With a hot coffee, a warm hug and sloppy kisses from a wet nosed four-legged friend, a difficult day can melt away at this café.
CAPTION: Warrant Officer Class Two Kym O’Leary with Labrador ‘York’, a Royal Society for the Blind dog in training, at the Keswick Cafe at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide. Story by Corporal Melina Young.
Located at Keswick Barracks in Adelaide, the Keswick Café is a safe space created where service personnel can come together and remember the soldiers fallen in Afghanistan.
The idea came from café owner Anthea Williams’ passion to improve the wellbeing of Australian Defence Force personnel.
Two years in the making and recently competed, the memorial library inside the café honours 41 soldiers.
“I found photographs of the fallen sitting and felt the need to present them,” Ms Williams said.
Slouch hats were donated by the barracks and hung above the photographs.
With the help of the soldiers’ units, Ms Williams set out collecting their colour patches and corps badges.
“I don’t want these 41 soldiers to be forgotten,” Ms Williams said.
“It can be daunting – we had an RSL president come in and had to walk out; he had been on deployment with many of the men, and it was confronting.
“But others come in who knew the men, and want to tell their stories.
“We sit and we talk with them. We don’t want to forget them – we don’t want to forget anyone that’s been on deployment.”
Ms Williams’ desire to care for those with mental health issues is something she pursues with energy and passion, raising assistance dogs for veterans with PTSD via the Royal Society for the Blind.
Through Operation K9 Dog program, 14-week-old black Labrador ‘York’ can be found wagging his tail and ready for a nuzzle in the café.
“Even at this early age, a dog can do so much for the soldiers, just having a puppy here can make a difference,” Ms Williams said.
“If you are having a difficult day, you can come in and have a cuddle.
“That’s why this room is so special. It has created a safe place where you can come and talk, share your stories, honour those who fell while in Afghanistan, or when they returned home.”
Ms Williams said the café, which is a work in progress, was well received by patrons.
“The feedback has been overwhelming – I’m told that there’s nothing like it anywhere else,” Ms Williams said.
“People think it’s magnificent and I’m very proud of it.”