In the lead up to ANZAC Day, we decided to learn about the local RSL Sub-Branches and their role in the community. Bob Payne, President of the Coffs Harbour RSL Sub-Branch, tells us more.
The Sub-Branches of the RSL of Australia NSW in the broader Coffs Harbour Region wish to inform the general public as to the nature and conduct of what our organisation actually does.
Members of Coffs Harbour, Sawtell, Woolgoolga and Urunga Sub-Branches have all met and decided on this draft to inform everybody as to what we are all about and the importance of the RSL Movement in keeping the eternal flame alight.
Firstly, we wish to make clear that the RSL Sub-Branches, which are Sub-Branches of the RSL of Australia, NSW Branch Organisation, are totally different and separate from the local RSL Clubs Limited and Ex-Services Club. Although we share a kindred spirit and we do receive tremendous support from each service club, which is genuinely appreciated, each Sub-Branch has to fund its own operation to carry out the many and varied activities for Veteran, Ex-Service and serving personnel and the community.
The following is a resumé of the activities and duties that the Sub-Branch perform:
We arrange and conduct ceremonies of national significance such as ANZAC Day, VP Day, Remembrance Day, Vietnam Veterans Day and Korean Veterans Day, along with other significant events.
Each Sub-Branch has Pension Officers who are all trained through DVA Training Programs, to ensure they carry out their work in accordance with DVA requirements. They perform a very important task in obtaining benefits and entitlements for Veterans who have suffered injury or illness through war service. Also, they obtain benefits and entitlements for war widows as part of their duties.
The Sub-Branches also have Welfare Officers who are trained through the DVA Training Program, to enable them carry out the important task of visiting veterans in hospitals, nursing homes and in the veteran’s own home, assisting them with any welfare matters they may have and arranging for proper services that may be required. Around 350 personal visits are carried out per month by our Welfare Officers in our area.
The Sub-Branches are involved with all the local schools in the area and provide scholarships and awards to both their senior and junior schools. We have an ongoing ‘Vets in Schools Program’ running, where Veterans will visit the schools and talk on their individual war experiences, giving students an insight to what war is really like. Veterans also attend as guest speakers when the schools conduct Anzac Day and Remembrance Day Services.
The RSL of Australia NSW Branch is divided into Districts, ours being the North Coast District Council, which consists of 20 Sub-Branches. NCDC meet quarterly, with each Sub-Branch entitled to send two delegates to attend the meetings. At these meetings, any concerns of the Sub-Branches are raised, voted on and if required, passed on by the NCDC Executive to State Council.
State Council in turn, where required, can pass it on to the National Council, where they can lobby Government with these concerns. An example of this is that most Sub-Branches consider that war widows should be entitled to receive the Gold Card, and this issue has followed the process up to national level and to the Government for consideration. Many and varied issues are dealt with in this manner to improve outcomes for veterans and widows.
Each Sub-Branch has a Funeral Officer, who on invitation from the family, will conduct an RSL Funeral Service for the deceased veteran or Ex-Service person and will provide a summary of their military history. It is also the policy of RSL of Australia that no veteran will be buried as a pauper, so upon verification of the financial status of the deceased, RSL Australia will pay for a dignified funeral.
Sub-Branches have to raise the funds to perform their duties, and this is done in several ways. The generosity of the Ex-Service and RSL Clubs provide some small financial assistance, use of equipment and office space for the Sub-Branches. Application is also made to DVA for funding to assist with the purchase of computers, stationery and also for the construction / upgrade of various Sub-Branch Memorial Monuments.
Funds are also raised by the Sub-Branch and Women’s Auxiliary selling raffle tickets, ANZAC and Poppy Badges, cake stalls and other forms of fundraising, which assists the local Sub-Branches to perform with dignity and professionalism.
The Coffs Harbour Sub-Branch has a 22-seater bus and enclosed trailer for hire to any service organisation, community groups, schools, sporting clubs and any other organisation needing bus transport. Our hire pricing is very competitive, so contact the Coffs RSL Sub-Branch with your enquiries.
The RSL Movement also sponsors the RSL Day Clubs throughout the state, and the local Lilly Pilly Day Club operates out of the Wesley Methodist Church in Bray Street. They meet every Wednesday from 10am until 2pm. The Charter of the Day Clubs is to provide a venue for isolated elderly citizens to meet and join in the activities, enjoy a morning tea and lunch and each others’ company. Currently there are around 40 members attending each Wednesday. To find out more information about the Day Club, please call 6651 5809.
At this point in time, the RSL Sub-Branches totally support the families and the children of veterans to march at and attend all of our ceremonies / services, alongside relatives or in the ranks with the veterans. The only proviso is that if wearing medals of a relative, they are to be born on the right hand pocket side.
Our aim is to preserve our heritage and not let our history lapse into obscurity because of indifference. Having just made that statement, we wish to invite all Ex-Service men and women, along with veterans who have not yet joined the RSL, to come along and see how we operate and join in the camaraderie that is common to all those who have served in the armed forces, regardless if it was in a war zone or not – we have all served our country.
On behalf of the local RSL Sub-Branches, we wish to thank the generosity and community spirit of the following:
Coffs Harbour City Council, Bunnings Warehouse, BCF, Big W Plaza, Mother Nature’s, Always Party Hire, Prime Television, Coffs Coast Focus, The Advocate, The Independent, C.ex Group, Woolgoolga RSL LImited, Sawtell RSL Limited and the Coffs Hotel. To all the schools who support the Sub-Branches, to all the local Cadet Units for their ceremonial support and other duties performed. To all the community organisations who march and support the Sub-Branches on ANZAC Day, and lastly and certainly not least, to all our citizens, boys and girls of our great district, our sincere thanks goes out to you for all your support.
Coffs Harbour RSL Sub-Branch
Phone. 6654 4248
Sawtell RSL Sub-Branch
Phone. 6653 1577
Woolgoolga RSL Sub-Branch
Phone. 6654 2095
Urunga RSL Sub-Branch
Phone. 6655 5085.