Board Communiqué – 25 March 2020
Recognising current health protections, the RSL NSW Board met today via videoconference.
The board noted progress on the critical sub-Branch consultations and acknowledged and thanked members for their involvement to date. Regrettably, because of the COVID-19 crisis the following decisions have had to me made:
- To enable sub-Branch consultation to re-commence after the COVID-19 crisis, the board’s consideration of the final strategic plan has been deferred until September.
- The proposed strategic plan budget (cost) will be maintained for consultation with members but there will be no commencement of implementation next financial year (July 2020) without funding and the board’s approval.
- Considering the deferral, delegates will be provided a detailed presentation on the final plan adopted by the board in September at congress, and on the implementation if a budget (funding) is approved.
FY 20/21 Budget
Implementation of FY 20/21 budget measures have occurred, as planned. However, the board noted the further impact of COVID-19. The 1 July 2020 ANZAC House organisational structure is on the website and the board noted the risks associated with the many unfunded vacant positions.
The board considered several papers to deal with the health and economic crisis. The following decisions were made:
- Due to the complete collapse of Hyde Park Inn revenues with fixed costs remaining, and pressure on other income sources such as fundraising, sub-Branch contributions, and investment returns, the board accepted the recommended immediate budget measures including standing down of casual staff. The CEO would present adjusted budget options, under several different scenarios, at the April Board meeting. Sub-Branches and members should continue to monitor the news feed on the website about COVID-19 impacts.
A business continuity plan has been put in place for ANZAC House and staff are working from home.
ANZAC Day Events
The following decisions were taken, after reviewing sub-Branch feedback received through the DPC:
- Reinforced previous decision – there are to be no RSL organised services, commemorations, breakfasts, lunches or other activities conducted on ANZAC Day in New South Wales.
- Dawn Service – RSL NSW fully supports the proposed nationally televised and streamed service from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra. This service will be led by the Governor General and Prime Minister.
- RSL NSW will support and promote a nation-wide campaign focused on ANZAC Spirit with the taglines #ANZACspirit and #StandTo. This will include a community ‘stand in your driveway, facing the east’ commemorative act, commencing at 6am.
- RSL NSW will facilitate a 10am televised, virtual and streamed closed service attended by the Governor at the Hyde Park Memorial.
The board considered the feedback from sub-Branches via the DPC. The following decisions have been made considering the COVID-19 crisis:
- There is to be no state-wide ‘street appeal’. Purchased stock should be held over until the Poppy Appeal.
- Sub-Branches can continue ‘hands free’ fundraising – through digital means such as websites or Facebook, or as some sub-Branches are undertaking, through third parties who can display and sell tokens, or place honesty boxes.
- We are supporting a nation-wide digital fundraising campaign, tied to the ANZAC Spirit event under the RSL brand (not specific to any state). This is being executed rapidly in cooperation with Victoria, Queensland and National (possibly other states as well). It is anticipated that this online fundraising campaign will raise funds to support all charitable activities across New South Wales, not just RSL DefenceCare and VSA which are both on the frontline. As donations will be ‘pooled’ across multiple jurisdictions, donors will be asked to identify their state to help with determination of disbursements. RSL NSW will also be approaching corporate entities to seek support too.
Additional COVID-19 Impacts and Decisions
Leases and Rental Impacts
The board acknowledged the various sub-Branch and stakeholder approaches regarding policy and direction around rent relief requests, or leasing arrangements. The board considered the CEOs advice and adopted a principle-based response and delegation.
As part of a charity and good corporate citizen representatives, sub-Branch trustees, in consultation with RSL NSW, should work with clubs, businesses and associated entities to manage ongoing concerns, even if they are required to close for a period. Accordingly:
- Generally, rent flexibility should be granted and negotiated on a case-by-case basis, with a deferral of rent agreement to be entered into to ensure that charitable funds (represented by the deferred revenue) are recovered at some point in the future from the commercial business. This position could be different if the investment premises is being used for non-commercial purposes such as respite or affordable accommodation, and should be negotiated accordingly, and in line with government policy.
- Any forgiveness of rent (as opposed to flexibility or deferral) will not be granted without RSL NSW Board approval.
- Where RSL sub-Branches or RSL NSW entities are tenants, immediate steps should be taken to seek rental forgiveness from the landlord (with no later date recovery in recognition of the fact that RSL sub-Branches and RSL NSW entities are charities) wherever possible. This should be conducted in consultation with RSL NSW.
The CEO was delegated authority to act with respect to negotiations on rent deferral but will be required to seek board approval for rent waivers or forgiveness.
The board agreed that any outstanding SBAs can be sent to ANZAC House without changes to office bearers and without signatures.
The state secretary was also granted authority to apply discretion when requested to make adjustments for routine sub-Branch matters coming to the support unit during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Life memberships were approved.
- A Remuneration Policy was approved and will be posted on the website – setting executive remuneration against charity organisation benchmarks; and the CEOs Performance Agreement was agreed, but will remain confidential between the board and CEO.
- A revised Conflicts of Interest Policy was approved.
- Numerous sub-Branch matters approved by the CEO under delegation were noted.
- The board received an update on the future institutional arrangements for Veteran Sport Australia and RSL DefenceCare, after the expected June 2020 wind-up of the RSL WBI Trust. All aspects were on track against what has previously been reported, but noted there are now likely to be impacts to be factored in from COVID-19.
- A recommendation was made to pass a decision regarding allegations of sub-Branch maladministration to the Tribunal, ACNC and, pending further review, NSW Police.
- The board agreed to review its decision-making framework and delegations structure because of the COVID-19 crisis. The board recognised the likelihood of short-notice meeting requirements to decide actions beyond the CEOs delegation.
Chair, Board of Directors