RSL NSW State Congress 2022 highlights
More than 240 delegates gathered in Newcastle to discuss the future of the League, the implementation of the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-26, outcomes and responses to the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and more. Here are the highlights.
At a glance:
- RSL NSW State Congress and AGM was held 31 October – 1 November at the Newcastle Exhibition Centre.
- Speakers included RSL President Greg Melick, RSL NSW President Ray James and Chair Sophie Ray, MC Catherine McGregor, The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Campbell, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Elizabeth Cosson, the Commissioners of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and more.
- Highlights included the announcement of life membership, awards and recognition for members and sub-Branches, as well as an update on the achievements of the RSL NSW Sport and recreation program, with an opportunity for delegates to experience the program for themselves.
- RSL Australia in collaboration with Servulink launched the Veterans’ Catalogue at State Congress, providing all veterans and their families with fingertip access to local support and assistance.
“RSL is an extraordinary organisation of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things,” RSL NSW CEO Jon Black said on day one. “We can make the most of it when we all work together – we all proudly wear the same badge.”
That theme – of working as one RSL to drive extraordinary outcomes locally and across the state – carried throughout the two days, as MC Catherine McGregor introduced sessions in which the RSL NSW Board and ANZAC House leadership were joined by RSL sub-Branch members and external speakers including The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, Chief of the Australian Defence Force Angus Campbell, Department of Veterans’ Affairs Secretary Elizabeth Cosson, the Commissioners of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide, and more.
MC Catherine McGregor
Greg Melick, President, RSL Australia
Greg Melick quickly dived deep on current issues facing the veteran community.
“I take the view that you don’t try to embarrass a government into doing things; you try to talk them around,” Melick said. “The arrangements I’ve had with various ministers is that I will lobby them. If I can’t get what I want it’s usually because they can’t get what they want.”
Melick explained that this approach recently resulted in $267m to increase DVA staffing and systems, but that there is still work to do – still a problem with DVA processing claims and still a lack of mental health professionals in Australia, and RSL continues to work closely with the DVA and support improvement.
“It’s time the RSL started looking outwards instead of inwards,” Melick told Congress.
Melick also discussed the Australian War Memorial’s treatment of frontier violence and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander service, the need for the RSL as a whole to continue to champion eternal vigilance by looking outwards instead of inwards, and more.
The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales
“The past couple of years have been such a period of extraordinary disruption – and everyone had to adapt to the changing circumstances,” The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of New South Wales, told Congress, reflecting on the difficulties involved in change, particularly in large organisations.
“You’ve had to change from doing things that you’ve done for a long in a way that you’ve done them for such a long time, and really turn to a different modus operandi all together, so that you continue doing the great work that you do and most particularly continue having that connection which is so much part of the RSL and in particular RSL NSW.”
The Governor commended RSL NSW’s future focus, commending the commitment to implementing the Strategic Plan 2021-26.
“I know from many discussions with the executive that there has been a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but most particularly a lot of deep thought which has gone into that Strategic Plan to ensure that you remain the vibrant organisation which you are today,” the Governor continued.
“The plan’s case for change remains compelling and I encourage you to keep up your support for its ongoing implementation and to think strategically – not only to think strategically but to think strategically as one while passionately and fearlessly acting locally.
“That is a challenge but it’s a terrific challenge.”
Meritorious Service Medals
The Governor and Ray James presented two Meritorious Service Medals, to Elwyn Spencer of the City of Campbelltown RSL sub-Branch and John Graeme Balfour of the Forestville RSL sub-Branch.
A member since 1966 and Life Member since 2007, Spencer’s early focus on welfare saw him work to send care packages to troops overseas and led to him serving as his RSL sub-Branch’s Welfare Officer for more than 15 years.
As well joining his RSL sub-Branch’s executive, speaking at local schools and representing the RSL sub-Branch President on many occasions, Balfour has served both behind the scenes and as March Marshal and Master of Ceremonies for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day services.
Balfour, who served in the Australian Army for 47 years, joined the RSL in 1987 and became a Life Member in 2018. Locally, he conducts welfare checks for more than 80 members and liaises with schools on activities and grants that honour the legacy of veterans’ service.
Balfour has also been a marshal at the Sydney Anzac Day March since 1972, serving for 12 years on the Anzac Day March executive committee.
RSL NSW Sport and Recreation update
On Monday, delegates heard from RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Project Manager Jen Reynolds and members who had participated in the Sport and Recreation program pilot about its impact on their sub-Branch and community.
Nabiac RSL sub-Branch took home the participation award.
“We started … to grow membership to support each other and have fun, which is important and help all veterans and their families in need,” Jen said. “In addition to that we wanted to get really specific about what we wanted to achieve with this pilot, and we had four main goals.”
Jen listed the four goals:
- Support veteran well-being through social connection and camaraderie
- Create an inclusive environment for veterans’ families
- Grow community connection through partnership with local businesses, including veteran-owned businesses
- Increase member engagement and attract new members
“I’m happy to report as we finish up today that we can tick all of these goals off – we have achieved everything that we set out to achieve.” Jen said.
“Over the course of the seven months the two participating districts saw significant increase in membership growth making them the first and fourth fastest-growing statewide. In addition to the increase in members, collectively we saw more than 100 activities – which is a lot – and a variety of these activities included walking group gym sessions, pilates, darts, golf, lawn bowls, family-friendly putt-putt and billiards just to share a few.
“We saw connection among our sub-branch members grow. We saw growth in connection among sub-branch members within neighbouring sub-branches and, really excitingly, we saw 20% increase in connection within our wider veteran community. We also saw an increase in physical health as well.”
Following day one of Congress, 220 Congress delegates got a taste of the Sport and Recreation program at the Bar Beach Bowling Club, where competition was fierce indoors and out over trivia, barefoot bowls and walking football.
Launch of the Veterans’ Catalogue
To empower veterans and their families to more easily find and access services and support, RSL Australia has partnered with veteran-owned technology provider Servulink to develop the Veterans’ Catalogue, which launched on day two of RSL NSW State Congress.
The Veterans’ Catalogue provides access to more than 1500 registered veteran service providers across 12 categories.
“We’ve established these 12 categories based on Research from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, and holistic veteran needs but we’ve also added a few of our own such as volunteering, transition piece as well as concessions, discounts, advocacy and claims,” said Matt Brennan, Co-Founder and EGM at Servulink. “There’s Crisis Support there with Lifeline and Open Arms.”
Young Veterans’ Committee Chair Sarah Watson addressed delegates.
One of the greatest barriers standing between the veteran community and at-times lifesaving assistance is the complexity of the veteran support system.
“The Veterans’ Catalogue makes support services accessible to veterans and their families, throughout the state,” says RSL NSW President Ray James. “We envision any veteran or family member being able to access the app and find local assistance, whether that’s RSL sub-Branch resources or through any other provider.
“We also see the app as an incredibly valuable tool for sub-Branch members to use to assist their local veteran communities. With immediate information at their fingertips, sub-Branch representatives can assist other local veterans to reach out and seek support on the spot – with this tool, we can greatly reduce some of our community’s stresses.”
Awards and Honours
Congratulations to the sub-Branches, Auxiliaries and community members recognised with awards and honours – your contributions to the League and the community are highly appreciated.
MERITORIOUS SERVICE MEDAL
John Graeme Balfour Forestville RSL sub-Branch
Elwyn Spencer City of Campbelltown RSL sub-Branch
John Graham Slender Ramsgate RSL sub-Branch
Roger Perry Malabar RSL sub-Branch
Norman Keith Wilson Finley RSL sub-Branch
Alan George Wright Dee Why RSL sub-Branch
Thomas Hobbs Toukley RSL sub-Branch
Robert David Alen Williams Wagga Wagga RSL sub-Branch
Peter Gordon Fidden Karuah RSL sub-Branch
Raymond Henry Strong Berry RSL sub-Branch
Brian Boughton East Maitland RSL sub-Branch
Russell Durrant Nelson Bay RSL sub-Branch
Phillip Archibald Evenden Castle Hill RSL sub-Branch
Ronald Grace City of Parramatta RSL sub-Branch
George William John King Anzac House
Thomas Lupton Nelson Bay RSL sub-Branch
Joseph Benoit Malaquin Inverell RSL sub-Branch
Robert McLaren Moss Vale RSL sub-Branch
Brian Arthur McLennan Inverell RSL sub-Branch
Jacqualyn Perring Mudgee RSL sub-Branch
Geoffrey Schuberg Cronulla RSL sub-Branch
Ronald Charles Shaw Cronulla RSL sub-Branch
Robert Thomas Drummoyne RSL sub-Branch
Stanley Thomas Merrylands RSL sub-Branch
Brian Joseph Walters Castle Hill and District RSL sub-Branch
Paul Warren Milton-Ulladulla RSL sub-Branch
Robert Wilson Alstonville RSL sub-Branch
Paul Zaat Cronulla RSL sub-Branch
RSL NSW AUXILIARY LIFE MEMBERSHIP
Beverly De Loas East Maitland RSL sub-Branch
Betty Molloy Gundagai RSL sub-Branch
Valda Hindmarsh Gundagai RSL sub-Branch
Sue Hardy Young RSL sub-Branch
Margaret McGlynn Young RSL sub-Branch
CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION
Mary Cooper, RSL NSW Membership Supervisor, for 25 years of service to the League.
LADY WOODWARD CUP FOR 2022
- City of Lismore Auxiliary
- Wingham Auxiliary
- Forestville Auxiliary
STATE PRESIDENT’S SHIELD
- Balgowlah-Seaforth-Clontarf RSL sub-Branch
- Bondi Junction/Waverley RSL sub-Branch
- City of Bankstown RSL sub-Branch
- Cumberland RSL sub-Branch
- Glen Innes RSL sub-Branch
- Ingleburn RSL sub-Branch
- Inverell RSL sub-Branch
- Maroubra RSL sub-Branch
- Seven Hills-Toongabbie-Wentworthville RSL sub-Branch