RSL NSW President Update – 28 May 2019
Fellow members of the League,
Thanks to you all for the enormous effort you put into ANZAC Day. We had positive feedback from the former Governor of New South Wales, the Royal Australian Navy Fleet Commander, and many members of the public about the quality of commemorations conducted across the state. It was an enormous privilege for the Board and myself to represent you at events in Sydney. I want to personally thank the members of the Batemans Bay sub-Branch who went out of their way to make the nearby parents of a fallen soldier part of their ANZAC Day commemorations. Making them feel welcome and part of our community is what the RSL is all about and I am grateful to the Batemans Bay sub-Branch for their consideration and camaraderie.
Thanks to the members of the Gulgong, Wellington, Eumungerie-Coboco, Dunedoo, and Gilgandra sub-Branches for your kind hospitality on my recent visit to western NSW, and your feedback on the challenges facing smaller sub-Branches. In Eumungerie, former Vietnam tunnel rat John Brady spoke of the need for the RSL to stand up for the wives and carers of ageing gold card veterans. In Gilgandra I heard clearly the need for sub-Branch members to receive more information about where the RSL is headed. In Dunedoo, Robin Turner made sensible suggestions to make the ANZAC Day appeal easier for smaller sub-Branches. At the Wellington RSL sub-Branch monthly meeting I saw firsthand the difficulties Secretaries face in reporting the regular email updates coming from ANZAC House! I also heard that we can’t leave our less computer-savvy members behind. In Gulgong I was honoured to deliver the ANZAC Day address at the Gulgong High School, give the ode at a service for local aged care residents, and tour the remarkable military Museum recently established by our sub-Branch. Gulgong President Dave Henderson gave me feedback on the poor quality of this year’s RSL NSW diaries. He’s right, and we’ve switched to a better-quality supplier for next year.
Finally, I want to thank Peter Poulton. I was honoured to present Peter with a Meritorious Service Medal earlier this month, the highest award within our League. You can read about Peter’s many League achievements here, including establishing the 1987 Welcome Home March. Through his leadership roles in his sub-Branch and his District, Peter has exemplified the service our volunteers give to their mates and the community. My thanks to him and his family, and best wishes to his successor as Central Southern District Council President, Lee Cordner.
The Board met on 8 May and resolved a way forward to lift the ban on fundraising for RSL NSW. We have notified New South Wales Department of Fair Trading of this intention and are preparing guidance for sub-Branches. You should receive these communications through your District Councils in mid-June – stand by.
The consultative group of seven District Council representatives (or DC7, as we are calling them) elected by their peers has been meeting with the Board to work on a new members’ draft constitution. Frank conversations have been productive in shaping a draft constitution that more closely reflects members’ needs, and in establishing a consultation process that uses our District Council system. You should expect your District Council to receive the working copy of the new draft constitution in mid-June and for sub-Branches to have approximately six weeks to submit feedback and suggestions through their District back to the Board.
We have also begun discussions to seek to have camaraderie better reflected in the charitable regulations which govern how we operate.
We are required by law to appoint at least one independent director to the Board of RSL NSW. We called for nominations earlier this year and more than 70 applications were received, screened, and ranked independently by the external search firm People for Purpose. The Board nominations committee, headed by Greg Makutu, has conducted interviews with shortlisted candidates and expects to make recommendations to the Board’s next meeting on 19 June.
City of Sydney Council ANZAC Day Funding
On the Board’s behalf, I met with the City of Sydney and NSW Government to discuss the unsustainable state of funding for the Sydney ANZAC Day commemorations and march. You will have seen from media reporting that I have written to the Lord Mayor Clover Moore calling attention to the low levels of Council support for ANZAC Day activities. ANZAC Day works best when it is a partnership between the RSL and local government authorities, but we are a charity and we need to make sure that we are not being called on to contribute more than our fair share. I will keep you posted on these discussions.
Veterans’ Affairs Policy – State and Federal
I recently met with the NSW Veterans Affairs Minister, John Sidoti, and his Parliamentary Secretary, James Griffin, to update them on our activities and discuss veterans’ issues that need to be addressed. Please communicate any suggestions you have on this through your District Councils.
Also, this month RSL NSW convened the first ever election debate between major political parties on veterans’ affairs. Hosted in front of a live audience at the Anzac Memorial in Hyde Park, it gave our members and other veterans’ organisations the opportunity to directly question Darren Chester and Amanda Rishworth. You can view the full video on our Facebook page and at this link.
On Thursday I will travel to Canberra with Ray James to meet with other state RSL representatives at a special general meeting of RSL Australia Ltd (RSL National). The meeting will resolve the leadership structure of RSL National and hopefully set that organisation on a path forward. We need to get our national body working again and show Australians that we are a united league.
Thanks for your service to the League,