block Arcade to raise funds and next-of-kin (NOK) parcels were packaged and sent to POWs. In October 1943, Lady Mayoress Mrs. Campbell became a member, her son being a POW.
After the war ended when most surviving POWs had returned home, a new Constitution was introduced. In July 1946, the Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association of Victoria was established to continue the work started by Relatives. The new Constitution, “called for a majority of Ex-Prisoners of War plus Relatives”, and Col. Dr. E. E. Dunlop was elected to be the first Ex-POW President.
The inclusion of Relatives in the Association was not without debate. Correspondence took place over many years. The Federal Association did not include Relatives. The Victorian Association was divided at times, and eventually a smaller, separate association comprising only Ex-POWs was formed. The Ex-POW Association of Victoria was a sub-branch of the Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association of Victoria. Many Victorian ex-POWs paid membership to both associations.
The Ex-POWs sub-branch was eligible to be affiliated with the Federal Association of Ex-POWs (the Ex-Prisoners of War Association of Australia).
In November 1946 a ‘Ladies Auxiliary' was formed, and it operated until May 1974. Initially the purpose ‘to band together, provide amenities and visit the sick in hospital’ was achieved by monthly hospital visits, usually with supplies of home-baked biscuits. The Auxiliary also conducted major fundraising initiatives in order to provide entertainment, picnics and suppers for the ex-POWs and their families.
‘Weary’ Dunlop was President of the Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association for forty-seven years. Just five Ex-POWs have been elected to be President of the Association from 1946 until now. A relative has again returned to the office. In 2013 Mr Stephen Milliken, nephew of WO2 Bruce Lovell (2/4 Army Fd Wksp), was elected as President. In 2014, Jeanette Kozlowski, daughter of Private Aubrey Sellen from the English Army took on the role of President. Jeanette was born in Townsville and raised in Melbourne.
Since 1946, Presidents for the Association have been:
Lt Col (Sir) E.E. Dunlop. 1946 – 2 July 1993
Mr R. W. (Ray) Wheeler. March 1994 – June 2001
Mr. W. A. (Bill) Flowers. March 2002 – April 2011
Mr. W. A. (Bill) Cook. April 2011 – January 2012
Mr. A. J. (Jim) Ellwood. April 2012 - April 2013
Mr S. (Stephen) Milliken. April 2013 – April 2104
Mrs J (Jeanette) Kozlowski. April 2014 –
In 2009, the Association was incorporated to become ‘The Ex-Prisoners of War and Relatives Association (Victoria) Incorporated.’
The Association's Badge:
The badge design was not selected until 1949. Early committees regarded the inclusion of the Association's name as essential. The star shape and inclusion of a chain (to symbolize being chained in captivity) were meant to represent the fact that ‘the Prisoners of War were held in many theatres of operation, broadly speaking, German and Japanese.’
Earlier badges were numbered on the back with the number recorded.
Since 1949, there have been some changes to the shade of the colour blue used in the badges, and the style of pinning has altered, but the badge we use today is basically the design selected and approved by Attorney General’s Department in 1949.