Two older veterans chatting over a coffee

When is an RSL not an RSL?

Anita Jaensch 09 October 2019

Have you visited an RSL Club in Queensland thinking the money you spend there will help veterans? You might be surprised to learn that may not always be the case.

RSL Queensland State President Tony Ferris says almost 54 per cent of Queenslanders believe they are supporting RSL Queensland’s charitable activities by patronising an RSL Club. 

“People believe the money from the bars and pokies goes towards helping veterans, but that’s simply not correct,” Tony says. “Of the roughly 230 RSL Sub Branches throughout Queensland, only about 40 have a relationship with an RSL Club. Of those, only 17 own and operate their associated RSL Club.

“RSL Queensland – the state body – does not operate any alcohol and gaming facilities."

Shoulder to shoulder with our Defence family

“What RSL Queensland does is provide welfare and wellbeing assistance to current and former service people and their families throughout Queensland – both statewide and on a local level through our Sub Branches," Tony says.

“RSL Sub Branches are run by volunteers, all of whom are ex-serving themselves, who give their time to provide crucial support to veterans in their local communities. This might be through helping them with DVA claims, driving them to medical appointments, or providing opportunities for them to connect with other veterans in their community. 

“Very little of the funding for these activities comes from RSL Clubs; in fact, most RSL Sub Branches are reliant on donations from the public to be able to provide these grassroots services.”

A shared history

On the other hand, Tony says, RSL Clubs are commercial entities. 

“Although we share the same origins, RSL Clubs have been separate since the introduction of poker machines necessitated stricter liquor and gaming legislation in the 1990s,” Tony says.

A complicated relationship

He says Sub Branches’ relationships with their local Clubs vary greatly, making for quite a complex overall picture.

Veterans laughing and chatting at table

“In some cases, the Club leases a property from the Sub Branch to operate its gaming venue, and the Sub Branch may co-exist in the building to carry out its welfare and commemorative activities," Tony says.

"In other cases, Clubs may help the Sub Branch with the organisation and costs associated with commemorative activities, such as ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. But sometimes they have no collaborative relationship at all, and the Club may not even direct any of its charitable spending to the Sub Branch for its veteran welfare activities.”

Tony says RSL Clubs are still an important part of the social landscape, particularly in smaller regional areas. 

“I doubt there’s an Aussie who hasn’t patronised an RSL Club at some point or another! But patronising an RSL Club doesn’t necessarily support veterans.”

RSL Queensland Logo

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