RSL NSW to rebuild trust this Anzac Day
Organisation aims to build back trust.
The embattled RSL NSW knows too well the extensive damage caused by a scandal involving the misuse of funds but it’s confident the internal strife won’t dampen the spirit of Anzac Day.
President James Brown says while the charity won’t be fundraising for itself this week it will still be an “incredibly important” Anzac Day.
“We’re still doing an incredible amount of work below water to repair the extensive damage we face across the league,” Brown told AAP.
“The RSL are custodians of Anzac services but Anzac Day is bigger than the RSL.”
The president – who’s the son-in-law of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull – insists the league’s internal ructions won’t have an impact on Wednesday’s solemn commemorations.
It’s been a tumultuous 12 months for the veterans’ charity.
A public inquiry found former president Don Rowe used his RSL credit card between 2009 and 2014 to pay for his mortgage, family phone bills, flights and meals.
He also paid for his daughter to stay at an RSL-owned hotel in Sydney’s CBD for three nights and allowed his son to stay there rent-free for seven years. In total he spent $465,000.
Detectives are reviewing the findings and evidence gathered at the inquiry and further investigations are anticipated, a NSW Police spokesperson told AAP.
Thirteen other RSL members have been referred to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and the Australian Charities and Not-for-profits Commission for their role in covering up Mr Rowe’s misconduct.
After the scandal erupted Mr Brown announced all sub-branches of the charity would stop fundraising with the suspension to continue until November 2018 at least.
Because RSL NSW can’t fundraise for itself on Anzac Day the organisation will instead raise money for the 2018 Invictus Games.
Founded by Prince Harry, the games are a Paralympic-style sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women. The next contest will be held in Sydney in October.
“Any money put in our buckets will go straight to Invictus,” he said.
“This is the best way to help veterans and that’s what we are set up to do.”
Some smaller branches weren’t thrilled with the plan but Brown argues it’s the best way to continue the charity’s work for now.
Brown is hopeful RSL NSW will soon be able to get back to its roots.
“We’re looking forward to having more space to focus on veterans issues rather than administrative issues.”