Military mindset led to RSL money misuse
A lingering mindset to never question authority may have enabled charity misuse.
A lingering military mindset to never question authority may have enabled RSL top dogs in NSW to misuse charitable funds over several years, a Sydney inquiry has heard.
In his closing submission to a public inquiry into the NSW branch of the RSL, senior counsel assisting the inquiry, Anthony Cheshire SC, said there was a culture within the organisation to never question authority.
“The military background of the majority of those involved may have been a factor in this, in that they never received instructions to act in a different way,” Cheshire said on Thursday.
“There appears to have been a culture within these organisations of a failure to question or to test, but instead simply to accept the way things have always been and to carry on regardless.”
The public inquiry into NSW RSL, under the Charitable Fundraising Act, was set up by the state government after the organisation’s former president Don Rowe was accused of, and later admitted to, using its funds for private expenditure.
Following the inquiry’s conclusion on Friday, Public Enquirer Patricia Anne Bergin SC is required to report to Better Regulation Minister Matthew Kean by the early February 2018.
Rowe admitted during the inquiry to using the charity’s cash to pay for his mortgage, family phone bills, flights, meals and a Sydney hotel room during his 11 years as the NSW RSL president.
As a result of the admissions, Rowe was expelled from the league, while credit cards were stripped from state councillors.
Cheshire said the lack of circulation of jobs at the top of the NSW RSL meant no “new blood” had been afforded the opportunity to assess an organisation “crying out for a shake-up and real reform”.
He said there was no doubt the RSL’s image had been damaged.