Auxiliaries vital to Sub Branch success31 October 2019
RSL Auxiliaries provide support for RSL Sub Branches and an opportunity for those who have not served to give back to the Defence community.
RSL Sub Branches would struggle to operate if it were not for the support of the RSL Queensland Council of Auxiliaries, whose members help organise events, fundraise and care for local veterans.
“They’re actually vital for Sub Branches to get their work done,” says RSL Queensland Council of Auxiliaries State Secretary Maureen Sargent.
“Many wouldn’t exist if they didn’t have an Auxiliary.”
There are an estimated 70 Auxiliaries throughout Queensland, with approximately 1,500 members in total (the majority are women).
Maureen says there were about 80 Auxiliaries 10 years ago. Although several groups have disbanded during those years, new groups are continually being established.
AUXILIARIES ARE INCLUSIVE
Auxiliaries are also a way for those who have not served to give back to the Defence community.
“Members want to help out the ex-serving community and this is something they can do that does make a difference. Anything anybody can do is appreciated, even if you can only contribute an hour or two,” Maureen says.
She describes herself as someone who has “chronically volunteered” from a young age.
Maureen worked for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs for 25 years and has been involved with Banyo RSL Sub Branch for around 40 years.
When Banyo RSL started a Citizens’ Auxiliary (the first in Australia) in 2000, she became the inaugural President.
After retiring in 2007, she increased her involvement and became a Pensions and Welfare officer for the Sub Branch.
“I saw it as an extension of my work and I enjoyed being part of the camaraderie in the Sub Branch,” she explains.
“We’ve had a lot of success in getting pensions for veterans and that gives me a lot of satisfaction. You feel like you have contributed to their better quality of life,” Maureen says.
PLANS FOR GROWTH AND EXPANSION
Due to the changing role of women in society, the Auxiliaries have been struggling to grow their membership and are always thinking of new recruitment strategies.
“It’s not easy to get young people to join. When you think back to the 1950s, most women didn’t work. Now, you’re not going to get them until they retire, and the retirement age keeps going up,” Maureen explains.
To combat this, they are encouraging Auxiliaries to recruit new members by offering two trophies. In 2018, the Joy Bryson Shield went to Toowoomba United Citizen’s Auxiliary for the highest percentage increase in membership.
Meanwhile, a new trophy donated in 2018 by John and Jill Burgess was awarded to Banyo Citizens’ Auxiliary for attracting the most new members overall.
“This year we definitely saw an increase in new members, and it was very close. We had a lot of Auxiliaries getting 10, 15 or 18 new members,” Maureen says.
WOMEN’S AUXILIARY VS CITIZENS’ AUXILIARY
The Council is made up of two streams, Women’s Auxiliaries and Citizens’ Auxiliaries. Most new Auxiliaries are established as a Citizens’ Auxiliary as they are more inclusive.
- Women’s Auxiliaries have existed since WWI, when female relatives of returned servicemen raised funds to buy land, buildings and furnishings to establish RSL Sub Branches. Any female relative of a current or ex-serving Defence member is welcome to join. Current or ex-serving female personnel can also join, and an Auxiliary can also choose by resolution to admit any female member of the community.
- People in the non-Defence community who would like to volunteer their time can join an RSL Citizens’ Auxiliary. These groups are open to any member of the community, including children between the ages of 12 and 18.