News - James Brown speaking

RSL NSW President Update: 9 August 2018

Fellow league members,

It has been a while between updates. In the weeks since congress, ANZAC House and State Council have been working hard to deliver the agenda your delegates voted on. I want to detail some of that work in this update. But first I want to thank each and every delegate for a resoundingly successful meeting of the League in Albury. You will have heard from your sub-Branch congress delegates, and read in Reveille, the outcomes of our annual meeting. But what was most important to me was the commitment, energy, and positive approach of delegates. All of the positive change we have achieved so far has been possible because of the decisions made by members at our last two congresses. Thank you.

If you haven’t watched the videos of congress sessions on our website, I would encourage you to do so. They answer many of the questions that members have raised most frequently in recent months.

One of the questions I am often asked by members is how we will get more veterans to join the League. We’ve made a small improvement, but an important one, that should make it easier for people to join. We now have a map which shows where every RSL NSW sub-Branch is and lists meeting times and contact details. You can find it on our website and via this link. Next, we will work to make our membership forms simpler – including putting membership applications online.

Last weekend we took members of State Council and senior ANZAC House staff to Dubbo to meet with the Western District Council. We wanted to hear what sub-Branches in the bush need and let them know how we can help during this drought. Veterans and their families doing it tough because of drought can access immediate assistance from RSL DefenceCare. In the past weeks, we have helped veterans in need to purchase feedstock and to pay household bills. Please reach out to RSL DefenceCare if your members or veterans in your area need assistance.

Each sub-Branch is very different, and in the coming months, I and other council members will be working hard to visit as many as possible. ANZAC House is planning a roadshow over several weeks in September and October to visit as many sub-Branches and hear from as many members as possible as we enter a critical period in our repair of the League.

We have been working hard to get the League ready to apply for permission to return to conducting major fundraising appeals. The first major step in that process, the establishment of a new financial software system for the League, was successfully completed this week. RSL WBI has applied to the Office of Fair Trading for permission to re-commence fundraising. The next step is to determine processes to be followed at sub-Branch level to make it possible to conduct the Poppy Appeal on November 11.

We have also been working hard on the draft constitution to be presented to members at an Extraordinary Congress later this year. We called for volunteers across the League to join a Member Constitutional Review Panel and accepted every single member who applied to join. We have a thirty-strong group of members who are reviewing the technical detail of the constitution, as well as advising of the impact of any proposed changes at the sub-Branch level. I am grateful for their time and commitment.

On their advice, we have decided to delay the Extraordinary Congress from 31 October (as indicated in Reveille) to late November in order to give more time for members to digest proposed improvements to the constitution. As soon as we confirm a venue, we will advise members, so you can book travel and accommodation. We will confirm the timeline for constitutional consultation shortly and communicate this to you in the State Secretary’s newsletter. Importantly, there will be three phases of consultation on the constitution. The first phase (which we are in now) involves the preparation of a draft constitution to be sent to all members for their feedback. The second phase will involve listening to members feedback on the draft and recommending changes. The third phase will see the final constitution developed and circulated to members, and the conduct of information sessions across the state to give sub-Branches the information they will need to cast their vote at the Extraordinary Congress.

The third major project we have been working on is the move to a new ANZAC House. As you know, the current ANZAC House was sold in early 2017 and has many shortcomings which make servicing members and veterans difficult. We are narrowing on options for a new location and I hope to announce this soon. It will be a headquarters you can be proud of, and one which will enable us to deliver better service to members as well as veterans and their families who need our help.

Finally, we have been working furiously on veteran’s policy issues. The next six months will be the most important period in veterans affairs policy for some time and it is critical that the League represent you in these discussions. The Productivity Commission is examining the compensation and rehabilitation system from first principles. The Cornall Scoping Study is investigating the advocacy and support services system. There are also Senate inquiries into transition from Defence, and Mefloquine. These have the potential to fundamentally reshape the way veteran services work across Australia, including at DVA. We have met with the Productivity Commission, as well as Mr Robert Cornall AO and his team. We brought together a number of our advocates from across the state, as well as other ESOs, for a roundtable to examine the current advocacy system and suggested changes. I have spoken with experts working on the Mefloquine issue. I’ve also heard from several of our members. Despite all the internal work we have to do, we must ensure veterans and their families have a voice on these issues. RSL NSW is finalising policy submission papers to each of the major policy reviews underway.

At the 2018 Congress, you tasked State Council to make representations on 14 policy motions. We have sent formal letters to the ADF, Ministers, and Government Departments on these issues, and will continue to seek outcomes on your behalf.

You will have seen the recent resignation of RSL National President Robert Dick. RSL NSW is closely engaged with the other states in discussing the most effective way forward for RSL National. We all want a national body we can be proud of, and that fights to represent veterans at the federal level.

Thanks for your service to the League.

James Brown

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