RSL NSW State Congress 2023 highlights

RSL sub-Branch delegates heard updates on key initiatives, discussed the progress of the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-2026, and networked with fellow veterans at the RSL NSW Congress and AGM 2023.

At a glance:

  • RSL NSW announced a $3.3 million donation to RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to support wellbeing support for veterans and their families.
  • Incoming President Mick Bainbridge and CEO Giles Hurst were officially welcomed alongside three new members of the RSL NSW Board.
  • Delegates enjoyed an evening of camaraderie and physical activity at a sport and recreation event.
  • “When the League works together, we are a powerful force for good and an important part of the fabric of the nation,” RSL Australia CEO Phil Winter told attendees.

Delegates from RSL sub-Branches across NSW gathered in Newcastle this week for the RSL NSW State State Congress and AGM.

They heard updates on programs being delivered by RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services, acknowledged the achievements of some of the most active sub-Branches, socialised with fellow veterans and learned of the progress of the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide.

The League in NSW also officially welcomed its incoming President Mick Bainbridge, a former Special Forces Commando, incoming CEO Giles Hurst and three new Board members.

RSL Australia CEO Phil Winter, speaking on behalf of RSL Australia President Greg Melick, praised RSL NSW for leading the way in achieving generational change.

“I have the pleasure of going to all the State Congresses,” said Winter. “We now have new presidents … in Western Australia, South Australia and NSW all from that [young veterans’] cohort, which we hope will take the lead forward in the future.”

He stressed the importance of collaboration across sub-Branches.

“When the League works together, we are a powerful force for good and an important part of the fabric of the nation.”

Building bonds of camaraderie

Her Excellency The Honourable Margaret Beazley AC KC, Governor of NSW, remarked upon the value of commemorative events organised by sub-Branches alongside activities that encourage bonds and camaraderie.

“Commemoration is both the maintenance of a continued and growing tradition of honouring those who have served as well as the continuance of mateship – the looking out for one another, looking out for each other’s families,” she said.

“You are making this organisation an organisation which cares. You care for each other. You look after each other … I thank each and every member, each and every sub-Branch for their efforts.”


Delegates heard updates on the RSL NSW Strategic Plan 2021-26, membership growth, recruitment efforts, policy advocacy, the uptake of the Sport & Recreation Program, and other projects.

“As a member-based organisation, we need to listen,” said outgoing RSL NSW CEO Jon Black. “The Strategic Plan encompasses … the ability to mobilise our collective resources for charitable purpose, to have a [powerful] impact.”

David McCann, Chair of the RSL NSW Veteran Services and Policy Committee, provided an update on RSL NSW’s policy submissions to government.

“It’s crucial [to] understand that everyone in this room, no matter what position you hold in the RSL, has a say in how we as the RSL dictate our policy,” he told delegates. “We are sub-Branch-centric.

“The ideas, the steam for what we do in the veteran space comes from sub-Branches – and we have to work together to do that.”

Connecting veterans with support and services

Incoming President Mick Bainbridge joined outgoing President Ray James OAM onstage to present RSL LifeCare Chair Ewen Crouch with a $3.3 million donation to RSL LifeCare Veteran Services.

“Together, we are leading the charge in collaboration with ex-service organisations and other charities to deliver the unique services and support that veterans and their families tell us that they need, all under one roof,” said James.

“With a strong network of over 27,000 … volunteers across NSW, our members are serving their veteran community every day by providing critical grassroots personal support, mateship and camaraderie. They play a critical role in our hub-and-spoke model and they are equipped with the tools that they need to connect veterans and their families to critical services that RSL LifeCare Veteran Services provides.”

Crouch said the partnership between RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare Veteran Services is “a most important one”.

“Our programs now assist in excess of 7,000 veterans and their families, including through our Veteran Wellbeing Centres,” he said. “An excellent example of what this partnership can do is the recent establishment of a Veteran Wellbeing Centre at Dee Why.

“My friendly challenge to all of you … is to help us accelerate the speed in which we can provide more and broader services to veterans by increasing the financial funding that we can apply. And our commitment is to match every donation we receive.”

RSL LifeCare Executive General Manager David Anderson outlined the strategic operating model guiding the organisation’s decision making, and pointed to the example of Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs as proof of concept.

He said that Veterans’ and Families’ Hubs have enabled RSL LifeCare Veteran Services to significantly increase social connections and community recognition of veterans.

“We are in a stage or in a landscape now where trends are changing. We have veterans who are now coming not just for one service, but they’re seeking many.”

Getting veterans socially and physically active

A major highlight of the Congress schedule for delegates, run for the second year in a row, was the recreational activity held at Bar Beach Bowling Club.

The event gave delegates the opportunity to meet each other, socialise and play friendly games of lawn bowls and trivia.

RSL NSW Sport and Recreation Program Manager Jen Reynolds reported that the program’s activities have increased four times since the 2022 pilot.

“[Across] 34 sub-Branch communities … we have delivered 450 recorded activities for our members and our wider veteran and family community … providing thousands of participants with opportunities to create social connection and engage with one another.”

These activities have helped grow the program into the largest recreation program for veterans in Australia.

“Without the support of the Sport & Recreation Program, we wouldn’t be able to do anything like that we’re doing currently,” said Damian Gow, Treasurer of Old Bar Beach RSL sub-Branch.

Awards for standout sub-Branches

Dozens of sub-Branches that made financial contributions to support ANZAC House operations throughout the year were presented with the State President’s Shield, while the inaugural sub-Branch of the Year Award, awarded in recognition of the extraordinary volunteerism across the League, was presented to members from Nabiac RSL sub-Branch.

If you want to learn more about outcomes from this year’s Congress, reach out to your sub-Branch’s delegate.

Related Stories
RSL Welcomes Veteran Housing Program
Latest News

RSL Welcomes Veteran Housing Program

The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) has welcomed yesterday’s launch of the...
RSL Says Lived Experiences Highlight Issues Facing Veterans and Service Personnel
Latest News

RSL Says Lived Experiences Highlight Issues Facing Veterans and Service Personnel

The Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) says the Lived Experiences Report Shining a Light...
RSL NSW Sport & Recreation Program update: 5 RSL sub-Branches share their story
Latest News

RSL NSW Sport & Recreation Program update: 5 RSL sub-Branches share their story

How the RSL NSW Sport & Recreation Program has set a gold standard for encouraging veterans’...
RSL NSW funding sends veterans on life-changing Kokoda journey | RSL NSW
Latest News

RSL NSW funding sends veterans on life-changing Kokoda journey | RSL NSW

Four veterans share how a journey along the Kokoda Track has improved their mental wellbeing and...