Board Communiqué for 28 May 2021

The Board met at ANZAC House, with three directors attending by video conference.  The meeting commenced with respect for our fallen.  The Chair noted the size of the agenda – over 500 pages of papers over 27 items.

President’s Report

The President provided a review of ANZAC Day activities across the State.  He acknowledged and thanked all members for their hard work to ensure commemorations occurred despite the uncertainty of constantly changing COVID19 restrictions.

Several RSL National matters were raised by the President.  These included the RSL’s consolidated response to the Terms of Reference for the Royal Commission into veteran suicide; RSL National’s intent to advocate for service personnel injured in training; delivery by RSL National of a RSL ‘Protocol Manual’ to assist and guide sub-Branches; advocacy for Afghan interpreters, and lobbying for standard ‘are you a veteran’ question on government forms.

The President also noted that the National Veterans Advisory Committee had been re-invigorated, identifying critical areas requiring strong advocacy.  RSL NSW is currently represented on that Committee by Dr Bain.

The President also noted that work was being done regarding the RSL National Employment Program to assist States outside of Queensland; that and the transition of Veteran Sport Australia under RSL would be progressed (per 2020 decision).

The Board considered the matter of resolving the future of the RSL Art Union as it pertains to States outside of Queensland and the steps taken by RSL National to do so.  It noted that RSL NSW is not in dispute with RSL Queensland on this issue and will continue to work towards a negotiated resolution.

CEO’s Report

Progress on the Strategic Plan is constrained by limited capacity of ANZAC House, but the Board noted progress on Initiatives particularly the Joint Transition Agreement and proposed services catalogue, and the Memorandum of Understanding with the RSL and Services Clubs Association and Clubs NSW.  The Board expressed a desire to expedite the Initiative that provides for training and development of sub-Branch executives and the establishment of the Project Management Office so formal reporting on progress with the Strategic Plan can commence. (See below on the Board’s decision regarding funding the Plan’s implementation.)

The Board acknowledged the difficulty in determining how the State Branch should distribute income received from Woolworths for sales of tokens during Remembrance Day 2020 (and that we are yet to receive the proceeds from the 2021 ANZAC Day Woolworths fundraising.)  The difficulty arises from the fact that Woolworths is only able to identify which of its stores has received funds from the sales, but many of these stores are used by multiple RSL sub-Branches, so it is impossible to determine how much of the funds from particular stores should go to each sub-Branch. This was resolved at the subsequent joint meeting with the District Presidents’ Council (DPC) where it was agreed that the funds (approximately $140 000) would be donated to RSL DefenceCare (RSL LifeCare), further noting that not all Districts had had an opportunity to consult with their sub-Branches.

The Board considered and accepted the CFO Report, noting the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on revenue (profit) from the Hyde Park Inn (it has dropped from approx. $3.5 m to $800k annually), leading to a forecast operating deficit of $2.7m for the financial year to 30 June 2021.  The Board noted Management’s efforts to seek contributions from large sub-Branches to help close the deficit but noted the impact on sub-Branch budgets at a time of stressed incomes because of economic conditions and the pandemic.

The Board noted that the donations from sub-Branches to RSL DefenceCare (RSLLifeCare ) had reached nearly $1.8m and thanked the membership for this.  To promote this achievement across media channels there will be a significant event, with representatives from all contributing sub-Branches invited, to present the ‘large cheque’ to RSL LifeCare so the community can see a part of what the RSL stands for and what its members do to support veterans, and as a thank you to the sub-Branches which have contributed.

The Board noted progress of sale of four sub-Branch properties and the Concord RSL site as well as pleasing progress on the Development Application for the new building on the Hyde Park Inn site.

The Board noted progress on the Funding Model for the Strategic Plan. The Request for Proposal for the Aggregated investment Manager closed on 28 May and communications to members about the two parts of the ‘pooled’ funding model are being prepared, noting the importance of clarity for sub-Branches.  The Board noted the resource constraints that are being addressed (resources at ANZAC House) to address questions being raised by members.

FY21/22 Budget

The Board approved the Budget for FY21/22.  To support the implementation of the first year of the Strategic Plan and start acting on repeated sub-Branch requests that important initiatives, such as member recruitment, training and development of sub-Branch volunteer executives be done as soon as possible, the Board also requested management to spend an additional $2 million on top of the proposed budget. This means that the Board has approved a budget for 2021/2022 with an approximate $5 million deficit.   The Board acknowledged that this level of deficit is only sustainable for a year and that, while part of the work for the first year of the Strategic Plan will include designing a fundraising strategy, unless sub-Branches agree to contribute to the proposed strategic funding model, the Strategic Plan will not be able to progress past its first year.

Other items

The Board noted progress on staff recruitment to address outstanding matters, notably the proposed Policy and Advocacy and Risk and Compliance functions.

The Board considered a proposal to establish a Fundraising Committee (Strategic Plan Initiative 5.14). It was decided that a Fundraising Working Group would be established to define a value proposition, a fundraising strategy and deliver a business case for Board consideration before a full-time Committee be established. Members with skills and experience in large scale strategic fundraising will be invited to volunteer for the Fundraising Working Group. A member communication about this will be sent shortly.

The Board delegated to the CEO the authority to enter a lease to relocate ANZAC House from its current rented premises to another temporary office at 175 Pitt Street, Sydney.  The Board noted the move will see a reduction in annual rental cost from approximately $1.4m to $400k, and the progress being made by the ANZAC House Trust Board of Management in determining a permanent ANZAC House.

The Board noted the feedback from the DPC on the Conflict-of-Interest Policy and requested this feedback be incorporated in the policy before the Policy is sent to the members. The Board later acknowledged that the Policy would be published after further input from the DPC that was agreed at the subsequent joint meeting.

The Board agreed for management to continue exploring the establishment of two temporary veteran centres (aligned to the Strategic Plan), in partnership with RSL LifeCare and in collaboration with several local ESOs including the Pro Patria Board directed the CEO to progress the proposals and return to the Board with detailed proposals for approval.

Constitution Review

The Board considered the report from the independent Chair of the Steering Committee, and a draft amended Constitution.  In particular, the Board noted that the Steering Committee had been working through all member comments and views received as motions for the 2020 congress and in other forums. Directors were asked to provide any detailed feedback to the Steering Committee Secretariat by 4 June.  The objective is to provide the proposed amended Constitution to all sub-Branches in July, in preparation for Congress in October.  Explanatory notes will be provided with the Constitution.

Committee Reports

Veteran Services and Policy Committee

The Board heard from the Chair of the Committee, Bronte Pollard, with an update on the work of the Committee. The Board noted the pressure on RSL National to address outstanding policy matters.  The Board noted the Performance of RSL Lifecare (RSL DefenceCare) in providing veterans services and that this needs to be shared on the RSL NSW website so sub-Branches can see how funds are being used to provide veterans’ services, noting the intent to introduce geography coding in the report so members can also see where assistance is being provided.

Audit and Risk Committee

The Board noted several reports from the ARC including Risk, Whisteblower and Workplace Health and Safety reports.  The Board also acknowledged that the proposed budget for FY 2021/22 had been endorsed by the ARC for Board approval.

Nomination, Remuneration and Performance Committee

The Board noted and approved the process to fill the casual vacancy on the Board.  Advertising will commence shortly, and the process should be completed by October.  The Board also noted progress with filling the independent role on the ARC.  The Board asked the Committee to review of NVAC and VS&P committee representation and membership.

Governance Review Committee

The Report was noted.

ANZAC House Trust

The Board noted a report from the Trust, including the decision to progress a strategy to identify and procure a new ANZAC House.

Selections Committee

The Board approved four Life Membership recommendations and seven Auxiliary Member Life Memberships, two sub-Branch 100-year Certificates for the cities of Newcastle and Orange. Also approved a copy of an original Charter for Ashfield sub-Branch.

RSL LifeCare

The Board considered and approved amended procedures for RSL LifeCare to keep RSL NSW (as its member) informed of its activities.  The Board also agreed to the ongoing remuneration of RSL LifeCare’s directors in accordance with the RSL Lifecare Constitution, to be lodged to the Minister for approval by RSL LifeCare.

Disciplinary Matters

One matter was referred to the Tribunal, one matter was noted.

One matter was over-turned by the Review Panel because of a technical oversight by the Tribunal.  The Board noted that the Tribunal’s finding remains but due to the technical matter, no action can be taken against the impacted party.

Joint DPC Meeting

After the Board meeting, the Board attended its bi-annual joint meeting with the District Presidents’ Council at ANZAC House.  The DPC conveyed feedback to the Board on several matters, including the Managing Conflicts of Interest Policy and matters arising from the progress of the sub-Branch incorporation pilots.  The Board noted that ANZAC House was already pursuing legislative change to enable the Government to grant a stamp duty exemption to sub-Branches on incorporation.  The DPC noted they had received the draft (Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on sub-Branch Incorporation and the Board was pleased to receive a template SOP from the DPC to help improve the presentation of SOPs.  (The SOP review is on pause while resources are obtained, but the joint meeting agreed that SOP1 review should be the highest priority.)  On incorporation, the Board agreed to consider feedback from the DPC that incorporation as an association could be achieved while maintaining the integrity of the RSL NSW Constitution.

The DPC was updated on the projects to review the board election, and the review of Districts, with the latter being delayed until the independent Chair of the Steering Committee could be announced.