RSL Mackay sub-branch president Ken Higgins. Picture: Heidi Petith
RSL Mackay sub-branch president Ken Higgins. Picture: Heidi Petith

Veteran’s tireless mission for his mates earns top honour

Vietnam veteran Ken Higgins works tirelessly to help his fellow servicemen – not just here in Mackay but all around Australia and in the country they first bonded.

It’s a two-way street – the 72 year old says he gets just as much benefit from the relationships he holds dear as they do.

The Mackay RSL sub-branch president is being recognised for his service to veterans and their families with an Order of Australia medal on the Australia Day Honours list.

“It’s something I’m very proud of,” he said.

“Most of my credits have come through having been a member of the RSL for 50 years.

“That’s a long time for Vietnam vets because that’s about when it all started for us and I’ve been a member ever since.

“When I first became a member after coming home from Vietnam, there were lots of First and Second World War veterans around.

“Now there are no World War I veterans and very few World War II service men and women.

“As for the Korean and Vietnam vets, a lot of them have gone too and a lot have been getting quite frail.

“It’s a bit sad, but while you’re above the ground, you’re going OK.”

The father of two and grandfather of four has been in Mackay for about 30 years.

He said he wife of 48 years, Vicki, had been his rock and helped keep his head above water.

“A lot of thanks goes to my wife and mates I served with for the union, camaraderie,” he said.

Ken Higgins lays a wreath at the Anzac Day service at Jubilee Park in Mackay 2019.
Ken Higgins lays a wreath at the Anzac Day service at Jubilee Park in Mackay 2019.

Mr Higgins, who plans to have a few coldies on Australia Day to celebrate the honour, said one of the most rewarding parts of his life since the war was keeping in contact with the mates he served with in Vietnam.

They were infantry with the Delta Company 6th Battalion RAR — an Anzac battalion with three Australian companies and two from New Zealand — which served in 1969 and 1970.

“I keep in contact with those guys all around Australia,” Mr Higgins said.

“A couple live in Vietnam and the rest in every state in Australia.

“We’ve had reunions since about 1987 when we had the welcome home march in Sydney – it was a bit late and a bit strange because it was such a controversial war and because of conscriptions. I was a conscript.

“But the friendships formed way back then have endured the test of time.

“We’ve lost some of our mates – some to suicide, some from natural causes.

“A lot of have died younger than they should have.

“A lot of them have had troubled lives; Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has been high on the agenda with Vietnam veterans.

“But the RSL has helped us move through life.”

As someone who has fought for freedom, he said he was ‘disgusted’ to see the violence from insurrectionists at the United States Capitol building earlier this month.

“I think most veterans would have been disgusted by that behaviour,” he said.

“It’s wrong; there’s better ways of creating attention than that.

“The other thing that disgusts me is the way Afghanistan veterans have been virtually tried before they’ve had a chance to answer the accusations in Afghanistan.

“If any of them are guilty of blatant Geneva Convention violations and crossed the line then, yes, they need to be brought into line.

“But to cast a shadow over 10 to 12 years of service, it’s an insult to people who did the right thing.”

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Mr Higgins is passionate about helping veterans through PTSD and working to reduce the number of suicides in the veteran community.

He said he ran Kinchant Waters with his wife for about 12 years in the 1990s and early 2000s where six to 10 veterans would also stay.

Mr Higgins said his crusade in Mackay now was to find a social outlet for the 1500-odd veterans to meet up and have someone to talk to.

He said Anzac Day and Remembrance Day was not enough since the RSL building in Sydney St closed 14 years ago.

“Suicide in veterans is horrific and we would hope we can prevent some of that if we have a social venue,” he said.

“We might be able to reach out and get more in our ranks; help them in having a better life.

“If we save one, we’ve done our jobs.

“I’ve lost too many mates.”

Kenneth William Higgins, Mackay

For service to veterans and their families.

Mackay RSL Sub Branch

  • President/Welfare Office, 2020.

Toogoom and District Sub-Branch, Returned and Services League of Australia

  • President/Welfare Officer, 2011-2018.
  • Former Secretary/Treasurer.
  • WW1 Simpson and his donkey re-enactments, 2010-2018.

Rye Sub-Branch (Victoria), Returned and Services League of Australia

  • Former Vice-President/Treasurer.
  • Member, 1971-1988.
  • Life Member, 1988.

Returned and Services League of Australia – other

  • Vice-President/Welfare Officer, Walkerston-Pleystowe Sub-Branch, 1992-2003.
  • Member, Hervey Bay Sub-Branch, 2003-2005, 1988-1992.


  • Co-ordinated the construction the Vietnam Veterans Museum and Memorabilia exhibition (an aspect of the Hervey Bay and Maryborough Military Trail), 2014-2015.

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Mackay sub-branch president Ken Higgins at the Mackay Remembrance Day commemorative ceremony at Jubilee Park on Wednesday November 11, 2020. Picture: Zizi Averill
Mackay sub-branch president Ken Higgins at the Mackay Remembrance Day commemorative ceremony at Jubilee Park on Wednesday November 11, 2020. Picture: Zizi Averill

There are 845 Australians recognised in this year’s Australia Day Honours List.

“On behalf of all Australians, I congratulate everyone recognised in the Australia Day Honours list,” the Governor-General David Hurley said.

“The individuals we celebrate today come from all parts of our great nation and have served the community in almost every way conceivable.

“They’re diverse and unique but there are some common characteristics, including selflessness, commitment and dedication.

“Most would consider the achievements that they are being recognised for to be ‘ordinary’ or just what they do.

“The sum of these contributions speaks to our nation’s greatest strength – its people.”

Anyone can nominate any Australian for an award in the Order of Australia.

If you know someone worthy, nominate them now at

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