For the Returned and Services League (RSL) NSW the writing is on the wall. With less than 10 per cent of their membership under the age of 55 RSL NSW knows it must either re-establish itself as the pre-eminent veterans service organisation in the state or eventually fade away, potentially within a decade.
In an effort to provide a roadmap and get the organisation back into position to tackle the current and future needs of the states veterans and their families RSL NSW has released a draft strategic plan for its members to consider. Over the weekend the CEO of RSL NSW, Mr John Black, visited the Mid North Coast to discuss the Draft Strategic Plans and listen to input from RSL Sub Branches.
Underpinning the development of the strategic plan is that RSL NSW 30,000 members unanimously want to see RSL NSW remain a member based organisation and remain a charity. One of the hurdles faced by John Black and his team is clarifying to members and the general public just what the RSL does for veterans. One issue that makes this clarity difficult is the perception the RSL NSW Sub Branches and the RSL Clubs are one and the same. The reality is that only around 10 per cent of the states 350 RSL Sub Branches own the clubs that carry the name the RSL.
While in most cases the RSL Clubs and Sub Branches enjoy a strong relationship and the Sub Branches often receive support from the clubs, most members of the public consider that by supporting the club they are directly supporting veterans. Given that this public perception is completely understandable, rather than divorce from the clubs, John Black recommends stronger engagement by the Sub Branches with the clubs that carry the RSL name.
John Black conceded that in the recent past that RSL NSW had been caught napping and that an extraordinary range of organisations had sprung up to provide services to veterans that once the RSL NSW might have been responsible for. What the new strategic plan proposes rather than run in competition with other veteran support services and organisations the RSL NSW act as a type of 'concierge' service where veterans can be directed to the appropriate services or organisation.
RSL NSW would also be in a position to support services provided to veterans through financial support and fund-raising. The draft strategic plan also sees the RSL NSW sub branches playing a role in support to veterans transitions from Defence to civilian life through a 'buddy' system where those veterans transitioning from the ADF into civilian life will have someone to help them deal with the challenges they may be facing. This would see the RSL NSW working with the ADF and DVA to identify key services required for those separating and dealing with gaps in services when required.
RSL NSW want the strategic plan realised by 2025 and by that time the aspiration is all communities in NSW will know what it is the RSL NSW does and what it stands for. And what it stands for is camaraderie, commemoration and connection to services for all veterans and their families.
In this draft strategic plan RSL NSW is clear that money raised by Sub Branches and their Auxiliaries will stay in the communities it comes from to support veterans services in this area. The plan also offers an optional investment strategy for Sub Branches with cash assets. RSL NSW has identified that as Sub Branches invest their funds as individual entities, there are millions of dollars being lost through ineffective investment strategies and administration costs.
RSL NSW is proposing that Sub Branches be able to centralise their funds through the State Branch where a larger pool of money can be invested for greater returns and lower overheads thus providing more funds to be spent locally on veterans services. The hurdle for RSL NSW will be in regaining the trust that the Sub Branches have for State Branch in the wake of the recent Bergin Enquiry.
The draft RSL NSW Strategic Plan is as aspirational as it is necessary and will need to be funded and executed by RSL NSW if they wish to be here for current and future veterans and their families in the years ahead. CEO RSL NSW John Black has a hard road ahead of him however his vision and passion for keeping RSL NSW relevant into the future was obvious during his presentation on the weekend and I wish him every chance of success. To learn more go to www.rslnsw.org.au and type Strategic Plan in the search portal.
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