President of RSL NSW James Brown, released his first President’s Update for the year on March 1 and it looks like there may finally be an end in sight to the organisations current constitutional turmoil.
Mr Brown’s update used frank language to detail the Board of RSL NSW understood it had made a number of mistakes in its bid to dramatically and radically alter the RSL’s Constitution. He acknowledged the state branch had got the power balance wrong and a ‘top down’ approach was not acceptable to sub branch members, they considered they were being unfairly punished for mistakes by head office and that the sub branches don’t want to be forced into a change in governance. Mr Brown also made it clear that state branch acknowledges they had been rushing the change process through and communication was poor when it came to consultation with those that mattered most, the members of the League.
The most profound element of the president's update is James Brown’s acknowledgement that Board had been so intent on complying with the directions of the Australian Charities and not-for-profit Commission in order to retain the Leagues charitable status that it missed what the members of the League had been trying to tell them. What sub branches had been communicating to the Board was the unique nature of the RSL, the very real element of camaraderie.
The president's update included a section of a well crafted letter from the Karuah RSL Sub Branch that hits the nail on the head regarding the special nature of the RSL that is not reflected in the tax and charities law. What the Karuah sub branch so eloquently points out is the definition of Welfare presented by RSL NSW is mainly outward in focus and action and does not account for the vital need for socialisation and support between sub branch Members. The Karuah sub branch goes on to use the example that Sub Branch Members are fellow travellers on the road to survival in the post military world and adds that this goes a long way to minimising the latent effects of PTSD and the threshold at which this is able to be managed by individuals.
Having acknowledged where it has gone wrong it is now up to RSL state branch, supported by district councils and sub branches, to put forward either a new or amended constitution that is acceptable to its members. James Brown’s update details the proposed state congress in May is now off as they just will not be ready for it.
The down side to the first president's update of the year is it does little to tell sub branches how much longer they will be in this fundraising limbo. James Brown does say that there will be work done after ANZAC Day to develop a path back to normal fundraising, so let’s hope those smaller sub branches that may be on the brink hang in there until that time.
While it does not provide all the answers, the president's update is formal acknowledgment that the Leagues members are not happy with the approach taken by Head Office to sort out what most saw as something already working well and that the main problems were in the ‘head shed’.
At the local level it is up to RSL sub branches, as they limp along awaiting state branch to enable them to get back to running at full steam, to ponder on what the Karuah sub branch reminds us and continue to keep an eye on the welfare of their mates that may need a hand.