Some months ago, I promised that I would start sending out monthly newsletters to keep you informed about matters affecting us at State and District level. These were due to start soon after I became the Far Northern District (FND) District President, but I have been loaded up with other activities. I apologise and will try to have a newsletter to you every month or two.
Going back in time, I was elected as the District President in April when Peter Sterling retired, and, as luck would have it, our long-time District Secretary, Norma Short, retired in May. This left a significant void in both knowledge and experience in the District. Since then, I have been engaged on a very quick learning curve to get to know the District, its members and ensure that we are operating properly to support the FND Sub-branches. Fortunately, I have been provided excellent support by my fellow FND Board members – Ken Willoughby (Malanda), Anne Lacey (Ravenshoe), Peter Hayton (Cairns), and our temporary District Secretary, Lo Brocard (Dimbulah).
When I took over, I advised your Sub-branch Delegates that I would focus on the following issues within the District:
- Supporting veterans
- Working towards more advocates and training
- Increasing membership
Supporting veterans: This is an ongoing activity, mainly undertaken by sub-branches, but supported by the District Office through funding assistance and advice. There is a strong focus on this at State level and this can be seen by the establishment of a Veteran Services department within RSL QLD.
Governance: The District and Sub-branches need to be operating within RSL QLD, District and Sub-branch Constitution and legislation requirements. Without these requirements, the framework that supports the Objects of the RSL would not function appropriately. To this end, many FND Sub-branch Committee members attended corporate governance training during July and August. From all reports, this was received well and provided a good knowledge refresher for those that know everything and a good base for those that need to know their responsibilities as committee members. It is intended to bring the governance training to FND at least annually to ensure that committees are informed of the latest legislation and issues pertaining to governance.
The FND Good Governance Guide has been provided to all FND sub-branches in both Word and PDF format. The Word document can be amended to reflect the requirements of individual sub-branches, but please make sure that the document is kept up-to-date. Further FND policy documents approved by the FND Board have been completed and released to the FND Sub-branches. These can be amended to reflect the specific requirements of the sub-branch if needed.
Advocacy: As most of you would know, this is a difficult area currently for those are in practice due to the shortages of advocates (hence greater workload), and the difficulty in finding mentors for trainee advocates. It is more difficult because the Advocacy Training and Development Program (ATDP) is run by Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) and the level of training required is high. RSL QLD is fully aware of the issues and has been working with DVA to improve both the numbers of advocates and try to streamline the training pipeline.
Increasing membership: You all should have heard by now that RSL QLD is trying to increase RSL membership by the introduction of a Member Value Proposition (MVP). The MVP is a fancy term to say to you that if we don’t improve membership numbers the RSL will disappear in 10-15 years as the membership numbers are dropping dramatically.
I hope to be provided with a presentation showing the effects of the decline in membership and will present it at forthcoming District Meetings leading up to the AGM in December 2021. I have seen it, it is based on very good modeling information, and it is quite shocking. There are only approximately 1600 service members in FND and, in ten years on current trends, FND will cease to exist unless more members are found to support the District. The MVP is trying to arrest this decline, and, unless someone can come up with a better approach, we will have to seek more Service Members if the RSL is to survive.
Life on the RSL QLD Board. One of the ‘perks’ of being elected as the District President, is that I also became a RSL QLD Board member. While I have sat on several boards in the past 30 years, the RSL QLD Board is very interesting. The board members are all volunteers who do not receive directors’ fees. Yes, they do receive air travel and accommodation and meals to attend the District Presidents Meeting and RSL QLD Board Meeting for two days per month in Brisbane, but they receive nothing else apart from a vehicle to use for District business. This shocks most people as RSL QLD has assets of about $250 million and a revenue of around $60 million per annum from the RSL QLD Lotteries. Another perk that I have is reading the Board Pack each month that is between 300-700 pages in size. I have been taking all this in my stride while keeping the FND flag flying. You can also rest assured that I am working hard for our FND members while I sit at these two meetings.
Feedback. From a recent commentary by some disgruntled RSL QLD members, there have been some unfortunate comments been made about RSL QLD Board members. From my perspective, I have found that the Board members are very hard-working and committed members of RSL QLD trying to do their best at improving the State Branch and supporting veterans within Queensland. I have certainly been trying to do my best in supporting you and promoting the Far Northern District on your behalf. If you do have any concerns about my support, discuss with your sub-branch Delegate who can talk to me each month at the FND Council Meetings, come in and see me at the District Office, or write to me outlining your concerns.
Governance. Unfortunately, when I took over as District President, I found that several things were lacking, these included a proper budget for the use of the District funds, and obsolete governance and policy documents. Since April, I and the FND Board have been working on these areas. Over twenty policy documents have been completed and, although they are mainly directly relevant to the FND Board, they could also be molded to fit Sub-branch requirements. The policy documents relate to operation of the District for travel, and other areas such as complaints, bullying/harassment, privacy and the FND Strategic Plan 2021-2027.
I have now provided to each of your sub-branch Delegates a copy of the first batch of policy documents approved by the FND Board for use by the FND Board Members, FND Sub-branch Committee Members, and FND Sub-branch Members. I will provide a properly bound copy of the policy documents to each of your Sub-branch Delegates for retention by the Sub-branch Secretary. I expect these documents to be used for guidance by your sub-branches.
Draft RSL QLD Constitution: Comments/Amendments window for input into the draft RSL QLD Constitution closed on 9 July 2021. You should note that the next opportunity to have input into the draft is to vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on the draft at the RSL QLD AGM being held in early December 2021. This process can only be done through the Sub-branch Delegate, who votes and comments on your behalf through the Sub-branch Committee. Please ensure that your thoughts are passed on to your Committee. Please note that the final draft constitution has now been provided on the RSL QLD website – make sure you read the draft together with the draft State By-laws that are also included on the website.
General Training. The FND has completed Corporate Governance Training for 2021, and further training will be held annually. I am also seeking to have at least 1-2 members within each sub-branch committee attend training in the following areas over the next 3-6 months:
- Basic Welfare Training – nominations are called for from sub-branches for committee members (or any other member) for the RSL QLD basic welfare training. This training will provide an overview of the services that RSL QLD can provide and will allow the aim of having at least one Wellbeing Officer in each sub-branch in due course.
- RSL QLD Membership Management System (MMS) Training and Access to MMS: Over the next six months, it is intended that training be provided for sub-branch members that require MMS access. Please note that, due to strict privacy requirements, access to the MMS is restricted to only the sub-branch Membership Officer, plus one other (usually the secretary or President/Deputy President).
IT Roll-out: The IT roll-out within FND is complete. The sub-branches awaiting completion have special requirements and will be completed as required by them. I would like to thank FND Vice-President, Anne Lacey, for managing the project from the FND end.
FND VP Election: The District has now elected a new FND VP. I would like to congratulate Peter Hayton on his election as one of the District Vice-Presidents. He will relinquish his role as District Treasurer and a new Treasurer will be appointed.
30 September 2021