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.

Making an informed choice for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day for Snowy Monaro Regional Council is this Saturday – September 9.  Photo credit: AEC

A new era in Local Government is set to bloom with elections for Snowy Monaro Regional Council this Saturday (September 9) ending 16 months of administration by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

Pre-Poll voting is already underway at Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala with 27 candidates contesting 11 positions in the merged council chamber.

Familiar names on your ballot paper include Bob Stewart, Winston Phillips, Sue Haslingden, John Shumack, and Roger Norton.

But there is some new interest including solicitor and tourism operator Maria Linkenbagh, Nimmitabel grazier John Harrington, and 23-year-old apprentice carpenter James ‘Boo’ Ewart.

You can explore the full list of local candidates through the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Former Deputy Mayor of Cooma-Monaro Shire Council, and now Member of the NSW Upper House, Bronnie Taylor says a mix of old and new will be important for the new council.

“Yes we need experience but this is an opportunity to get some really great new people on council and I really encourage people to look at that,” Mrs Taylor says.

With just days to go until polling day the attention and interest of voters will start to sharpen.

Voting instructions on each ballot paper will guide locals, but generally speaking, each voter will be asked to select six candidates in order of preference, you can select more if you wish and perhaps push out to 11 to reflect the full council you want to be elected. But for your vote to count, you must at least number six boxes in order of preference.

The inaugural mayor will be elected by councilors at their first meeting after the election.

Mrs Taylor admits the process and choices can be overwhelming but she is calling on locals to take an interest and use the days ahead to find their new councilors.

“Vote for who you think is going to make a difference…vote for someone who has the same values and aspirations for your community,” she says.

Despite being part of the State Government that drove the merger of Bombala, Snowy River and Cooma-Monaro Councils, The Nationals MLC accepts that the process could have been better but has confidence in the future of the 11 member Snowy Monaro Regional Council.

Mrs Taylor is adamant small communities won’t be forgotten in the new larger entity.

“The councilors that get elected, they’re good people, they care about their communities [but they also] care about their region,” she says.

The former Deputy Mayor points to the $5.3 million State investment in the Lake Wallace Dam project at Nimmitabel as an example of that ‘bigger regional thinking’.

“I am someone who lives in the town of Nimmitabel which has a population of around 300 people,” Mrs Taylor says.

“We had a really shocking time during the drought.

The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a 'meet the candidates' forum on September 4.
The Jindabyne Chamber of Commerce will host a ‘meet the candidates’ forum on September 4.

“There was not one other councilor from Nimmitabel or from down this end of the shire [on that council except me but] every single one of those nine councilors on Cooma-Monaro Shire Council voted to invest that money.

“They knew it was really important for that community (Nimmitabel) and that that community was part of them,” Mrs Taylor says.

Given the size of the field to choose from and the need to at least number six boxes on the ballot paper, voters can be forgiven for feeling confused or unsure of who to vote for.

“I think people that get up there and promise 16 different things aren’t very realistic,” Mrs Taylor says.

“You have to have someone who is prepared to work with other people and prepared to see other points of view.

“At the end of the day…you have got to find compromises and ways through to get good results,” the former Deputy Mayor suggests.

Working out who those people are or finding the information you need to have an informed vote can be a challenge in amongst the posters, Facebook pages, and how to vote cards of an election campaign.

“I think candidate forums are really good,” Mrs Taylor says.

“And the great thing about local government is that you can pick up the phone and ring them (candidates) and ask them what they think about something and they should be able to give you some time to do that.”

Mrs Taylor also suggests talking to other people in the community as a way of making your vote count.

“Talk to the people that you trust, they know the pulse of the community, I think that’s really valuable,” she says.

Contact phone numbers and email addresses for many of the candidates can be found on the NSW Electoral Commission website.

Polling booths are open between 8am and 6pm this Saturday (September 9), voting is compulsory at one of 13 South East locations from Adaminaby to Delegate to Bredbo.


*For more coverage of the Snowy Monaro Regional Council election, including comment from former Snowy River Councilor Leanne Atkinson, click HERE.

*This story was made possible thanks to the contribution of About Regional members Julie Klugman, Nigel Catchlove, Jenny Anderson, and Ali Oakley. 




Calling candidates for Snowy Monaro Regional Council

Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council
Dean Lynch, Administrator of Snowy Monaro Regional Council. Source: SMRC

The wheels of democracy are starting to spin again across the High Country with nominations now open for candidates at the September 9 Local Council Election.

Eleven councilors will sit in the chamber of the merged Snowy Monaro Regional Council, which has been run for the past 15 months by former Cooma Mayor, Dean Lynch.

In his role as Administrator, Mr Lynch called on the advice and input of Local Representative Committees covering the former shires of Snowy River, Cooma-Monaro, and Bombala.

Ultimately though final decisions fell to Mr Lynch, an arrangement put in place by the NSW Government and one many have described as undemocratic.

Mr Lynch, who says he won’t be standing on September 9 says he understands the criticism but has enjoyed the opportunity despite feeling burnt out.

He says the whole merger process has got people thinking more about local government and perhaps has inspired some locals to stand for election.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of new faces,” Mr Lynch says.

Nominations opened on Monday and will close at Midday on Wednesday, August 9 through the Electoral Commission on NSW.

In the lead-up, Snowy Monaro Regional Council held candidate info sessions in Jindabyne, Berridale, Cooma, and Bombala.

Leanne Atkinson sat on Snowy River Shire Council between 1999 and 2003 and has stood as a Labor candidate for the NSW Parliament in the seat of Bega a number of times since, she says it can feel like a ‘leap of faith’ when you first put your name forward for election.

“You really aren’t sure what you are doing at the beginning,” Ms Atkinson told About Regional.

“You need to get the message out about yourself and what differentiates you from other people.”

Ms Atkinson says she went into her first campaign with issues she felt connected to and could speak on.

“I was a young mum, and was very aware of the constraints there were for families in the area and what services were available for them,” she says.

“That was how I went into that first campaign, looking at services for families, for young people, ” she says.

Ms Atkinson says she never considered standing for council until a couple of people suggested it to her.

“I said I can’t see myself doing this, there are all those people sitting around that table, all that procedure, I couldn’t do that.

“The funny thing is that once you are elected you realise that you absolutely can be at that table,” Ms Atkinson says.

And once you are elected what is the job of a new councilor on Snowy Monaro Regional Council?

Ms Atkinson believes the role goes beyond the popular catchphrase of ‘roads, rubbish, and rates’.

“There are a lot of demands on Council, and the role a Councilor is to have a strategic view, to set the tone, and to set the direction,” she says.

“It’s really important to engage effectively with the community.”

Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC
Election Day is Sept 9. Source: AEC

The merger process, taking three council areas into one has left smaller communities concerned that they will be over looked by the big new entity shaped by the Baird – Berejiklian Government.

Leanne Atkinson believes it’s incumbent on the eleven new councilors to think beyond their own home town.

“Don’t focus just on the big towns, there are little communities where those people matter and are just as important as the people in the bigger towns,” she says.

“You have to be aware that you are there for the whole community.”

But there is some strategic advice from this Labor stalwart for smaller centres keen to see one of their own elected.

“I have a view that the amalgamations shouldn’t have been forced, but the fact is it’s amalgamated,” Ms Atkinson says.

“The community needs people who are going to move the shire forward in it’s new form.

“Maybe some smaller communities should get together and ask, who is the one person who could represent us well?” she says.

Find a candidate and get the community behind them seems to be the advice.

“I lived in Berridale for a while, and if it was me in a community like that, I’d be pulling people together and saying, okay we want representation on this council, who can we advocate for and increase our chances of getting someone elected,” Ms Atkinson suggests.

Reflecting on her council time, Ms Atkinson says it was one of the best experiences of her life, she is keen to see a diverse range of candidates stand for election on September 9.

“There were lots of little things that I would look at and think, we can do better than that.”

“If you are willing to work you’d be surprised at how much you can achieve,” Ms Atkinson says.

Thanks to About Regional Members, Simon Marnie, Alison Oakley, Linda Albertson, and Kiah Wilderness Tours for supporting local story telling.