Returned and Services League of Australia
|Affiliations||Royal Commonwealth Ex-Services League (RCEL)|
|Returned Sailor's Soldier's Airmen's Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA)|
The Returned and Services League, Australia (RSL) is a support organisation for men and women who have served or are serving in the Defence Force.
The RSL's mission is to ensure that programs are in place for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-service Defence Force members and their dependents; and promote Government and community awareness of the need for a secure, stable and progressive Australia.
The League evolved out of concern for the welfare of returned servicemen from the first World War. During 1916, a conference recommended the formation of The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) which included representation from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. New South Wales was admitted to the League the following year, and Western Australia in 1918. In 1927, the Australian Capital Territory formed a branch and was admitted.
In 1940, the name of the League changed to the Returned Sailors' Soldiers' and Airmens Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA), and a subsequent change of name took effect in 1965, as the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL). Two more name changes occurred, in 1983 to Returned Services League of Australia Limited (RSL) and in 1990 to Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL). The objects of the League remain relatively unchanged from its first incorporation.
RSL badge symbolism
At the top of the badge is the Crown signifying allegiance to Queen and country. Below the crown are the national flowers of Australia, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland – the wattle, the leek, the rose, the thistle, and the shamrock. In the centre of the badge are a sailor, soldier, an airman and service woman who are marching with their arms linked, symbolising friendship and that all services, and all ranks, are united in comradeship. The red of the badge is symbolic of the blood tie of war. The white background stands for the purity of motive – and to render service without personal gain. The blue is a symbol of willingness to render service to a comrade anywhere under the blue sky.
The badge may only be worn by members of the League; and, moreover, it is an offence under the laws of most Australian States/Territories for an individual to wear an RSL badge (a) that has not been issued specifically to them by the RSL, and (b) unless they are entitled to wear the badge, at that time, under the rules of the League (e.g., a non-financial member is not permitted to wear the badge until their fees are paid).
The influence of the League comes from its founding days organising rituals for Anzac Day dawn services and march, and Remembrance Day commemorations. However, even as early as the 1920s, the role of the League became controversial as it banned women from attending the dawn service because of their wailing. As well as arguing for veterans' benefits, it has entered other areas of political debate. It was politically conservative, Anglophilic, and monarchist.
Many veterans from the Vietnam War found the RSL, dominated by the ranks of World War II veterans, an unwelcoming, alien environment, and chose not to participate, but have over the past 20 years become actively involved. This may have been reflective of the changing status of Vietnam veterans in the 1970s and 80s. (See also Social attitudes and treatment of Vietnam veterans)
Nevertheless, the focus of the RSL is above all on the welfare of Australian men and women serving in the armed forces. It has advocated for veterans entitlements, the protection of former battlefields and the rights of serving soldiers, sailors and airmen. The RSL also ensures that those who have served the country are commemorated for their service by providing funeral information to those who have served with the deceased and handing out individual red poppy flowers at the funeral to ensure that the deceased service to their country is acknowledged (see In Flanders Fields). In 2003 Peter Phillips, the National President, endorsed a statement criticising the decision of the Howard government to send forces to Iraq without a mandate from a United Nations Security Council resolution.
The League is overseen by a National Executive that consists of the National President; the Deputy National President; State Branch Presidents for New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia; and the National Chief Executive Officer (CEO), the National Treasurer, the National Legal Advisor, the National Defence Advisor, and Veterans' Affairs Advisor.
The National CEO has operational control of the National Office. In 2015 the redevelopment of the site of the Office on Constitution Avenue, Campbell, in Canberra commenced. A new building will be completed in 2018. In the interim, the National Office is in temporary accommodation at 7-9 Geelong Street, Fyshwick.
Each State and Territory is a Branch of the National League and has a similar hierarchical structure that brings together the interests of the state members. Within each Branch, there are a series of Districts and Sub-branches that bring together the interests of members in a particular geographic area.
|Order||Name||Period in office||Term of office|
|1||Lt Col William Kinsey Bolton||1916 – 1919||3 years|
|2||Sir Gilbert Dyett CMG||1919 – 1946||27 years|
|3||Sir Eric Millhouse||1946 – 1950||4 years|
|4||Sir George Holland||1950 – 1960||10 years|
|5||Sir Arthur Lee||1960 – 1974||14 years|
|6||Sir William Hall||1974 – 1978||4 years|
|7||Sir William Keys AC OBE MC||1978 – 1988||10 years|
|8||Brigadier Alf Garland AM||1988 – 1993||5 years|
|9||Major General Digger James AO (Mil) MBE MC||1993 – 1997||4 years|
|10||Major General Peter Phillips||1997 – 2003||6 years|
|11||Major General Bill Crews||2003 – 2009||6 years|
|12||Rear-Admiral Ken Doolan AO||2009 – present||incumbent|
The Returned and Services League of Australia (Queensland Branch) is a branch of the RSL in Queensland. RSL Queensland assists all current and former members of the ADF, veterans, and their dependents, and also established the Eternal Flame Foundation for financial relief and to provide care for ex-service men and women, and their dependants, in necessitous circumstances.
Licensed clubs were formed as commercial activities to initially provide services by sub-branches to its members, including providing an environment for the protection and promotion of the ideals of the ANZAC spirit and heritage. The venues were established to provide hospitality for war veterans and a place for war veterans to build on their comradeship. The venues were often located on land granted by the State government. Over time these commercial entities, known generally as RSL Clubs (but also called Ex-Services, Memorial, Legion or other similar names) generated profits and also often made regular donations to local community services.
The membership base of the licensed clubs differs significantly from membership of the League. Membership of the League does not automatically confer rights of entry or membership to a licensed club. In recent years, in some jurisdictions, serving members of the ADF are granted honorary membership to a licensed RSL (or similar) club.
Licensed clubs operating under the RSL 'banner' usually have bar and dining facilities for their members and guests, and sometimes have extensive gambling areas. In licensed (RSL) clubs, each evening a one-minute silence is called for in respect and an ode is read to honour those war veterans who served their country.
Other commercial activities
RSL Care is one of Australia's largest providers of retirement living and aged care services with more than 28 retirement communities throughout Queensland and New South Wales and several others in development. Its history originated from an aged care hostel provided to accommodate 64 ex-servicemen that opened in Taringa, Queensland in 1938. A second facility for 80 residents was opened in Caboolture in 1947, and two more facilities in 1968 and 1975, respectively, including a 30-bed nursing home. Over the subsequent 35 years, the number and type of facilities expanded, as well as their geographic spread, throughout Queensland and into the Lake Macquarie area of NSW.
Operating under a co-operative structure, in 1946 a group of returned servicemen established RSL Ex-Servicemen's Cabs & Co-Operative Members Limited providing taxi services to Sydney. By the 1950s, the co-operative had expanded to over 60 drivers, and now operates on a commercial basis, with drivers not required to be members of the League.
RSL Art Union
Commenced in Queensland in 1956, the RSL Art Union is a lottery that raises funds to provide welfare services to ex-service men and women, their dependants and to other members of the community. A major prize of a luxury waterfront home on Queensland's Gold Coast is usually offered, together with a range of bonus prizes. Since its inception, the RSL Art Union has given away A$80 million in prizes and has also raised over A$70 million for the development and maintenance of RSL nursing homes, hospitals and centres, as well as retirement complexes for the elderly.
Notable RSL Members
- Lionel Bowen AC, (1922 – 2012) – 7th Australian Deputy Prime Minister, 34th Attorney General, and World War II veteran having served in the Second Australian Imperial Force
- Sir Roden Cutler VC, AK, KCMG, KCVO, CBE (1916 – 2002) – Victoria Cross recipient and 32nd Governor of New South Wales
- Corporal Mark Donaldson VC (1979 – ) – Victoria Cross recipient and Afghanistan veteran, member of the Dorrigo (NSW) Sub-Branch
- Sir Gilbert Dyett CMG (1891 – 1964) – Longest-serving RSL President, from 1919 to 1946
- Brigadier Alf Garland (1932 – 2002) – Former National RSL President
- Sir John Gorton GCMG, AC, CH (1911–2002) – 19th Prime Minister of Australia
- Bruce Ruxton AM, OBE, MBE (1926 – 2011) – Former President of the RSL Branch of Victoria
- Abe Saffron (1919 – 2006) – Property developer and organised crime figure
- Sir William Yeo CBE (1896 – 1972) – World War I veteran and President of the NSW Branch from 1949 to 1969
- Similar veterans' organisations
- American Legion
- Australian Legion
- Royal British Legion
- Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association
- Royal Canadian Legion
- South African Legion
- "RSL Badge Symbolism". History. Returned and Services League of Australia (Victorian Branch). Retrieved 2 June 2011.
- See, for example, the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1952 (S.A.), the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1953 (W.A.), the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1955 (TAS),the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1956 (QLD), the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1956 (VIC), the Returned Servicemen's Badges Act 1960 (ACT), the Discharged Servicemen’s Badges Act 1964 (N.S.W.).
- "2009 RSL Annual Report" (PDF). About the RSL – Annual Reports. Returned and Services League of Australia. 2009. pp. 70–71. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "Returned & Services League of Australia (Victorian Branch) Inc". Productivity Commission Issues Paper. Productivity Commission. March 2009. p. 4. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "What is the RSL?". About us. Returned and Services League of Australia (Queensland Branch). 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "A message from the State President regarding the Queensland Flood Disaster". RSL Appeals. Returned and Services League of Australia (Victorian Branch). Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "Letter from the RSL & Services Clubs Association Limited responding to the Discussion Paper re a New Framework for Consultation with the Ex-Service and Defence Communities" (PDF). Prime Ministerial Avisory Council on Ex-Service Matters. Department of Veterans' Affairs. 24 April 2008. p. 2. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- Christiansen, Melanie (1 February 2008). "RSL clubs fight for future". The Courier-Mail (News Limited). Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "Words of Remembrance". ANZAC Day. ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee (Qld) Incorporated. 1998. Retrieved 31 May 2011.
- "History". RSL Care. RSL (Qld) War Veterans' Homes Limited. 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "Home". RSL Cabs. RSL Ex-Servicemen's Cabs & Co-Operative Members Limited. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "Who is the RSL". RSL Art Union. RSL Art Union. 2010. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- Marks, Kathy (26 February 2002). "Sir Roden Cutler VC". The Independent (United Kingdom). Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- "NSW RSL website" (PDF) (Press release). Retrieved 12 October 2009.
- Brown, Malcolm (16 November 2006). "Always up for a fight". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- Garton, Stephen (2006). "Yeo, Sir William (1896 – 1972)". Australian Dictionary of Biography. Australian National University. Retrieved 30 May 2011.
- RSL Australian Capital Territory website
- RSL New South Wales website
- RSL Queensland website
- RSL South Australia website
- RSL Tasmania website
- RSL Victoria website
- RSL Western Australia website
- Among Mates – Culture Victoria video on the role and history of the RSL in Victoria and the foundation of the Caulfield branch.
- RSL Art Union
- RSL Angeles City Sub Branch Philippines
- In Flanders Field