Why I Walked Away From The RSL

I left the Australian Army 16 months ago, in that short period I have become a very vocal contributor and critic of veteran’s affairs in this country.  In particular I have written about and contributed to issues in regards to the Government and Australian Defence Force’s handling of veteran support services for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

It is a fact that many people within the Federal Cabinet and ADF hierarchy have the perception that the current system is doing enough to help wounded servicemen and servicewomen.  This is not true however; and as more high profile Soldiers such as MAJGEN John Cantwell break down the stigma attached to PTSD; the support systems in place are getting better.

Traditionally the Returned and Services League of Australia (RSL) has been the main avenue for wounded servicemen and women past and present to pursue support and rehabilitation services.  The various sub-branches around Australia have men and women, mostly ex-serving members, acting as advocates that help the people in need communicate with the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and Veterans and Veterans Families Counselling Services (VVCS) in order to facilitate the required support services.
The RSL as a whole does a good job at this; however the various sub-branches sometimes aren’t as supportive as they should and to be honest are funded to be.

The RSL has a long history.  Founded after WWI as a support service for returned servicemen; it continued to flourish in the peacetime years and throughout and post WWII.  Without giving an in-depth history lesson; the years that followed included the Korean War, threat of communist invasion, threat of nuclear war and of course the Vietnam War.

I am a 3rd Generation Soldier.  My Grandfather served in WWII across Africa and Europe, my Father served more than 40 years in the Australian Army and served in Vietnam; and I have served in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  To say my families’ recent history is steeped deep within that of the Australian Defence Force is not too far removed.  Both my Grandfather and Father have been awarded the Order of Australia Medal for their services to veteran’s advocacy and service to the Australian Army respectively.

My Grandfather was the President of his RSL sub-branch in excess of 40 years and my Father has been a staunch advocate within Legacy and his RSL sub-branch for many decades.

In the final years of my Grandfather’s life he stepped down as President of his RSL Sub-Branch; but remained a sitting board member and veteran’s advocate.  Throughout the years he had amassed a very comprehensive list of contacts including high ranking ADF officers and politicians; both state and federal.  It was a testament to his character and reputation when the Lord Mayor of Wollongong officiated at his funeral and hundreds from the veteran’s and RSL community attended.  He was given a proper serviceman’s farewell at which I delivered a short, but heartfelt eulogy and placed a poppy on his flag draped casket, next to his WWII medals.

I have been accused of not knowing enough about the subject of veteran’s affairs before and to be blunt, the people that have made these accusations are full of shit.  I have admired the two Patriarchs of my family for their dedication to veteran’s affairs since I was a young boy and have also learnt a lot from them.  Now in my own way I have taken up the torch in order to fight for today’s young veterans.

While my Father is an active member of his local sub-branch; I doubt he will ever forget the way the returned servicemen of the Vietnam War were treated by the RSL.  The Vietnam War divided Australia.  People not only protested against Australia’s involvement in Vietnam they also shunned and persecuted those that wore the uniform in service for their nation.  My Father was spat on during his “welcome home” parade, pigs blood was splashed upon other Soldiers as they marched through Sydney.  And then the RSL told them “Vietnam wasn’t a real war”.

Imagine serving your country proudly in a foreign land; facing death on a regular basis and then being shunned by the very organisation set up and funded by the Federal Government to provide you support services.  I’m not referring to the Veterans of Vietnam; I am referring to today; and the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.  Young men and women fight for their country in the Middle East and are not afforded the respect that comes with serving your nation.  In this regard certain sub-branches within the RSL have failed.

I have experienced this first hand; however I will not tarnish the entire RSL by the actions of the few.  That is not fair and hopefully in the following years the RSL will realise their folly.  If they choose not to openly embrace the modern serviceman and servicewoman the RSL will sadly disappear into the annuls of Australian Defence History like the thousands of men and women who have died wearing the uniform.

My decision not to join the RSL was made very easy when I was snubbed by the very sub-branch my late Grandfather was the stalwart of.  As a 3rd generation serviceman and the Grandson of the man that dedicated more than 40 years of his life as Sub-Branch President it was insulting.

They openly criticised the need to include “young blokes with tatts” into their ranks.  At first I was angry, but this soon faded as I realised there were alternate avenues for young veterans like myself to access the various support services they are entitled to.

For this reason I will support other advocacy and support services such as Soldier On and Mates 4 Mates as a lot of other Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in need will also choose to do.

59 thoughts on “Why I Walked Away From The RSL

  1. RSL is run by old out dated people, I only would go to the rsl to see mates I served with! I would not contribute to them or be involved in there crap! Just like the Vietnam vets we need to form our own support groups to support our generation of vets, this is how we successfully support Iraq n Afghanistan vets! We can’t wait for the rsl to catch up!

  2. I was deeply saddened by this. Proud of the achievements of your Father and Grandfather, but saddened at what you have experienced at the hands of the RSL, be it sub-branch or full branch.

    I’m an ex Service Member (peacetime) and found that my local RSL, of which I’m a Service Member, is more interested in the Social Memberships of the local community who join (for the pokies) and don’t appear to offer anything to Ex Service Personnel.

    I think it’s time for a change. I wish you all the very best.

  3. As a 4th generation Army soldier. I did 11 months in Iraq. Dad is a Vietnam solder at Tett. Grandfather and Great grandfather are ww11 vets. My father walked into an RSL and was verbally assaulted so he walked out and did not return for a long time.my grandfather has a Gold card. Dad has a gold card and I have a White card. I am happy to walk into and join an RSL. Because new veterans are more respected. I have had a a lot of help from The VVCS with marriage couciling.

  4. Well written Chad.
    A pity more of the general public do not see behind the facade!

  5. The more you inform the general public the more we can support you. We as the public do assume that you are all taken care of on all levels. If it wasn’t for the efforts of Soldier On, I would be none the wiser!

    1. Soldier On highlights our battles. Many won’t speak up as it is detrimental to your career in the ADF. I experienced this by having my career halted for 2 1/2 years. Only when I left did I openly talk about the issues we face.
      But still people try to discredit me and make veiled threats

  6. I have had the same feelings. I served with Gulf War 1, Cambodia, Somalia and a whole bunch of peace keeping, natural disaster relief etc etc. The RSL (run by WW2 blokes at that time) were not interested, ‘that wasn’t a real war son, let me tell you about a real war’….etc…
    The history is really like this, WW1 vets did not treat WW2 vets seriously, WW2 vets did not treat Korean or Vietnam vets seriously, Vietnam vets do not treat Peacekeepers seriously…..and so it all goes on!
    The only way to change it is to join the Sub Branches and vote for change!
    And yes, I am sick of all the preferences that the civilian pokie players get over the ex serviceman! Money talks in the end!

  7. I am a member of the RSL and my biggest issue is that we don’t know what you the younger veterans want and need. As a women I have had to fight to be recognized, as an army reservist it has been even more difficult but I have stood up and been counted, I have become a member of my sub-branch executive and I am behind you young men and women 100% but we need to hear your voices!, we need to know your expectations and we need you to help us make the changes. My husband is aVietnam Veteran and it took him many years to be accepted by the old guard, you need to be more vocal in what you want fron the RSL Movement at Sub Branch level so that we can take your needs to the higher levels and gain you the support you need and want…please do not allow a few to destroy an organisation that has helped so many.

  8. Most of what you’ve written I can agree with, but as far as Vietnam Vet’s go I don’t know one that doesn’t have respect & gratitude for all their efforts under very difficult circumstances different to what we may have faced, but still very much a hard & dangerously complicated War. When we came home we were thrown out of the Sydney RSL because of our uniforms. We were screamed at, called all sorts of names & yes had crap thrown at us. We wereCommanded not to retaliate, thanks very much. Fortunately the current Servicemen & Women won’t have to go through that & largely I feel because of the Vietnam Vets. Good luck guys, we still have Vets trying to get entitlements long after our War finished.

  9. So sad that it is true. I have watched as the Sub branches around me refuse to encourage the younger veterans to become involved, they want them as members but they cant have a say or hold a position. Mates for Mates is run by the QLD RSL. It is their way of including younger vets that dont like the “RSL” .

      1. It is a great thing and I am aware it is run by an arm of the RSL.

        My post is an opinion piece based on mine and my friends experiences with dealing with a few sub-branches that were not accommodating. This is not reflective of the entire RSL.

        Mates4Mates does what the general RSL does not, it listens to us instead of speaking to us! Soldier On does the same.

  10. The RSL has failed to remain relevant, and to remain true to it’s founding values, looking after younger veterans and their issues seems to have taken a back seat to getting civvies through the doors and fleecing pensioners of their money on pokies, it’s a shame really, My Grandad was a Gallipoli and Western Front vet, my Aunty and Uncles were ww2 veterans my Dad a Nasho and myself 17 years in the Army and Cambodian peacekeeper. The RSL is in danger of becoming a dinosaur and risking extinction, Move with the times, respect all those who have served or step aside and let organisations like Soldier On, Vietnams vets, etc take over, but don’t whinge and bitch when it happens, You can’t pick and choose who you think is deserving, no more than we can choose our wars.

  11. I think that that attitude is prevelant in NSW where the RSL has sold its name to clubs that have little or nothing to do with Veteran Welfare. I am a member of the Richmond (Melbourne) and Torquay RSLs and can say without fear of contradiction that they are welcoming and inclusive. I guess they are not Pokie Temples and concentrate on mateship and caring for those not at their best. My dad is a Vietnam Vet and was discouraged from joining the local RSL in Ayr as Vietnam was not a real war. Yet social members who fought under Mousilini were welcome. Strange isn’t it. I recently went to the Coogee RSL enquiring about RSL membership and they weren’t aware if there was a sub branch there, but they did call the night club Diggers!!

    1. RSL & Services Clubs Assoc (pokies and bars) is very different to your local RSL (Returned & Services League of Australia) sub-branch. They are two different bodies.

      1. Sorry. Didn’t say that to offend or upset. I just wanted to point out that the place with the pokies has nothing to do with the RSL and they can’t be lumped together, at least in NSW. My comment was in reference to the many bloggers who appear to think they are the same thing. Promise – that is the last thing you will hear from me.

      2. The RSL has made itself redundant by its treatmeant of our troops and Vets since Vietnam, now they are after us to come on board to say their arses, well why should we flog a dead hosrse, who didn’t want us back when it counted.
        Being told to fuck off, or your not welcome here or only real Vets get in here was and is a hard pill to swallow especially from old fellas we respected from as far back as most can remember, because of their service. You think its time to forgive and forget tell that to the Afgan Vets who are 20-21 and being told to fuck off by sub branches across the country.
        You don’t forget nor do you forgive, it goes way deeper than that , try asking some of the Vets who have toped themselves in the past, Ask a Vietnam Vet how they got on with sub branch sec and pres. when they got home, yep I coped it from a couple of sub branches in NSW, VIC and WA, so I walked away and turned to my Vet mates for help, I go to ANZAC day every year, but don’t wear my medals and will not march, until it passes from the clutches of the RSL or I am dead. I prefer to go to Long Tan Day and remember my Great Grandfather then, as well as Somo and his Donk the 32 inft btn and 15 fd amb

  12. i am with my local sub branch and they have welcomed me with open arms so much they have elected me to be the treasurer
    for this year.
    apart from that i have heard a lot of stories about that happening but as my president has stated a lot the young diggers are the next generation so welcome them with open arms.

  13. My local has done jack for me, I went on three tours and didnt get any support pre during or post. I have tried to become more involved to change it but was shutdown repeatedly.

  14. A very senior member of the RSL National Executive once told me the RSL wasn’t interested in younger veterans. This was certainly evident by National President’s recent negative stance on the placement of peacekeepers on the Wall of the AWM. The other side is the RSL has sold out its name to commercial operations and you can look at a club and find the sub-branch in a small room in the basement or non-existent.
    I will be blunt – to get the RSL moving, the position of National President must cease being part of the Canberra two star club. It is no longer relevant to have someone of rank in that position especially as no other ESO has that approach and the position of that the RSL finds itself in nationally is a direct link to the narrow two star focus.

    1. Sub-branches that fail like this should be named and shamed. There are so many of them that are just not interested in helping this generation of soldiers. In fact, many of them blame the younger soldiers for their financial woes. Take Dalby for example. They folded recently blaming the lack of support from the younger soldiers as their reason. What the…?!? They are there to help and support these younger diggers until they are at the stage where they can pick up the torch for the next generation of soldiers coming through. Toowoomba is not that much better.So much in fighting and a recent merger with another sub-branch and all they appear to be interested in is getting the new name right. And how is bingo going to help out these diggers who really need a helping hand? And they wonder why we are not interested…

  15. Have a look at Trojan’s Trek (www.trojanstrek.com) … a peer support program (PSP) working with Veterans in a 6x day retreat setting.

    We need more support to continue supporting the most dire cases and setting up people for ongoing success.

  16. The only way to change the RSL and make it more relevant is to join and unseat the sub-branch committee. I totally agree that two star state and national presidents are somewhat out of touch. But again the only way to get them out is to join and run against them. The danger is of course is that we to will one day become irrelevant but the greatest service you can give any organisation is to actively recruit and mentor members that can do your job better than you can. Again I think that the issues mentioned above are in my experience more prevalent in NSW and QLD

  17. as a war widow the NSW RSL and the South Lake Macquarie sub-branch have been the biggest help, having looked after my son and I since my husband Mat was KIA in Afghanistan nearly 5 years ago.

    They helped me with all my redtape to ensure we got every benefit we were entitled to with DVA, gave us a few thousand dollars to get us by until my pension came thru, paid for Mat’s wake at the Doylo RSL club, paid for Mat’s car to be serviced/registered/ insured so i could sell it, every time we are in Sydney the NSW Branch pay for our accommodation, at ANZAC House in Sydney they have named a meeting room after Mat and with the help of the state RSL they have placed a plaque bearing Mat’s name on the ANZAC Bridge in Sydney, and so much more!

    My RSL advocate is the youngest at age 42 at state RSL and he has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help us.

    As far as records show, at the age of 21 Mat was the youngest member of SLM and NSW sub-branches killed in action and they have done so much to ensure that all members know who Mat is and was to ensure the memory of Mat never fades.

    I know some families of the fallen and injured have had some issues with the RSL’s in their own states and territories but we have been so lucky to have some amazing people help us in our time of need since Mat died. at the SLM sub-branch about 50% of their members are under the age of 60

    1. Hi Victoria,
      I had the honour and privilege to have known and served with your late husband in Afghanistan.
      I’m extremely relieved and happy to hear your sub branch and RSL NSW has supported you and your son throughout the years since Mat’s passing.
      My post isn’t a dig at all RSL’s, just my experiences with a particular sub-branch and the attitude I and others experienced from RSL QLD.
      We attempted to engage the RSL and were constantly rebuffed so a group of us walked away. Most sub branches are inclusive of our generation but until the remainder change their views they are endangering the legacy of the RSL as a whole.

  18. VVCS was set up by Vietnam veterans to assist Vietnam Veterans, now its VCS for all veterans, it is not part of or affiliated with the RSL’s in any way. They may refer you to an RSL Advocate if they believe that’s who you should see, but they have their own people and systems. Our new vets have the same problem us VIETNAM Vets had, that is nobody can help us because you don’t know what we need and don’t understand what we did.
    Your right the RSL is full of old Vets, who don’t like post Korea Vets at all, that’s because Post Korea Vets don’t respect the Old fella’s at all either.
    Well you cant have it both ways, If you walk away from the RSL, then you walk away from ANZAC Day and Remberance Day. These are RSL Celebrations. You have no entitlement to DVA or your family to legacy, these were fought and gained by the RSL, Finally you have no claim to Aussie Military History because the men from WW! until Vietnam mostly were from battalions and units that all joined the RSL,s. Your current battalion, history comes from that history.
    So walk away from the RSL if you want, but be aware what it means and DO NOT expect to receive all the rights and perks that the RSL fought for.
    I will never Join an RSL club, but I will not walk away from what the RSL is and what it means or stands for either. I will drop into RSL clubs for a feed and a beer once a year and ANZAC services and respect the OLD Fella’s, but my mates are Vietnam Vets, because I had to walk away from the new vets because they have no idea what they want or how to go about getting it, and wont be advised one way or the other. I ended up going nuts trying to help now I just watch the self destruction and hope all goes well for them

    1. Firstly, I never said VVCS/VCS was affiliated with the RSL, so you are right. Secondly, calm down. I have not disowned the RSL as a whole, my post is regarding me not joining a sub branch or intending to.
      I am aware of the battles the RSL fought in order to help returned servicemen and their families, as I said my Grandfather devoted the entirety of his post WW2 life to help others.
      I have no claim to Australian Military history? Fairly certain I do. This is something my Grandfather, Father and I have fought for.
      Instead of attacking me regarding a post I wrote almost a year ago, weeks after my Grandfather passed away and I was DENIED membership to his sub branch, how about you focus your energy on supporting each other.

    2. I do not believe this to be correct, most of my mates had huge respect for past veterans and I would say that extended to the majority in the forces. I also find it a little offensive for you to say that he should walk away from the celebrations, entitlements and history, these are not the sole thanks to the RSL, some of these had there beginnings before 1916 and the formation of the RSL, there are also other ex service organisations whom over the years have achieved change for the benefit to the veteran community.Anzac day and Remembrance day these are Australian celebration days and I find your comments a little unwarranted. You may crusify me but that is my thought

  19. Hi,
    I recently joined my local sub branch here in WA. Unlike other states they do not have licenses or pokies so it is a true sub branch whose finances mainly come from the one day a year we are allowed to sell poppies. We also rent out our hall to community groups and birthday parties and staff this ourselves. The President and treasurer are Vietnam Vets as most of the old guys from WW2 are getting on. I’d like to get some ideas about attracting younger blokes to join as I have been asked by the President for advice as they admit they don’t have the knowledge to cater for the younger guys. My advice for them was to look at Soldier On etc and see if they can tie in with them (Fundraising for them etc.). Any advice is appreciated. At 38 I am the youngest guy there.

  20. Chad so sad to read this and I’ve heard it a few times from other people but I personally am determined to stick my nose in and make change.

    My personal view is that the RSL is the future even if it sometimes doesn’t seem like that now. From what I can see so far, the little groups that are emerging and have emerged over the years come and go because often they often wanted to feel like they had their own identity and voice which often got lost under the mushroom of the RSL. But I see as many of the 70’s one are now dying quickly that they are too focused to get a strong membership and still be going when we too are breaking down and need the new young guys to look after us.

    At the end of the day they have the bricks and mortar already and are keen to ensure it is there for us as we come through. All the other little groups which are emerging will struggle to ever get to this point; without huge amounts of fund raising or govt grants.

    I know many younger soldiers feel they want an identity within the RSL and feel often they don’t get this. They also feel they are ignored at the moment because their is 20 older guys and only them and maybe a couple of others now and then; but that will change soon.

    We take about ANZAC mate ship etc etc. Well the older guys from Vietnam era etc need our help now. Even if we have work commitments and young families we need to step up. Many of these guys are starting to break down with time and they need us to help them and sometimes even carry them just like they have done the WW2 vets. The younger generation ‘sometimes’ needs to forget about themselves a little a realise often we don’t have it that bad, even when we feel we do.

    We need get in there and now to absorb the knowledge about Welfare and Pensions that these guys have before they are not around to teach us.

    Just some ramblings I suppose….

    1. Not ramblings at all, very valid points. A lot of us see the RSL as the club with pokies and the old diggers have a few beers and talking about the old day. A lot of us just want to get out and do things with mates and not be tied down to the usual club activities that revolve around the bar.
      Many RSL’s do great things already, Frankston VIC & Gaythorne QLD are great examples of this progression

      1. Hey Chad,

        I could agree more at times after experiencing the bigger RSL’s a joke. You should come to WA no pokies here just good mateship and stories at RSL’s.

  21. i went to join kedron .wavell RSL to many bright lights to worried about to business side of it … so i went to samford valley to total opposite lots of young veterans welcomed with open arms

  22. Hi Chad,
    As a vietnam vet I can relate to much of what you say.
    I have been involved in assisting Vet’s needs for over forty years and I too am aware of the problems you refer to.The general public in Qld. sees the R S L as that monolithic building full of pokies and old farts hanging around the bar telling war stories.I have seen one possible avenue to greater acceptance and more genuine effort to be inclusive to the needs of your generation of Vets. I am now involved in the old fashion style stand alone or traditional Sub Branch and here on the Gold Coast there are a number of them. These Sub Branches are reaching out constantly to Vets from all theatres to become involved in all areas of the operation and while my own Sub Branch may be the exception rather than the rule we have already been able to fit several new Vets into our system. One of the problems we have found is the fact that you and most of your generation have very heavy work and family commitments that limit your time much as was the case with the Vietnam guts for some years. I and I am sure most older Vets would love to see more discussion from your generation be you a member or not as that is the only way to satisfy all the needs arising. I congratulate you on speaking out and wish you every success in the future. Regards Sparrow

  23. My father was the same as this soldiers grandfather, president of his rsl. It took him away from his family to help others. Yet my husband was a Vietnam vet and was treated very badly by the rsl. My father finally resigned as president and welfare officer to care for my mother. When she passed he had no support from his beloved rsl. Now that club is gone and I for one am happy to see it close. No veteran ever gets the support or recognition they need from the rsl.

  24. I wholeheartedly agree as a currently serving member of 24 Years. Many of today’s veterans have seen the perils of Somalia, Cambodia, Sinai, Rwanda Timor too many times, Solomons and Guadalcanal, Iraq and Afghanistan, some who still serve have seen them all… been deployed to each and every one. The RSL who once said that Vietnam was not a real war, is now run by those people who fought in Vietnam. While I thank them for their contribution, they must remember that today’s veteran is one who has done more than one ‘tour of duty’ and still serve hoping for another. I too refuse to acknowledge the RSL and publicly highlight this to today’s veteran.

  25. Many of you are making valid points but some mistakes still reign.
    Please do not confuse the sub-branch networks with the RSL clubs. They may share premises but not anyway the same purpose. The Sub-branch membership’s principal benefits are its longevity with political clout, its financial reserves and its networking ability. If you want to make a difference get inside the tent and do just that. Stop watering on the tent from the outside.

    I’m the Hon. Treas. of a Sydney RSL sub-branch with over four hundred currently serving engineers and commandos so the system can and does work. Some of us did three tours of Vietnam so we’re not all one tour wonders as was intimated above but that opportunity was unusual.

    My advice to younger veterans is join an established RSL sub-branch as as a group and make the local system work for you. This can be done with the State Branch’s assistance through their CEO if necessary, just ask. Do not be put off by any of the oldies; they need you more than you need them. Just think of them as slow learners.

    To rush around establishing new systems, networks and finance is a complete waste of energy when today’s focus should be on assisting the veteran and family. The necessary mechanisms are all in place so just make them work to the modern Defence Community’s advantage. Life is rarely handed to you on a plate regardless of how “well lit” the path we choose.

  26. Many of you are making valid points but some mistakes still reign.
    Please do not confuse the sub-branch networks with the RSL clubs. They may share premises but not anyway the same purpose. The Sub-branch membership’s principal benefits are its longevity with political clout, its financial reserves and its networking ability. If you want to make a difference get inside the tent and do just that. Stop watering on the tent from the outside.

    I’m the Hon. Treas. of a Sydney RSL sub-branch with over four hundred currently serving engineers and commandos so the system can and does work. Some of us did three tours of Vietnam so we’re not all one tour wonders as was intimated above but that opportunity was unusual.

    My advice to younger veterans is join an established RSL sub-branch as a group and make the local system work for you. This can be done with the State Branch’s assistance through their CEO if necessary, just ask. Do not be put off by any of the oldies; they need you more than you need them. Just think of them as slow learners.

    To rush around establishing new systems, networks and finance is a complete waste of energy when today’s focus should be on assisting the veteran and family. The necessary mechanisms are all in place so just make them work to the modern Defence Community’s advantage. Life is rarely handed to you on a plate regardless of how “well lit” the path we choose.

  27. G’day Chad, I had the pleasure to serve with your father at DARTY in the late eighties. As a current serving member and IRAQ and Afghanistan veteran, I concur with most of your assessment of the current RSL structure. As you quite rightly point out, there are some sub-branches that are in need of an overhaul. My local is Kedron-Wavell and is abysmal in it’s infactuation of Poker Machines. I never hear anything out of the club to do with veterans etc. My hometown RSL in Yarrawonga is an outstanding sub-branch and cannot do enought for it’s veteran community, I think the country folk still uphold the finest of Australian mateship. Mate, stay focused, you will achieve a change eventually. Plse pass on my regards to Scobie and Beth. Cheers.

  28. I applaud your thoughts however there are the forgotten servicemen and women of missions such as Rwanda, Somalia, Camodia and East Timor that also bore witness to atrocities that have been left behind by the system.

    1. Hi Brendon,
      As stated this post was written almost a year ago. Since then my focus has switched to incl Veterans of ET as well as the ME. The pre-ET campaigns have a several advocacy groups for their members who do a fantastic job.
      My focus is on the veterans of my generation as we don’t have many voices in he public space

  29. I stopped renewing my membership as all I could see was more poker machine being put in.and some of our soldiers is the last things they need. Retired soldier.

  30. Good on you Chad. Somebody needed to speak out and you stepped forward and did so.

    Way back in the ‘seventies and ‘eighties, I was consistently and very badly let down by lying, lazy, obsequious, treacherous moral cowards who infested senior positions in the RSL – utter bludgers who grabbed every award they didn’t deserve and who brown-nosed to every gangplank-dodger in sight. These scoundrels had done me a hell of a lot of unprovoked harm. Eventually, I told these dishonourable maggots just where they could shove their dodgy, do-nothing RSL.

    That was over a quarter-century ago and in the meantime, all of these galoots have karked it – and continue to rot in Hell.

    A couple of years ago, I rejoined the RSL and was pleasantly surprised at how some things had improved but disappointed that a lot of old problems remained.

    Chad, your article shows very clearly that NOBODY in the RSL, including me, can afford to sit down and congratulate themselves while our younger service and ex-service women and men – and their families – have to struggle and are denied their rightful entitlements.

    We have whopping big challenges ahead of us making sure you and your mates and their families get the recognition and praise you all deserve; making sure that you are not diddled out all the entitlements you have already earned; making sure all of you are respected and included and that your opinions and experiences are heard; that you are not denied worthwhile and rewarding jobs and opportunities to improve your lives; making sure that where you need treatment, that is appropriate, prompt and given freely.

    If we don’t have the guts and the tenacity to take on these huge challenges for our younger fellows, we should fold up the RSL.

  31. Veterans have always felt initial resentment with RSL initial reluctance to accredit younger vets in membership. I am a Vietnam Vet and did not experience any negativity with RSL members as I would not have paid any attention to them if they had. Be proud of your service and stand up to those who might try and denigrate the service of the recent campaigns. Supporting the RSL and sticking together means a stronger voice. Having the right people supporting and advocating within the RSL highlights veterans issues much more strongly and widely than splinter veterans groups who bang their individual drums in support of their individual group’s ideals. Having said that I do belong to a number of other veterans groups to show my support but I believe the RSL will survive all other groups over time.
    Don’t let the bastards get you down. Get out there, support the RSL and actively stand your ground and educate these RSL oldies on these recent campaigns.

    PS: RSL sub branch’s are the forum for veterans. The poker machine clubs activities is the social aspect only and usually totally separate from the sub branch so it’s not part of the problem, unless your a gambler.

  32. When I first arrived home from Afghanistan in 2006 I went to my local rsl and was welcomed with open arms. They wanted to know all about it which I did my best to do. After subsequent tours they always asked my dad about me and have sent me all their newsletters and stuff, even overseas. Some branches are clearly more understanding then others. But we shouldnt turn our back on it. To. Say that it is run by old outdated people is just offensive to the veterens who went before us.

  33. Nicely written Chad….i too recently discharged and thought i would join my local RSL ..in Penrith….after one year of frustratingly listening to old blokes discuss rubbish and argue over childish topics i decided to speak out…i was then told to be quiet and was shunned when i asked to become property member etc…all i wanted to do was contribute…outdated ideas in modern times…i will not return to the RSL until the attitude of the older members changes or they are all gone..i have recently moved to Qld and found the same outdated ideas are here too.

  34. Mark: Can understand your anger and disappointment and frustration. The good news is that while some sub-branches are as useless as an ashtray on a motorbike – or worse – yet other sub-branches are terrific and they take their responsibilities seriously. Can only suggest you make careful enquiries about which is which – then give the duds the flick and go to a sub-branch where they are not a waste of space and oxygen. Anyway, good luck …. and thanks a lot for looking after me and mine during your service in the ADF, making sure we could walk our own streets without harm or fear.

    Alright, all you other old codgers; How about we shut our cakeholes and listen to what the younger ones have to say?
    Why not ask them what THEY need to help them get on with their lives – and listen when they try to tell us? And would it really hurt to tear ourselves away from the bar and the pokies and the idiot-box so as to give them a hand with something around the house or on the car? If the younger ones have trouble getting a decent job, would it matter so much if we went around to overly fussy employers and had a little whisper in their shell-like ears – and if that didn’t work, apply a generous amount of percussive persuasion until they could see the error of their ways? There are lots of things we could do for the younger ones – but that has to start with wanting to get off our backsides.

  35. I realise this article is a bit old but I came across it recently via Twitter.
    I am sorry for the past wrongs that various sub-branches and past leaders of the RSL have been a part of. Thankfully, slowly but surely, the old thinking and exclusivity of the RSL is disappearing as the older generation of leaders are passing the baton on to new, younger veterans, many who have witnessed problems first-hand.
    All I can say now is that the current National Executive, National President and National Secretary are determined to move the RSL into the modern day.
    Mates4Mates is an initiative of the Queensland RSL, while the RSL as a whole actively supports the work of SoldierOn, Legacy and the other Ex-Service Organisations. We believe in working alongside our counterparts to achieve the best results on behalf of all veterans.

    RSL National

    1. If the RSL is actively supporting eso’s why then are eso’s deemed as tier 4 donations? (maximum of 5% of donations).

  36. Hi Guys. I am truly saddened by many of your Posts as I feel that the RSL is letting you people down. I can only say that as a president of a smallish country Sub Branch in SA that I am appalled that ANY SERVICE PERSONNEL is treated without the utmost respect and honour that anyone who has served their country deserves. I do know that in the eastern states there are the problems of the brand being diluted but yes there are Dinosaurs in the system and like so many have said previously “Join up and retire them to greener pastures”. My old secretary had similar problems as he never left Australia in WW11, (he was on the Darwin convoy run)and as such he wasn’t RETURNED, and then when I joined up (just a Chock) I wasn’t good enough. So you are all trained military personnel, use your skills and training and help us make the RSL relevant to you.

  37. Good on you, Hoarey; th\at’s the spirit.

    As a sub-branch president, you can set a good example to the sneering grizzlers, to the smug and ignorant, to the perpetual brawlers and squabblers …. if they can’t reach the bar you set for them by your own attitudes and actions – then backsquad the whole lot of them.

    Now, a word of warning: if I catch anyone using those two dirty, filthy four-letter words: ONLY and JUST – I’ll leap through your computer screen and inflict unspeakable agony on you and then I’ll get nasty.

    Right from the moment you take your oath and sign your paper, you can be put in mortal danger anywhere, any how, any time. That applied to ALL of us regardless of our rank, our unit/ship, our training or anything else.

    This week, the funeral will take place of a thorough gentleman, a robust bloke, a resourceful specialist, a fellow you could depend on when things got rough; he was a member of Australian Army Catering Corps. The nitpickers and whingers and twelve-thousand-mile heroes might try to demean his service by saying that he was “only a bait-layer” – they wouldn’t be game to do so in my hearing – because I prefer to call him an excellent soldier and a good sport! He probably had scorch marks on him from enemy (and “friendly”) bullets.

    The point is, you did serve your country and your people in the ADF. It does NOT matter at all if you were Reserve or Regular, woman or man, on peacekeeping or humanitarian or war operations or on training or carrying out support duties or on some other complex and difficult duties. All that really matters is that you stepped forward and took on all the risks that many others could not – or would not – take on themselves.

    Be proud of having done that – and don’t let anyone try to demean your service.

  38. G’day Chad

    Yes I agree the RSL is always appearing to put itself behind the eight ball and it’s done it after every conflict. WWI blokes gave it to WWII blokes gave it to Korea blokes gave it to Vietnam blokes. IT STOPS NOW. I joined as a long haired tattooed bearded person (with a attitude) and your Grandfather opened the door to me, gave me a fair go and I honour his memory by continuing as sub-branch secretary to this day. I am sad about the negative response that may have been given to yourself by this sub-branch. Or should I say some of the individuals in the sub-branch. It is a constant battle to weed out these negative types. Sometimes these people who would give negativity are purely members of the Memorial Club Ltd and have no relationship with the ADF/RSL at all. Basically drunk individuals with little or no life at all to talk about. It boils down to petty jealousy’s. Yes, there are those who see the Sub-Branch as an intruder to THEIR clubs operation. Wankers one and all.

    We have a number of Iraq & Afghan members in our ranks and would like to see more involvement accordingly. My wish is to see these members come onto the sub-branch executive and start the re-education of the public towards modern day service and its relevance to our great nation.

    If the RSL cannot play catch up than it’s days may very well be numbered. There is a clear generational gap and it may be too late to close it. Maybe it is time for a new organisation to take the lead. It wont be long before we lay to rest the last WWII and Korean veterans. What then for the RSL?

  39. G’day Chad and all you younger ones:

    There have been quite a few comments here over the past few weeks. Hope they have been helpful.

    At least you know now that you are not alone – and that there some old codgers and codgeresses who do want you to enjoy happy and fulfilling lives; who want your service to get the recognition and the gratitude it deserves

    Now a few observations that might help you feel better about youselves and about what you yourselves have done:

    (1). Let’s face it, a small minority of bludgers joined the armed forces for thoroughly ignoble reasons and to dodge an honest day’s work; they were jack-merchants, schemers, bullies and bludgers during their service; they are jack-merchants, schemers, bullies and bludgers even today (well, at least they’re consistent). Nothing you could ever do will change them for the better – so don’t even bother trying to appeal to their sense of decency (the Q Store didn’t issue them with any). – don’t waste any more time on them; just by-pass them; give them the flick; ignore them. You’ve got a lot better and more important things to do with your time than waste it on the-scum-of-the-earth.

    (2). Some blokes – and it is usually blokes – can’t get their way at home so they come to a club or association and take out all their frustrations on their fellow members. Without becoming involved in their domestic affairs at all, you can and should help them by gradually turning their negative and destructive attitudes into something positive and constructive. It takes time. It takes a hell of a lot of patience. It starts with listening to them and finding out WHY they have the attitudes they have and behave the way they do. You might find that it has nothing to do with YOUR service in the ADF (despite all the unpleasant things they say) but a lot to do with the way THEIR family treats them. If you strike someone like that, give it a go – what have you got to lose? (Well, alright, a couple of teeth if he turns nasty but, hell, you’ve taken bigger risks than that, haven’t you?). 🙂

    Good luck!

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  41. https://www.facebook.com/DVAfail/

    Thought you might like to read this facebook page, it has some anonymous reports on how DVA, RSL and some ‘bad’ advocates dealt with some war veterans and veterans. The treatment these diggers received is shameful. Reading the posts and especially the comments is really eye opening.

    My own experience with DVA is not too bad, the RSL on the other hand was mediocre, I joined a rural RSL, the group cliques and generational nepotism is what ruins it. My experience is far larger then that, but I tend to try and ignore the negative stuff, there was plenty of it. This is why I think many RSL’s will close there doors as the Vietnam veterans pass on.

    In the future the RSL may be revived by groups of “contemporary veterans” (I hate that name) as they may stay in touch over the years and perhaps start a revival of some sorts.

    Yeah I won’t be joining an RSL again till my generation has taken over or started anew.

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