OPINION – The RSL must embrace Change or Die

Once Australia’s premier veterans’ advocacy organisation, the Returned and Services League is in rapid if not terminal decline. Its leadership is failing the broad membership, which continues to provide support at local sub-branch level.

The RSL national leadership has failed the challenge of the 21st century as sub-branches close, local leadership ages and resists change.

Young veterans shun the organisation.



  1. The RSL has no appeal for me, after 20+ years service and two deployments I feel there are better agencies that represent me as a returned serviceman. I see the RSL as an organisation stuck in and led by an older generation reluctant to embrace renewal and the issues of the contemporary returned serviceman. Never cared to join it when I was in, don’t care to join it now. The issues of governance of the RSL’s money is also too murky for me.

    • Bob Williamson says

      Then as a returned service person its up to your generation to implement these changes as did the Vietnam veterans did even though they were intially denied entery to this organisation. It is a well established organisation which started off Invictas games to accommodate the current ex service personel who were disabled, not to mention ESO’s who were granted a great deal of money to start their orgnisation so dont sell the RSL short. We are not that stagnated organisation you envisage If you want change get involved an put your issues forward from within the organisation not stand outside and run it down

      • Actually Prince Harry started the Invictus Games after seeing the Warrior Games in the USA in 2013, RSL had nothing to do with it.
        Yes some RSL’s have Vietnam Veteran membership, but, because of the way these Veterans were treated they started up their own organisation being The Vietnam Veterans Association of Australia which supports not only Vietnam Vets but all Service members, and ex Service members.
        They have a strong membership from our conflicts from Vietnam onwards.
        I am a Iraq Vet and a Secretary at one of the Sub Branches.
        This organisation is quite strong and growing, whilst the RSL is losing membership.

  2. Graeme Brownrigg says

    As a serving member of the RAAF for 23 years and Service member of the RSL(Bairnsdale VIC), it annoys me that even though I served for Australia, my membership is not recognised at branches interstate.

    • Trevor Dixon says

      This is a complaint articulated most commonly on ANZAC Day, the problem however in this instance relates to Australian Tax Office regulations not the RSL.

      Not-for-Profit entities are required to produce a register of members to claim tax exemption status under the Tax Act, showing your membership card from another club fulfils the requirements of the League but is not satisfactory to the ATO ie the club must have a list of members names attending their premises in order to claim tax deductions which is why they get you to sign in. The alternative is for clubs not to claim their exemptions but the price of beer and food etc would have to be increased significantly to pay the taxes that would then be owed.

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