Hello to you all,
I will attempt to put three days work into a readable document of a couple of pages. I have no doubt that I will omit something however if you do have any queries/questions or comments, please contact me via email email@example.com and I will get the answer back to you asap.
Frank Carter and I were the Delegates to the Congress with Pat Cleggett and Drew Ferguson-Tait as observers. The Congress had the best representation of Sub Branches ever with 290 out of a possible 354 Sub bRanches represented. We were all surprised by the absence of a number of larger, well funded Sub Branches who did not send at least one delegate. A number of Newcastle Sub Branches, all well funded, wasted an important vote on the direction of the RSL by not attending. Overall we judged the congress a success and regardless of personal opinions on various matters, most delegates viewed the progress the congress made with the modification to the constitution and other matters a good step forward.
After an easy trip down on the train and then an uneventful flight to Albury we all checked into the hotel and walked across to the Commercial Club to register and attend a “meet and greet” session. A few quite ales, dinner and early to bed.
The first real day of the congress was interesting. Scott Seccombe, the State Rep. from Coffs Harbour was MC for the day and provided the entire congress with a lot of laughs all the time keeping us on track. Lots of normal housekeeping issues in the morning which culminated in a situation report on the RSL NSW given by James Brown. A couple of important points came out of that sitrep. First we will have to look at moving at least some of our fixed deposits into managed funds as our Sub Branch needs to increase its return on cash investments. There is no time frame however your Executive is now aware what we need to do in the near future.
Secondly, the RSL NSW overall only spends 27cents in the dollar (of charitable funds raised) on actual charitable issues. Overall, the aim of the RSL NSW is to raise that sort of spending to a minimum of 51 cents in the dollar. There is still confusion as to what constitutes “welfare” and “charitable” as per the definition given to us in late March and hopefully we will be able to get a more definitive answer to all the questions we have by the time of the Extraordinary Congress which will be held in Sydney in late October this year. Full credit to James Brown who fielded over an hour of questions from the floor and answered a few curly ones openly and honestly.
The congress was then addressed by the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshall Mark Biskin AC who, as expected, spoke on the importance of the RSL to the Defence Force members.
He was followed by the best speech I have ever heard, given by Dr. Brendon Nelson who is the Director of the Australian War Memorial, Canberra. Without doubt it was one of the most emotive speeches superbly delivered and by the end of the presentation there wasn’t a dry eye in the place. The RSL is attempting to get Dr.Nelson’s permission to post the speech on the RSL website. If it is successful we will let you know as it is well worth a look.
After lunch at the Bandiana Army Museum (Pat and Frank represented our RSL) another long and very honest and open Q&A session in the afternoon with James Brown and other members of the management team from Sydney. At the end of the day we all transferred up to the monument on the hill for a quick wreath laying. Well attended and cold as the sun set in the west.
The second day started with addresses by Todd Greenburg (by video) the head of the ARL followed by the NSW Minister for Veterans Affairs the Hon. David Elliot MP followed by the Opposition Spokesman Greg Warren.
It was refreshing to hear both sides of politics (both of whom are members of the League) presenting a united front in their support of the RSL NSW going forward. There is no doubt we have a lot of challenges to face with a raft of new changes being introduced into the NSW Parliament to update the RSL Act of 1934, all of which come from the recommendations from the Bergin Enquiry. We will have an update on these changes once the RSL NSW have had time to look at and digest what the changes mean for us.
The President and Treasurers Reports were then presented. The financial reports were the best we have seen in years with the League in reasonable condition however there is still a lot of work to do within the various sections of the League to satisfy the various requirements re the Charities Commission.
The Governor of NSW, His Excellency General David Hurley CSC was introduced and gave a well structured speech as a follow up to what he said last year. As Patron of the League, he is vitally interested in the League continuing to serve the ex-service community for years to come.
The afternoon session started with an address from Mr. David Locke, the Assistant Commissioner Charity Services of the ACNC. Fire and Brimstone!! He put the wind up most of the delegates with what could happen if we didn’t get our individual houses in order in regard to fundraising and then the accounting and disbursement of the funds into the right sectors. After a lot of discussion later in the evening, your delegates feel that we comply too a great degree on the accounting side however, like most Sub Branches, we will have to review and introduce new measures as required. We are light years ahead of many of the Sub Branches thanks to the foresight of Mark Minell who set our accounts up the way he did to isolate our fundraising/spending on commemorative (charitable) events.
The balance of the afternoon was spent on a Strategy workshop where we were introduced to our electronic voting machines. Frank and I are sure that some of the delegates are still in the 1800’s with the objections, all unfounded, coming thick and fast. The session went ahead, was informative and
showed, once the hoo-ha had been overcome, that the majority of the delegates present accept that the League has to change to remain relevant and regardless of personal preference, a lot of changes are going to be forced upon us.
It was evident that most delegates (us included) accept that it is better to be part of the conversation as to the direction of the League rather than having changes forced on us without input from the rank and file.
An early start at 0730 and a full day through to 1430 with only one short comfort break. A huge agenda of formal motions were put and your delegates voted as directed. It is of interest that you, our Sub Branch members, voted in almost all motions as per the rest of the other Sub Branches. The motions on proxies were all withdrawn as they were not correctly formatted and the motion for proportional representation was soundly beaten after a sometimes personal debate.
I have a list of results of the motions if anyone is interested that I will bring to the next Sub Branch meeting. What will be more important is what will be presented as Constitutional change for the Extraordinary Congress in October.
The Motion from your Sub Branch to withdraw the current (new) definition of Welfare was not accepted as urgent by the Suspension Committee and as such was not presented to Congress. After I spoke to James Brown, I will continue to pursue the motion via District Council to put it forward to the State Executive for immediate action.
Fogged in at the Albury airport for nearly 3 hours we all got home about 5.00 pm on Thursday afternoon. The general consensus from all your delegates that although there was a huge amount of work (as against other congress’s we have attended) to get through, we have all learnt a lot about the way we need to change to make our Sub Branch a better managed branch which complies in all ways.
I look forward to seeing you all at the next meeting on TUESDAY 12th June.
Ken Fayle, JP
President, City of Newcastle RSL Sub-Branch