Interim President’s Update
It has been two months since the RSL came out of Administration and our destiny was placed back into our hands!
It has been a very busy time and the small Interim Board, supported by the recently appointed Chief Executive Officer, Corey Starkey, have been working extremely hard. As I have stated previously, the Interim Board was appointed by the Administrators. Those asked to comprise the Board were the members of the RSL who had nominated to contest the 2017 elections and as we all know those elections were not conducted.
The Administrators considered that this group was best placed to “manage” the RSL until the 2018 elections and this practical solution was supported by our Regional Coordinators and a representative of the previous Board. Prior to the next elections the Interim Board will resign and the management of our RSL will be returned to you, the membership. This is just as it should be in any transparent and accountable organisation.
What caused the problems the RSL now faces are canvassed in detail in the independent Federal Government Australian Charities and Not-for profit Commission Report. If you have not read this report then you should. It is on the RSL website and will explain how and why the RSL came to be in such a difficult situation.
While the Interim Board is working hard to stabilize the ship, there are many residual issues that are still being investigated by various regulatory authorities and government bodies. Having to focus so much on the past, does make it challenging for the Interim Board to focus on the future. Nevertheless, we have been reassured that these investigations are necessary to understand what has transpired over recent years. We are attempting respond to agencies inquiring into the past fully and speedily.
Despite this, we are pushing ahead with vigour and are determined to address the issues of interest or concern you have referred to us. Some of them are:
Communication and Transparency. Meaningful communication is the essence of any well-run organisation. You, the Membership, need to know that your voice matters and State Headquarters will always try and make someone available to speak to you if you call or visit. Both the CEO and I will continue to communicate via this means and per the RSL website. We ask that you disseminate all the information we send you and seek feedback from your members. This is very important for Sub-Branch leaders, especially if some of your members do not have email access. We must find a way to ensure everyone is kept in the loop and that each of them is given a “voice.”
Recent/Forthcoming Meetings. A meeting of Regional Coordinators was held on 10 October and a Sub-Branch Presidents Meeting will be held on 21 November. These meetings present an opportunity for you to clarify any issues that are of concern to you. I would particularly welcome any queries you have about the past. We need to put the past to bed, but that can only happen when you, the membership, have received answers to all your questions and are comfortable with those answers.
Veterans Advocacy. There are many good things that are being done by the State CEO and Board and we are kicking goals in the Veterans Advocacy space. The CEO is working in close partnership with other ESO’s and Sub-Branches, and the “Veterans Centres” initiative booming. “Advocacy” is our core business and it is great to see a renewed focus on this critical part of our work. As I write we have some 380 claims on foot. That is 380 veterans in need that the State Branch is stepping up to assist.
The Deeds of Company Arrangement (DOCA’s). We are meeting all the obligations we agreed under the DOCA’s we signed off with our Creditors. The sale of the RSL owned Linden Park property to the RAR Association has settled and I am pleased that all former employees have received their official Proof of Debt forms which will allow them to make their final claims.
We are ahead of the financial budget delivered to us in conjunction with the DOCA’s. While it was Spartan, I am pleased to say that our rigid system of financial management and a transparent procurement system has put us ahead of the game! I would like to thank RSL Care for the part time pro bono financial management support they have provided over recent weeks.
The RSL Virtual War Memorial. The RSL VWM is kicking goals! Interim Board Members, Trevor Whitelaw and Bill Denny, represented me at the “Don’t forget me Cobber” lunch held recently and gave me a glowing report. The RSL Virtual War memorial, its Board and its CEO Sharyn Roberts, do a great job and need our support – their role is unique and they are in a special place that allows them to acknowledge every person that served. They are at the leading edge of “commemoration!”
World War II Veterans Oral History Project. In conjunction with the Vietnam Veterans Association and the Vietnam Veteran Federation, we have initiated a World War II Oral History Project. Those men and women who served us so well in World War II are now well into their 90’s. We have utilized the skills of Dr Nigel Stark (former Editor of “The Signal” magazine) who, with funding provided by the State Government ANZAC Day Commemoration Council, has commenced interviewing 20 veterans. Their stories are remarkable and will make a marvellous contribution to the Virtual War Memorial, Uni SA and to the veterans concerned. If you know of a World War II veteran who would like to tell his or her story (especially Navy or Merchant Navy), then please contact State HQ – we need a couple more to ensure the “commemorative jigsaw” is “balanced”.
The Avoca Hotel. The Avoca Hotel is performing as well as can be expected in a very tough financial climate. There has been much controversy about this investment and the lack of consultation prior to the acquisition. The Interim Board understand that. At this point of time any pub is “hard graft” and ours is no different. We are however blessed with excellent staff and an enthusiastic, diligent and knowledgeable Board, who are determined to make it work.
Thank you for your help. I will write to each Sub-Branch individually however, I want to publicly thank all who contributed funds to help the RSL family survive our current challenges. We are not “out of the woods” yet, however, I believe that the light ahead is not an oncoming freight train!
Appointment of Regional Coordinators. Back to the communication thing! We still need members who might consider volunteering as Regional Coordinators. It is an interesting job that asks you to act as a conduit between the Board and the membership. Regional Coordinators have an extraordinarily valuable part to play.
A big thank you to our Staff. It would be extremely remiss of me not to acknowledge the exceptional work that continues to be done by our staff. They have been with us through thick and thin. As you will recall, the RSL had over 20 staff. Sadly that was not sustainable and per the Administrators we are now down to five. There is no doubt that the workload has not reduced that much. Indeed in some areas it is increasing! We continue to rely on the loyalty and professionalism of our dedicated staff and they continue to deliver in spades!
In conclusion, I ask that you do all you can to restore the image of the RSL fashioned over a century. Recent years cannot be allowed to damage the legacy of our forebears. The RSL has done, and continues to do, many wonderful things. This is only the start. With good governance and hard work, we can continue to make all the difference.
Interim State President