Board Communiqué for 1 December 2022

The Board met via video conference commencing at 8:00 am with an in-camera session. Due respects to the fallen were made by the President. 

Election of Chair and Deputy Chair 

In accordance with the RSL NSW Constitution, the positions of Chair and Deputy Chair of the Board were declared vacant, and an election was held. Sophie Ray was re-elected as Chair of the Board, and John Hutcheson as Deputy Chair of the Board. They will hold these roles until the first Board meeting after the 2023 AGM. 

President’s Report  

The President briefed the Board on his observations and extensive member feedback from phone calls and visits around the State. Areas of interest included:  

  • Checking in on sub-Branches impacted by floods, including awareness of accessing financial support through RSL Lifecare Veteran Services 
  • Feedback on Congress and items of interest 
  • Commemorations 
  • Meeting with Federal Minister for Veterans Affairs, particularly regarding RSL NSW Strategic Plan, including seeking support for the proposed network of Wellbeing Centres, now called Veterans’ and Families Hubs 

Director, RSL Australia Ltd (National) Mr Bryan Slattery provided a report to the Board  

  • Update on proposed changes to governance arrangements for RSL Australia Ltd to ensure members’ views are considered on relevant decisions 
  • Intent of the RSL Australia Board to revisit Strategy and Strategic Plan in 2023 
  • Planned future consideration by the RSL Australia Board of status of Northern Territory’s membership 
  • An outline of outcomes from RSL led National ESO Forum on 16 Nov (See report below on Royal Commission)   

CEO’s Report  

The CEO’s report including the CFO’s and Program Management Office’s Report (PMO) (Strategic Plan implementation) were discussed and noted, as were issues and actions to be taken, including: 

  • Veteran Wellbeing Centres (VWC). Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs – RSL NSW Management is currently establishing four local leadership teams, under respective District Councils/sub-Branches, to assist in the identification of consortia partners and wider community engagement to enable RSL NSW/RSL LifeCare to be lead applicants on DVA grant funding to establish four additional hubs aligned to the Strategic Plan. The areas are Queanbeyan, Hunter, Hawkesbury, and Tweed/North Coast. 
  • Funding Model – Part 1 of the model, the Aggregated Investment Management Service provided by Morgan Stanley is gaining momentum with more sub-Branches identifying the advantages for their circumstances and deciding to participate in the pooled funding. On Part 2, the Veteran Support Fund, the DPC has requested further revision to the proposed new SOP1, including reversion back to separating policy from the procedure (SOP.) 

The Board Chair will respond formally to the DPC on behalf of the Board and asked the CEO to concurrently progress the proposed revisions of SOP1 and policy structure as quickly as possible so consultation can commence as soon as practicable. The Board did note that many sub-Branches have already embraced the transparency and positive impact of the new funding model and are making significant contributions so the final documentation is a priority. 

The Board noted the DPC’s views on policy development and asked the CEO to share work completed by the Written Directions Framework project, particularly regarding policy making and documenting. The Board noted the need for further channels of consultation with members beyond established project Reference Group. The Board acknowledged it would always require member consultation on any major policies impacting on members or sub-Branches. 

  • New ANZAC House – The Board was updated on progress of the project, specifically the option of re-development of a sub-Branch owned property in Sydney’s CBD precinct.   
  • Membership – The Board noted the pleasing continued growth in new members. New membership numbers for November 2022 were 205 new Service Members and 53 Affiliate Members, continuing the year-on-year growth trend. The Auxiliary membership data entry and quality assurance is almost completed, and the Board acknowledged and thanked the volunteers who had assisted with this.
  • Royal Commission – Continues to be a key focus for RSL NSW management. The Board noted the RSL’s submissions, on website and key outcomes from the RSL led National ESO Forum. This included agreement on the need to establish a ‘peak body’ for a single voice on veterans’ issues, and the need for the Federal Government to enact the Commission’s interim report recommendation to establish a separate body to oversight the implementation of recommendations and fund the body in next year’s budget. 

The Royal Commissioner’s visit to the Wagga Wagga VWC on 2 December was noted, and the Board thanked Director David McCann and sub-Branch President David Gardiner in advance for participating in the visit brief and activities.  

  • CFO Report and Business Performance Report – The Board noted RSL NSW’s stronger financial position after receiving income from RSL Qld and Cumberland sub-Branch to support the Strategic Plan implementation. Also, the Board acknowledged the development of broader KPIs and reporting on the progress of the Strategic plan, and RSL NSW’s operations. 
  • Program Report – Strategic Plan. The Report was noted, see website. The Board noted sub-Branch representation on Reference Groups and the importance of this as part of the consultation process. The recruitment of an internal communications resource is progressing. This role will assist in critical communications efforts, especially as many projects impacting sub-Branches will commence final implementation phase in early 2023 such as the Compliance Annual Report, and initial phases of the project to ensure there is at least one trained Wellbeing Support Officer in each sub-Branch. Also noteworthy was the close out report going for the Sport and Recreation Pilot, which recommends a State-wide rollout commencing in 2023. 

Sub-Branch and Member Matters 

  • Election/Appointment of State Coordinator of Auxiliaries – The Board approved the development of an election process for the roles of State Coordinator and Deputy State Coordinator of Auxiliaries. Details of the process and procedure for the election will be included in the updated SOP, which will be consulted on and approved through the DPC. 
  • Review of decision re District Rationalisation – The Board noted the feedback from the DPC, and from delegates at Congress about the District Rationalisation Directors acknowledged the breakdown in the consultation process through the Steering Committee and agreed to rescind its previous decision to proceed with rationalising to 10 Districts. A new process will be expedited to consult with members on District numbers, and in accordance with the Constitution, the Board will respond to the DPC, and discuss alternative ways to consult.  

RSL LifeCare

  • Approval of Directors – The Board approved two director appointments for RSL Lifecare. These will be announced as soon as individuals are appropriately informed. 
  • Approval of Constitutional Changes – The Board approved several amendments to the Constitution of RSL Lifecare to clarify director appointments so there is a rotation, rather than full turnover at end of appointment time, and incorporating a greater focus on veterans’ support through the inclusion of a preamble.  
  • Approval of Annual Report & Financial Statements – The Board noted the RSL Lifecare Annual Report and approved the Financial Statements. Several items will be raised, and clarifications sought at the AGM on 8 December.  

Related Entity and Committee Reports 

  • Nominations Remuneration & Performance – The Board noted the quarterly performance of RSL NSW against the agreed Corporate Objectives. It also noted an updated skills matrix for the Board, and a process for incorporating changes to employee awards. 
  • Audit & Risk Committee – The Board noted the assessment of RSL NSW’s financial position, and commended management for significant improvement, although acknowledging that the operating deficit for ANZAC House will remain until the funding model is settled, future revenue sources are identified, and benefits are realised after the settlement of the sale of the Hyde Park Inn.

The Risk Report was approved, noting new risks such as concerns about sub-Branch and District succession plans. This is in part associated with the increasing pressure on declining volunteer numbers, not only in the veterans’ sector, but charities generally. 

The WH&S Report was approved, and the Board noted the status of several key investigations and outcomes. 

  • Congress Agenda Committee – The Committee’s report was noted. Consideration is being made, post-AGM, to look at improvements to the process to consider the eligibility of motions due to the current short time frame from motion submission to consideration, especially when over 100 motions are received. Management is also collating feedback about the conduct of Congress 2022, with a view to building that into planning for Congress 2023. 
  • ANZAC House Trust – The Board noted the Report.  
  • Joint Steering Committee – Barrack Street site – The Board noted the report and the progress in examining the co-development opportunities for a multi-user veteran-centric site in the future. 
  • AFOF (Australia Forces Overseas Fund) – The Board noted the Report and that AFOF is in the process of being wound up, with AFOF State functions being absorbed into the National AFOF. 
  • Veteran Services and Policy Committee – The Board noted the progress on many policy issues, and the Committee Chair noted the positive impact from Congress where the awareness of the Committee was increased, which has led to a number of members referring issues to the Committee 
  • Young Veterans Committee – The Board considered a new Committee nominee but decided to defer a decision until the process is clarified. The Board agreed with the Committee’s recommendation to maintain the current committee’s name, and work with the Committee to determine work priorities for 2023. 
  • Joint Steering Committee – Board Election SOP Review – The Board noted progress and status of the updated SOP. It noted the draft will need to be considered and approved by the DPC before the end of March 2023, and the critical role the DPC representatives have on the Steering Committee regarding the consultation process. 
  • Selections Committee – The Board noted the Committee’s decision to extend the closing date for MSM and life membership would change the date to 30 June. The Board endorsed two life memberships and one MSM. 

Tribunal Matters  

There were no matters for consideration. 

District Presidents’ Council 

The Board noted the Minutes from previous meetings. The Board will respond to matters, including to the SOP and District Rationalisation matters raised above. 

Correspondence and General Business 

The Board approved six nominations, raised through District Council Presidents, to attend a thank you function for volunteers hosted by the NSW Premier on 9 December. 

Over 40 pieces of correspondence were noted. 

Annual State Congress and AGM 2023  

The Board agreed that the Annual State Congress and AGM will be held on 22 – 24 October 2023 at NEX (Newcastle Exhibition and Convention Centre). The Board noted that while some members have expressed a preference to move Congress to the weekend, this was not possible for 2023 as the NEX is already booked for all weekends in October and early November. Management and the Board will consider changing to a weekend Congress from 2024 on.