More to RSL clubs than meets the eye
ANZAC Day’s come and gone, and flowers cleared from memorials – so what happens at your local RSL during the rest of the year?
The City of Belmont RSL Sub-Branch saw around 1800 people attend the dawn service, 400 at their gunfire breakfast and more coming to the club throughout the day.
But there’s an immense amount of planning that goes into each round of April 25 memorials and much of the financial burden is placed on the RSL clubs themselves.
“When we do Anzac Day, we start in October each year,” Sub-Branch president Alan Richardson said.
“We actually fundraise for Anzac Day. We don’t mind that in a sense because it keeps everyone busy and keeps them thinking but the ex-service community should not be paying for commemorative memorial services for them.”
Mr Richardson said there was previously little to no paperwork required for events but the administration and costs were adding up.
“There’s a lot of bureaucracy placed on local authorities, who are told to tell other people what to do and that’s where the problems and costs emanate from,” he said.
“We had to pay for a building licence to put in a marquee for an hour service at Belmont. That’s not the council’s fault, they have to administer the building codes to do that. But why should the ex-servicemen go ahead and start paying out money?”
Mr Richardson said the City of Belmont was very supportive of the RSL and Lotterywest grants went towards event funding, but the Anzac period events in April still came to around $10,000.
“We fundraise the difference between our total expense and what we get from the Lotteries Commission. We applied for Lotterywest and got $4500. We’re about five or six grand short,” he said.
“We will look after the schools service, because we believe that’s a community role we can play, we can go out and help the schools,” he said.
“But when we come to the actual services in the community, we need to look at ways and means of giving the community what they want, a service and yet making sure we don’t put our hands in our pockets to pay for it.”
Mr Richardson said the ideal solution would be removing some of the costs involved with overcoming red tape for events.
Sub-Branch vice president Steve Toon said the club was still thriving despite the setbacks, with some 350 paid members and many of the local community dropping in for functions and meals.
“I regularly heard that the RSL was a closed shop. People felt disrespectful coming here. It’s getting across to people that we don’t sit in corners and talk war stories and blood and guts, we’re just normal people,” he said.
“It’s like any club, like a soccer club or a tennis club. It’s a really social club.”
Members come from all corners of the globe, including South Africa, New Zealand, and an Italian member who served in Bosnia under the United Nations.
“It’s a place where you meet people you’ve crossed paths with. This is our R&R for the rest of our life. We sit and relax and we want people to join in,” Mr Toon said.
The City of Belmont RSL Sub-Branch is celebrating its 88th year in 2017. Visit the RSL at 22 Leake Street, Ascot, or call 9478 2329.
President Alan Richardson and vice president Steve Toon.