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In Western Australia in early 1916, a group of veterans convened and decided to form the 11th Battalion Association. Returning soldiers could now speak as one unit with one voice, after having received poor treatment upon their return to Australia. The decision was made to widen the scope to include all members of the 3rd Infantry Brigade. On May 27th 1916 it was agreed that the name of the association should be altered to ‘Returned Soldiers’ Association’, covering personnel from all units.
Nationally, the Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) was founded in 1916 to ensure a unified approach to address the lack of organised repatriation facilities and medical services available to those returning from service in the Great War. This included looking out for the families of those comrades who did not return
This ethos of compassion and service remains today as the motivating influence of the League. The core mission has never changed and has continued to evolve to meet the needs of each generation of servicemen and women.
RSL advocates for the best possible conditions for our serving men and women and for those who have served the Nation in the past. We foster respect and thanks from the Nation for all those who have made sacrifices in Australia’s name and we provide a strong voice on issues of National unity and security.
From young and old, ex-serving to current serving – the RSLWA is here to assist. It advocates for the best possible conditions for those who have served and fosters a spirit of respect and thanks from a grateful nation through commemorative services and events.
With a network of Sub-Branches across the state, the RSL allows for assistance to be given to any veteran in need. Member or not, a warm welcome is always waiting for at your local RSL Sub Branch.
The RSL’s Motto “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance” has an interesting history.
In the fourth century BC, Demosthenes enunciated the spirit of the motto although he used these words:
“There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it ? Distrust”
In 1770 the following words were apparently first used by John Philpot Curran in his speech upon his election as Lord Mayor of Dublin: “The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”
Then Wendel Phillips, in an address before the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in 1852 said: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty” . Some people have attributed this also to Thomas Jefferson, but no one has found any records of Jefferson using the sentence.
In the early 1920’s the Victorian Branch of the League suggested that the League should have a motto, and the NSW Branch of the League recommended: “The Price of Liberty is Eternal Vigilance”. In November 1923, the 8th National Congress of the RSL agreed on the motto recommended by NSW
RSLWA vision and mission can be broken down into the following points:
- To provide assistance and care for serving and ex-serving members of the Australian Defence Force, along with their dependants. Whether sick, suffering from mental illness, of elderly age, homeless or otherwise in need of relief, the RSLWA will be there.
- To support and assist current serving personnel of the Australian Defence Force at home, abroad and those transitioning to civilian life.
- To assist current and ex-serving personnel and their dependants to secure compensation, benefits and assistance that they are eligible to receive under the order of law.
- To contribute to the preservation of the memory, honour and records of those who suffered and died for their country while serving in the Australian Defence Force.
Objectives of RSL National
Objects of the RSL The RSL is established for the principal purpose of promoting the interests and welfare of serving and ex-serving men and women of the Australian Defence Force and their dependants and for this purpose has the following objects:-
(a) To assist and care for the sick, elderly and needy by providing, or assisting to provide pensions, benefits, accommodation, medical treatment, rehabilitation and other forms of welfare.
(b) To establish and accept trusts having for their object the welfare and benefit of any member of the League, or of any serving, or ex-service member, of the Australian Defence Force, or their dependants.
(c) In furtherance of any of the objects of the RSL, to make grants to and give assistance to such persons, trusts, groups, associations, societies, institutions or other organisations and authorities and to establish such scholarships as the RSL may, from time to time determine.
(d) To perpetuate the close and kindly ties of friendship created by mutual service in the Australian Defence Force or in the forces of nations traditionally allied with Australia and the recollections associated with that experience, to maintain a proper standard of dignity and honour among all serving and ex-service men and women of the Australian Defence Force, and to set an example of public spirit and noble hearted endeavour;
(e) To ensure the preservation of the memory and the records of those who suffered and died for the nation; to ensure the erection of memorials to their valour and that they have suitable burial places; to establish and preserve in their honour, ANZAC Day, Remembrance Day and other commemorative occasions.
(f) To promote the defence of the Nation, and guard the good name, interests and standing of serving members of the Australian Defence Force.
(g) To support serving Australian Defence Force members at home and abroad and actively assist them in their transition to civilian life, especially if they are detrimentally affected by their Defence service.
(h) To support Australian Federal Police overseas veterans with appropriate assistance and encouragement to join the League.
(i) To encourage members of the League and citizens to serve the Nation with a spirit of self-sacrifice and loyalty, supporting constitutional arrangements that promote a stable and progressive society.
(j) To maintain a national association, which is non-sectarian, and in relation to party politics, non-partisan.
(k) To enunciate, from time to time, its policy on national questions and to encourage members of the League to abide by, support and actively carry out such policy so far as is permitted by law.
(l) To establish, maintain, furnish and equip premises, information bureau, libraries, literary, social, educational and benevolent institutions for the benefit and advancement of members of the League and to print, circulate and publish such papers, books, magazines and circulars, carry on such other literary and journalistic undertakings, and publish material that may be conducive to the objects of the RSL.
(m) To subscribe or donate to, become a member of and co-operate with any other body of persons corporate or unincorporated whose objects are similar to those of the RSL and which prohibits the distribution of its or their income and property, amongst its or their member.
(n) To conduct commercial, marketing and sponsorship activities consistent with relevant legislation and the RSL’s reputation for the purpose of delivering the Objects and other outcomes as directed by the Board, and
(o) To do any act matter or thing which is conducive to carrying out the Objects.
North Beach RSL Sub-Branch
North Beach Sub-Branch had its formation in 1945 and from its very humble beginnings, small Membership within a then sparsely populated community, and ably supported by the then Women’s Auxiliary it had been able to focus on supporting and caring for its members, the community and the RSL. The way in which it organised its social, commemorative events and development from the start has had a lasting impact, and the Sub-Branch now finds itself placed to provide a culturally strong, supportive and welcoming environment .
The Sub-Branch has over 340 service members and 27 affiliates. Female members number 30, and this number is slowly growing. Our younger veteran numbers are also growing. Attendance at our monthly meetings average 40% of total membership.
We have broad representation from the services dating from World War 2, recent theatres of conflict and peacekeeping, and each group are represented at our meetings and in our activities. Your records will show that we have members who have been awarded Life Membership, those who have been awarded with 50 Year Certificates, as well as those who have been awarded Commonwealth awards such as AM, OAM and OA. These Commonwealth Awards have been earnt for services to veterans and the veterans’ community whilst associated with our Sub-Branch and within our community.
How We Deliver
Community Involvement and Support
The Sub-Branch has had a long history of supporting community and service based organisations. This includes a history of donating to School Cadets, Air Force and Naval Cadets, Legacy, Memorial Plaques, $5000.00 for the original Mount Lawley RSL Veterans Homes, funding of scholarships for tertiary and further education and various disaster appeals. We maintain and foster a close relationship with the cadet service units, as well as organisations such as the North Beach Football Club.
Recently the Sub-Branch supported a delayed annual ANZAC Day Match of the North Beach Football Club at the Charles Riley Memorial Reserve. This is popular with our Members and fosters greater understanding between our veterans and the young members of the football club. It provides the young footballers with an appreciation of sacrifice of those who went before.
Our meetings are held on the second Monday each month, except January, and have an average attendance of over 120 members as well as regular visitors from other Sub-Branches around the State, as well as invited service providers.
A focus of the meetings includes the formal arrangements of managing the Sub-Branch, visitor presentations on topics that are of interest and benefits to Members, the serving of a meal, and camaraderie. Those members who live alone are provided with a “take-away” meal following the meeting.
An important focus in our meetings is to welcome visitors and new members and to ensure that they are welcome, supported and made to “feel at home”. Younger veterans of course may have difficulty in making all of our meetings due to work commitments, but when they do attend, their contribution and membership is rewarded by being made to feel valued and welcome.
Following the meeting, every effort is made to have the Minutes and supporting information delivered to members by way of emails, newsletters, postings on our website, or delivered by hand or mail. It is critical that members be kept informed in a timely manner, irrespective of whether they attended meetings.
Critical to our Sub-Branch is the care of our Members. We have Wellbeing Support Officers, and other volunteers to call on Members, either at home, hospital or care. The purpose of this is to keep them informed of Sub-Branch happenings, to ensure that they have the support they need, and that they feel an important part of the Sub-Branch.
We report at each meeting the general wellbeing of those members who are not well, or are no longer able to attend meetings.
Key Activities and Events
Like most Sub-Branches, our key commemorative events in the year are ANZAC Day and Remembrance Day. The Sub-Branch is pro-active in ensuring that approvals are gained well before the events and that Members are appropriately briefed and trained to provide needed support, particularly during times of Covid to meet regulatory health requirements.
Although ANZAC Day at North Beach was cancelled in 2020 and 2021 due to Covid restrictions, the Dawn Service is an important event in our calendar. It allows us to be involved in the community by visiting up to 28 schools in the area and joining them in remembering those who served. It also allows community based service organisations such as the Air Force, Army and Navy Cadets, and the local North Beach Football Club to be involved.
The Dawn Service attracts up to 7,000 members of the community and is followed by a Gunfire Breakfast at our home in the North Beach Bowling Club.
Several years ago we introduced and organised a large screen format to the Dawn Service with vision and music relating to the spirit of the occasion. The vision included that of some of our members telling their service stories and why the RSL has been an important part of that service. By including both older and young veterans in the whole story and focussing audience attention and participation on the importance of ANZAC Day in the RSL calendar and how it relates to them personally has directly contributed to the North Beach Dawn Service being one of the largest and most successful in the State.
Remembrance Day also attracts a large gathering and involves local schools, as well as community based service organisations such as the Air Force Cadets, Army Cadets, and the local North Beach Football Club in the service. Invited dignitaries attend, and this adds to the significance of the Day.
Within the Charles Riley Memorial Reserve is the North Beach War Memorial and the Wall of Remembrance.Our Sub-Branch has one member who, on behalf of the Executive, takes responsibility for the Memorial Precinct, the arrangement of donated plaques from families of local ex service personnel and ceremonial duties of the Flag. Plaques are arranged during the year and following Remembrance Day on 11 November each year, new Plaques are unveiled in the presence of families, Members and the public.
This has enthusiastic support from the City of Stirling, the community and families of deceased ex service personnel.
Activities and Events
North Beach has a long history of member involvement in activities that lead to a sense of belonging and improved health and wellbeing. Starting in 1945, it has continually aspired to improve the wellbeing of its members by providing a supportive and friendly community.
Early activities included:
- As early as 1948 an annual wheel barrow derby was held. The field was open to all comers and the prize money was sponsored by the licensee of the Castle Hotel. The course started and finished at the Hotel. Contestants, which included community members, had to push their partner and then be pushed in the barrow. The Sub-Branch also raised funds from stalls set up outside the Hotel to sell cakes, sweets and garden produce.
- Late in the 1940’s children’s picnics were held during their Christmas breaks from school. The children were assembled in Flora Terrace and hiked to Beach Road, Waterman and then along bush tracks to Mullaloo Beach where running and swimming races were held. They were refreshed with donated watermelon, ginger beer and ice cream.
- Through the fifties and sixties intra and inter Sub-Branch sporting events were conducted.
It is with this history of Member involvement and innovative activities and events that the Sub-Branch continues to function, with its focus being on members, their health, and wellbeing through group support and involvement. Regular activities of the Sub-Branch include:
Twice a Week on Wednesdays and Fridays
- Walking Group leaving from Hillarys Marina for walk along the ocean front.
- Kayaking with Sub-Branch kayaks, or their own, within the Marina with the hardier venturing further afield. As part of this activity participants retrieve floating debris around the Marina.
- Cycling along the coastal paths
- All participants in these group activities join other Members for coffee, conversation and support at the Marina following their respective activities
We also focus on visits each year to organisations and sites of interest and those that have a military significance, such as SAS in Swanbourne, Police Academy, Army Museum of WA in Fremantle, the Perth Mint.
Annually each year we undertake a week long “Tour of Duty” and over the last 5 years have visited Merredin, Geraldton, Albany, Rottnest and Darwin.
The 2021 visit to Darwin and surrounds included a visit to 2 Troop Command, 1st Combat Engineer Regiment at Robertson Barracks. This was very well received by them as well as the veterans on the tour. President John Rolfe and Member Paul McGuinness on a more recent visit presented the troop with a framed photograph as a thank you for their hospitality. This visit cemented a relationship between our Sub-Branch and 2 Troop Command.
In 2022 it is planned to visit Kalgoorlie.
Veterans’ Health Week is supported and walks along the Bibbulmun Track from Mundaring and a guided walk through Araluen are the key activities. These have been designed for the capability of participants and our qualified First Aid Members are always there to provide support if and when needed.
A principle event for Members and their partners is the November Annual Dinner that has been held at the Hillarys Yacht Club. It is a special day that allows Members and their partners to enjoy themselves in an informal setting, enjoy tasty food and each other’s company.
The outcome that has resulted for our Sub-Branch is improved teamwork and understanding amongst Members, the opportunity to have shared experiences and breaking down of barriers so asking for help if needed, is the norm and not the exception.
An essential component of Member involvement is communication to ensure that all are informed, not only of Sub-Branch happenings and events, but of issues that may be of interest, or may impact them. This is achieved by direct one on one communication, by visits, at meetings, by email, newsletters, Facebook and our website.
Our Website is updated on a daily basis and contains essential information to support our members, It contains news and information and guides to seek needed support.
The combination of our daily maintained website and Facebook helps us reach a wide audience and supports us to reach out to our younger veterans.
To supplement our inhouse Communications we also have had success in gaining write ups and exposure in The Listening Post, DVA News, The Stirling Times and Channel 10.
Interest has been generated, not only by the activities we undertake, but by our programme of documenting the history of our Members, particularly the World War 2 Veterans who are still active Members. These are on our website and also on the Virtual War Memorial Australia website. We have been active in providing that site with information and photographs of local community based memorials and Plaques.
It is not just being past winners of the Newdegate Cup as well as being Runner Up that is the measure of our success, it is the enthusiasm, peer support and sustained level of Member participation that is at the heart of our Sub-Branch. From within our Sub-Branch it is the combination of all our Members who contribute to our success in supporting our community, our veterans and our RSLWA.