Since 1916, the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) has existed to ensure help is always available to the men and women of the Australia Defence Forces (ADF). Originally formed by a group of returned soldiers, providing support, advice and camaraderie has always been core to our purpose.
Today’s RSL has evolved to be the largest ex-service organisation in Queensland, with over 240 Sub Branches across 10 districts offering practical assistance including:
Our commitment is not limited to ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day – our staff and volunteers work all year round to:
- Provide welfare and support for the wounded, injured and ill and their families
- Honour the memory of those who have served through commemorative events
- Preserve the spirit of mateship within the ADF community
- Promote the interests of veterans and ADF members to Government and the wider community.
We operate with a simple goal – to ensure that all current and former ADF personnel and their families that are in need of help get the support they need. This is evident through our vision:
We support you, the military family.
According to our Constitution
, the objects for which the RSL (Queensland Branch) is established are to:
- Provide for the sick, helpless, wounded, aged, vulnerable, destitute and needy among those who are serving or who have served in the Australian Defence Forces and their dependants
- Perpetuate the close and kindly ties of friendship created by a mutual service in the Australian Defence Force or in the forces of nations traditionally allied with Australia and the recollections associated with that experience
- Maintain a proper standard of dignity and honour among all past and present members of the Defence Forces of the nation and to set an example of public spirit and noble hearted endeavour
- Preserve the memory and the records of those who suffered and died for Australia, erect monuments to their valour, provide them with suitable burial places, and establish and preserve, in their honour, the annual commemoration days known as ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and other commemorative days
- Encourage loyalty to Australia and secure patriotic service in the interests of Australia;
- Protect the good name and preserve the interests and standing of members of the Australian Defence Force
- Encourage Members, as citizens, to serve Australia with that spirit of self-sacrifice and loyalty with which they served as members of the Australian Defence Forces
- Provide welfare to the sick, helpless, wounded, vulnerable, aged, destitute and needy.
These objects guide our strategic direction and drive our day-to-day activities.
Following the aftermath of World War I, wounded soldiers began returning home to find there was limited government support available to them.
Diggers felt that a united voice was needed to bring about change for returned servicemen and women. The RSL was formed – an independent, apolitical organisation run by its members, for its members and the ex-service community. The RSL proceeded to represent the interests of returned servicemen and women, lobbying the Government and providing welfare services.
Originally known as the Returned Sailors & Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA), the name was changed to the Returned Soldiers and Airman’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA) in 1940. In 1965, the name was then changed to the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSLA). Finally, in 1990, the name was changed to the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL).
The RSL badge is a symbol representing readiness at all times to render service to Queen and country and to former comrades. It can’t be purchased and may only be worn by those who have served their country.
The shield design is symbolic of the protection provided to those who wear it. Within the badge, red represents the blood ties of war that exist between comrades; white stands for the purity of the motives in joining the league – to render service without personal gain or ambition; and blue indicates a willingness to serve a comrade anywhere under the blue sky.
The wattle draws symbolism from its Australia roots, with the leek, the rose and the shamrock standing for Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.
Within the centre circle – a sailor, soldier, airman and servicewoman marching together with their arms linked in comradery depict all of the services and ranks marching together in unity.
Looking back over the years, it is clear that the common bond of comradeship and mutual interest that the RSL was formed on had its simple origin in the close association of the men who were among the first to return from active service. As the war developed, Australia’s sons were drawn together by the loss of life and agony of wounds to continue their unbreakable bond of comradeship.
On 5 February 1915, the Hospital Ship ‘Kyarra’ reached Australia carrying injured Australian soldiers from Egypt. The first few returned soldiers made use of empty club rooms and recreation tents- which were originally provided for the use of those undergoing training before embarkation – as gathering places which became centres for discussion regarding their serious wounds and health problems as a result of their war service.
As the number of returned soldiers who were deemed unfit for further active service increased, coincidently with the increase in the number of recruits, the tents were more or less crowded out. A sympathetic public came eagerly to the rescue, and by providing special club rooms for the use of returned soldiers solely, they indirectly laid the foundations for a century of supporting veterans.
The determination to establish an organisation to continue their dedication to national service grew strong. With an aim to ensure that a fair and equitable amount of treatment and care was available to all, the ‘Returned Soldiers’ Association’ was formed in Queensland.
Almost immediately the Association started to carry out their objectives in helping returned soldiers. The most common requirement in the early days was from those who had returned from war and were experiencing difficulty when trying to obtain what they believed they were rightly due. Similar returned servicemen organisations developed around the country, and united under one banner.
In RSL’s Centenary year we are more determined than ever to draw on our rich history, learn from the past, and reshape our future to the benefit of those we serve – young and old.
One of the most important lessons of the past is that early intervention and appropriate support for transition from the military to civilian life are vital to the welfare and wellbeing of our veteran population and their families.
Although conditions of service may have changed over the years, the underlying challenges faced by current and former ADF members are not new. However, there is increased awareness and commitment to ensuring that these challenges do not impact future generations as they have past generations.