Change to Anzac Day fundraising upsets South East veterans

Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.
Anzac Day fundraising remains a concern for RSL sub-branch members in South East NSW. Photo: Patricia Woods Flickr.

RSL members in South East NSW say they are embarrassed by the scandal that has engulfed head office and are angry their local fundraising activities on Anzac Day have been impacted.

Moruya RSL Sub-branch Deputy President, Kevin Setter, says concern was first felt when RSL headquarters in Sydney prevented the sale of poppies on Remembrance Day last November.

Since then, all RSL sub-braches in New South Wales have been instructed to hand in their fundraising authorities by this Thursday.

“There will be no fundraising with Anzac Day this year unless proceeds go to the Invictus Games,” Mr Setter says.

In recent years, the Moruya RSL Sub-branch has raised about $6,000 from the sale of Anzac Day badges and about $5,000 from poppy sales. Half of those proceeds go to Sydney HQ and the other half stays with the local branch.

Merimbula RSL Sub-branch President, Allan Browning says his members feel tainted by the corruption uncovered at RSL NSW. He doesn’t believe members or local residents will be interested in supporting the Invictus Games.

Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
Lest We Forget, some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

“People want their money to stay local, this is going to create all sorts of problems for us,” Mr Browning says.

“We don’t have anything to do with Sydney, this has been very embarrassing.”

Snowy Mountains RSL Sub-branch covers Jindabyne, Berridale, Dalgety, and stops in between. Member Jimmy Crocker says he is hoping the issue might be resolved before April 25.

“We are a very small cog, but this money helps cover the cost of the various remembrance services we hold each year,” Mr Crocker says.

“We also give a lot of assistance to diggers in need, a lot of emotional support, whatever they need.”

NSW RSL says there will be fundraising merchandise for sale on Anzac Day and that communities across NSW will be invited to support the veterans community in a different way this year.

“Whilst we fix our fundraising systems, we are negotiating an interim arrangement for our 40,000 volunteer members this Anzac Day,” NSW RSL President, James Brown said in February.

“RSL NSW will fundraise for the Invictus Games Sydney 2018.

“This inspiring event, created by His Royal Highness Prince Harry, will bring wounded warriors from 18 nations to Sydney in October to compete against each other, and show to the world they remain unconquered by their war wounds,” Mr Brown said.

Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.
Robert Phillipe of France in action during the men’s 100m Ambulant IT2 at Day One of the Invictus Games at Lee Valley Athletics Stadium in London, England. Photo: Ben Hoskins/Getty Images for Invictus Games.

The fundraising problems Mr Brown points to relate to the Bergin Inquiry instigated by the NSW Minister for Innovation and Better Regulation, Matthew Kean.

Patrica Bergin SC was asked to investigate concerns that NSW RSL and it’s governing body and officers had breached the Charitable Funds Act.

During the course of the inquiry, it was revealed that former RSL NSW President, Don Rowe spent $475,000 on his corporate credit card over a six-year period, including $213,000 in cash withdrawals.

The Berejiklian Government has referred the matter to the NSW Police.

As Mr Brown reported to RSL members, “[Ms Bergin] concluded that there had been “extensive non-compliance with the statutory regime for fundraising at the sub-Branch level” (p 139) as well as a failure by State HQ to comply with numerous parts of the Fundraising Act.”

“The Inquirer [Ms Bergin SC] was scathing in her assessment of certain former leaders of the league who she considered took the RSL “close to the brink of destruction”,” Mr Brown said.

She criticised State Councillors who served between 2014 and early 2017 for their ignorance of the fundraising law and their duties as directors and found that “each of them engaged in a cover-up”.”

With regard to current NSW RSL leadership, Ms Bergin SC concluded that Minister Kean, “would be satisfied that those persons are fit and proper persons.”

Only released in January, the Bergin Inquiry Report points to some serious work at NSW RSL – adding rigor, transparency, and accountability to its systems, work that won’t be ready for Anzac Day 2018.

The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.
The men and women of Bega answered the call to war: Some of the names that appear on the Bega War Memorial. Photo: Ian Campbell.

Part of that work seems to involve a better business model for the state’s 353 sub-branches.

Mr Brown acknowledges that without fundraising, “nearly half our sub-branches will struggle to remain open.”

“Whilst we fix fundraising systems to be compliant with the law, we will need to change our league’s financial model to ensure that better-resourced sub-branches apply the surplus funds they hold to support smaller sub-branches.

“We will separately issue a State Council Directive outlining the new financial model for the league during 2018.

“We must make sure our smaller sub-branches, particularly those in the bush, can keep doing welfare and commemoration work in their local communities,” Mr Brown said.

RSL Sub-braches from across southern NSW will gather in Bega this weekend, and Merimbula’s Allan Browning says Anzac Day fundraising will be at the top of the agenda.

*This article first appeared on RiotACT.

Give peace a chance on Anzac Day AKA Lest We Forget

WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Rex Kermode has led Anzac Day in Tathra for longer than he can remember. As Rex asked the big crowd at the town’s cenotaph this morning to look eastward at the rising sun, I took up his invitation to reflect on the day.

Those thoughts had started brewing earlier in the week, and now at the dimming of the day, I am left thinking we need to sharpen and update our focus on Anzac Day.

For a long time, the horrors of the Gallipoli campaign and World War 1 and the depravity of World War 2 have rightly been at the center of commemorations on April 25.

But with the veterans of World War 1 now all gone and with the number of veterans from World War 2 shrinking dramatically every year, Anzac Day in the near future will be and needs to be different.

Victorian Anzac commemorations have gone through a somewhat rocky adjustment over the last two years, with the Anzac Day Commemoration Council instructing descendants to march at the back of the parade rather than mixed in with surviving veterans behind battalion banners.

In 2016, Council Chair and Victorian RSL state president Major-General David McLachlan told The Age, “The changes to the marching order reflect the belief that the march is about those who have served.

“Descendants are able to march collectively, after all the veterans,” he said.

The change has been hard to take for some.

Former federal member for Franklin, Harry Quick, son of  Robert Vernon Quick who served with the 7th battalion at Gallipoli and the 58th battalion on the Western Front told The Age, “We should be up there front and centre.”

“These banners have been handed down for the last 80 years and are cherished. There is all this history here and it needs to be recognised,” he said.

In protest, in 2016 and again this year, descendants held their own event before Anzac Day, marching behind battalion banners.

I hope there will always be a place for people to march wearing the medals of their ancestors, but the relevance and meaning of the day will be weakened if that’s all it becomes.

No one is suggesting the veterans and families of WW1 and 2 be forgotten or sidelined, their sacrifice and story carries great weight, but we need to update what we do in the name of our grandfathers and great grandfathers to recognise what’s happening now.

Perhaps the full impact of their stories has been lost in a popularisation and commercialisation of Anzac Day?

Speaking to Waleed Aly and Carrie Bickmore tonight on ‘The Project’, Retired Captain Chris Thompson-Lang said it was important to know and understand history, but more time needed to be spent thinking about today’s veterans.

“Quite often the general public does focus on veterans that are no longer here and they glorify them,” he told Channel Ten.

“The reality is we’ve got veterans that are my age and younger, with multiple tours, some of us are struggling, some of us are losing that connection to our communities, I think that more could be done to strengthen that and provide help.”

Re-thinking the 'digger'

“More could be done… to provide help.” Capt. (ret.) Chris Thompson-Lang speaks about what ANZAC Day means to him and other veterans.

Posted by The Project on Tuesday, 25 April 2017


I think we do a disservice to the memory of WW1 and WW2 veterans by continuing to send Australians to war and by not picking up Cpt Thompson-Langs insights.

Mick Attwill has been attending Tathra Anzac services for 25 years and in recent years has been called on to offer a reflection to the growing crowd. He doesn’t have a strong connection with the defence forces but is passionate about respecting their legacy.

In his Tathra addresses dating back to at least 2011, he has sought to give his audience a more modern context to consider.

“It is not any easy topic to discuss,” he says.

“The idea of promoting peace on Anzac day is a good idea, the problem is how do we as a community promote the idea, and still agree to having a defence force?”

I wonder does our focus on the distant stories of battles 100 years old cloud our ability to rise to the challenge of Mick’s question?

Local Mums and Dads with daughters and sons currently serving in Australia’s Navy, Air Force, Army, Border Force and Customs add to the need for a tweak to Anzac Day.

As do the local ex-servicemen who don’t attend Anzac services at the moment, uncomfortable with the growing nationalistic fervour and platitudes of the day.

The stark evidence presented in various health studies and statistics dealing with veterans from Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan – more modern conflicts, adds further impetus for change.

According to the Federal Government’s Institute of Health and Welfare between 2001–2014, there were 292 certified suicide deaths among people who have served in the Australian Defence Force since 2001.

The Australian Vietnam Veterans Health Study, says of the 60,000 troops who went to Vietnam, 74.7% are classified as suffering from some form of health impact as a result – physical disability, health problems related to the chemical exposure and psychological trauma.

Studies of Australia’s Gulf War veterans tell the same story.

These people walk among us now and are clearly hurting, how can Anzac Day better meet their needs?

The veterans of WW1 and WW2 might be surprised to hear they still dominate the traditions of April 25.

These are men and women who it is said went to war to protect future generations, they had a real sense of looking after the now and the later.

The challenge to those who stand in respectful silence listening to the bugle sound is to take the memory of those people and turn it into an action for now.


Organisations like ‘Soldier On‘ are doing that and trying to give Anzac Day a 2017 perspective by encouraging people to donate money to support ‘our modern-day veterans and their families’.

During its first year in 2012, Soldier On assisted 200 veterans, in 2015, 500 veterans a month were being supported. The organisation is now positioning itself to help thousands more through an expanding network of Reintegration and Recovery Centres.

The stories and evidence of war compel us to encourage peace on Anzac Day and support veterans from all conflicts. How we do that is a rich and deep conversation to start.

And we have made a start – perhaps unknowingly when we say Lest We Forget. Lest meaning – with the intention of preventing something undesirable; to avoid the risk of.


No threat to Anzac Day in South East NSW – marches will go on

WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW2 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Organisers of Anzac Day marches across South East NSW say they will take any new security arrangements “in their stride“.

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council told About Regional that there was no way Anzac Day marches through the high country would be stopped.

Concern was sparked this week following the cancellation of marches in the Blue Mountains after the local council refused to cover costs associated with new anti-terrorist requirements.

David White, a spokesman for ex-services organisations at Katoomba, Springwood, Blackheath and Glenbrook told the ‘Blue Mountains Gazette‘ that he was devasted by the decision.

“It’s such a long, unbroken tradition and something which we believe is cherished by the local communities,” he told the paper.

“The terrorists are winning. I say that because the reaction to events overseas continues to provoke overreactions here, in our view, which require mitigation actions that are beyond our means.”

The new anti-terrorist measures are said to include the need for solid barriers across roadways to prevent a truck or other vehicles being driven through crowds, similar to what the world witnessed in the French city of Nice in July last year.

Blue Mountains Mayor, Mark Greenhill told the ABC he was appalled that the State Government was forcing these changes on to communities and expecting local government to pick up the cost.

“What other government in a country around the world would say ‘you need these measures to keep you safe but we won’t fund them’? It’s completely outrageous,” Cr Greenhill told the ABC.

Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons
Australian soldiers with the 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment march on Anzac Day. From wikimedia commons

The State Liberal Member for Bega and NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance says the security requirements for commemorations in the South East will be guided by local police with measures put in place on a case by case basis.

“Unfortunately this is the way of the world,” he says.

“Governments everywhere need to take these steps, especially at high profile events, to protect people.”

While acknowledging the need for extra security, Mr Constance says it is important that people go about their business.

“We can’t live in fear, we need to stand together and be strong as a community and not let terrorists dictate our way of life,” he says.

Mr Constance suggests the cancelling of events in the Blue Mountains was politically motivated.

“The Labor Mayor for the Blue Mountains has behaved disgracefully,” Mr Constance says.

The Member for Bega says the NSW Government will ensure Anzac Day will continue around New South Walse as planned and any extra costs will be shared, which is now the case in the Blue Mountains.

Snowy Monaro Council chief Dean Lynch says an assessment will be made and if there are extra expenses locally, all involved will work together and find a way to cover them.

Eurobodalla Shire Council believes the terrorist risk is low and will liaise with NSW Police.

WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll
WW1 diggers on the Bega Civic Centre honour roll

Director of Infrastructure Services, Warren Sharpe told About Regional he sees no reason why the marches wouldn’t proceed with the usual sensible traffic control measures in place.

“We absolutely support the wonderful traditions and symbolism of our local Anzac marches,” he says.

“They mean a great deal to all of us and Council will do everything possible to make them a success this year, just as we do every year.”

In the Bega Valley, Tathra ex-serviceman Allen Collins says the Bega RSL Sub-branch is conscious of the need for security but is confident it’s close relationship with Bega Valley Shire Council and local Police will ensure a positive outcome.

“Anzac Day does cost money, but Council and groups like Tathra Lions and the RSL Club have always looked after us,” he says.

“I don’t think there will be any problems,” he says.