What is the RSL NSW Auxiliary and how does it support veterans?
We take a look behind the scenes of the RSL NSW Auxiliary, exploring who can join, the range of events that Auxiliaries organise, and how Auxiliaries’ fundraising helps support veterans and their families.
At a glance:
- The RSL NSW Auxiliary supports the League in NSW, helping to provide essential support to veterans and their families.
- Auxiliary volunteers visit veterans in hospital and aged care facilities, assist with catering for sub-Branch events, and are involved in organising commemorative activities and fundraising to support the RSL’s charitable purpose.
- You don’t have to have a family member who served in the armed forces to be a member of the Auxiliary.
- “I’m encouraging Auxiliaries to organise events such as trivia nights and walkathons,” says Auxiliaries State Coordinator Pauline James.
Veterans and their families are squarely in the centre of RSL NSW’s focus, and supporting them is in part facilitated by fundraising done by the RSL Auxiliary in NSW.
The Auxiliary, originally known as the Australian Imperial Service of Women’s Auxiliary, was founded by the mothers, wives, widows, sisters, daughters and aunts of men who served in the Australian Imperial Forces in World War I.
Today, more than 90 Auxiliaries connected to sub-Branches across NSW provide valuable support for veterans via fundraising efforts and engagement with the broader community, administration, and assistance at commemorative events – and membership is open to anyone.
What does the Auxiliary do?
According to RSL NSW Auxiliaries State Coordinator Pauline James OAM, the essential function of the Auxiliary is support, including across fundraising and administration.
“Fundraising is so important, whether it’s done by Auxiliaries or sub-Branches. It helps the public become more aware of what the League is doing for veterans.”
Auxiliaries also play a critical role in making visible to the community the work done by RSL sub-Branches.
Can only the widows and wives of veterans join the Auxiliary?
Although the Auxiliary was formerly the domain of veterans’ female family members, now anyone may sign up to become an Auxiliary member – regardless of background.
The word ‘women’ was removed from the organisation’s name in 2018, opening up membership to any person seeking to advance and support the charitable purpose of RSL sub-Branches.
And in 2019, RSL NSW adopted a new constitution which allowed, for the first time, members of the Auxiliary to enjoy formal membership of the League.
“You don’t have to have a family member who served in the armed forces,” says Pauline. “Anyone can sell a poppy for Remembrance Day or run a cake stall at the local market.
“I’m encouraging Auxiliaries to organise events such as trivia nights and walkathons to fundraise and engage with the wider veteran community.”
Following the new constitution, a Coordinator and Deputy Coordinator for each Auxiliary were appointed to liaise with the sub-Branch and facilitate the activities of the Auxiliary. This aims to increase the collaboration between sub-Branches and their associated Auxiliaries, forging better relationships between all members.
What kind of events is the Auxiliary involved in?
Auxiliary volunteers visit veterans in hospital and aged care facilities, assist with catering for sub-Branch events, and are involved in organising commemorative activities including for ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day.
Pauline’s pride in the lengths Auxiliaries go to support their local community is palpable.
“The Campbelltown Auxiliary runs a meat raffle every Saturday at the Campbelltown RSL Club,” she explains. “Then you have the team in Dubbo running bingo at the Dubbo RSL Club each week.”
Auxiliaries that prove particularly prolific throughout the year may enter the Lady Woodward Cup competition. The Auxiliary that achieves the highest score across three categories (fundraising, supporting the local veteran community, and engaging with the local community) will be presented with the Cup at the RSL NSW State Congress and AGM in late October.
Well-loved ‘Thank you for your service’ quilts, presented to individuals for outstanding service to the veterans’ community, are also the creation of Auxiliary volunteers.
The inaugural Poppy Ball, a fundraising gala event organised by RSL LifeCare in conjunction with RSL NSW, will be held aboard HMAS Adelaide on 11 November 2023, and exemplifies the work done to raise funds and spread awareness about veterans’ wellbeing, and the support and services the organisations offer free of charge.
The RSL NSW Auxiliaries Facebook page is a great way to learn about upcoming events, network with the members of other Auxiliaries, and get involved in essential fundraising activities.
What’s next for the Auxiliary?
In recent years many Auxiliaries have opened or been restored. Castle Hill, and Taree are each examples of sub-Branches where an Auxiliary has now been reactivated, an achievement in which Pauline takes great pride.
Looking forward, she issues a call to action – for members at more sub-Branches to cooperate with the members of their Auxiliary to support the veterans’ cause.
“My hope is that all members will feel welcomed as part of the RSL – one of the oldest ex-service organisations in the country,” she says.
Join your local Auxiliary – more than 90 are active across the state.