May 6th 2009
Magnetic RSL branch could close
Nearly one thousand Islanders and visitors proudly attended ANZAC Day on Magnetic Island recently. But, while the annual commemoration is on the up and up, the tiny local organisation which runs it and provides many other ongoing services to the community, is at the point of dissolution. Why? Simply not enough people willing or able to keep the RSL sub-branch committee alive.
This worrying situation has been some time in the making but at the MI RSL's Annual General Meeting held on 3rd May a new committee could not be formed and the meeting was adjourned until 10.00 am on 17th May 2009.
President, Geoff Barlow, in a public notice for Magnetic Times wrote, “All members, both Service and Citizens Auxiliary are urged to attend. If a committee is not elected at this meeting, under the Incorporations Act 1981 (Qld) the RSL Magnetic Island sub branch, by necessity, must wind up."
The sub branch has 42 ex-service and 2 serving members. The average age of the service members is approximately 60.
According to RSL stalwart, Peter Safe, “Of these members only about 5 have been constantly willing to hold a position on the Executive Committee. Of the remainder, only about 5 - 6 actively support the sub branch.
“Many people do not realise that if they have served in the military in any form they are entitled to join the RSL. They do not have to have served full time or overseas. If they served as a National Serviceman or in the Reserve Forces, they are entitled to join the RSL as full members.”
MI RSL's Peter Safe
The sub branch is however supported by approximately 55 (non-service) auxiliary members.
The sub branch has an Executive Committee of three: President, Secretary and Treasurer of which only one position can be held by an auxiliary member and this member cannot be President.
According to Peter Safe, “The committee is involved in the day-to-day running of the sub branch. They also over-see all RSL requirements and administration within the sub branch (members health, members needs, community assistance, donations to charity organisations etc).
"They also look at ways of developing activities which will help and financially keep the sub branch financial. With the aging hall, this committee is kept busy finding grants to financially help with the maintenance and upkeep of the hall."
The committee, which meets monthly, also over-see the preparations for Anzac Day and Remembrance Day.”
When asked why he thought the committee was so hard to fill Peter Safe said, “This is not just a challenge for the Magnetic Island RSL Sub Branch. It is a challenge for all communities who use volunteer members on their committee's. Unfortunately in this day and age there is a lack of community involvement and people are adverse to doing anything unless they are compensated for their efforts.
The rewards for involvement are however considerable.
“There is a lot of satisfaction in seeing events come together. Particularly where the children are involved. Add to this the satisfaction of being able to come to the aid of community organisations who are in need of some sort of assistance or sponsorship. MI Community Care, MIRRA, MICDA, MI Fitness, MI Musos' Club and the MI State School are just a few on the island.
“We also support Children's Cancer in Australia (CCIA) which is an ongoing project, and it has been very satisfying handing over a healthy cheque which goes to help children in this country suffering with this debilitating disease.
Peter Safe was at pains to point out that, unlike so many RSL “clubs,” the Magnetic Island RSL sub branch is different in a very important way that, among other things, keeps the club free of poker machines.
“Unfortunately the community in general have come to associate RSL clubs as a place for cheap food and cheap drinks.
“They have also come to believe that all organisations using the name RSL come under the same umbrella.
"In reality RSL clubs are not RSL sub branches. RSL clubs lease the name from the local sub-branch and run a commercial business. The cheap food and drinks are subsidised by poker machines and other forms of gaming. The sub branch associated with that club is then able to use the income from the lease to perform its duties under the RSL constitution.
"Magnetic Island RSL Sub Branch Inc. is not an RSL club. As the name implies, we are an incorporated sub branch, which is run by the members for the members and the local community.
"To maintain our existence (without the support of 'pokies') we have to provide our services at a normal commercial rate and the committee work hard to raise funds to keep the sub branch alive. "
Many members over the years have served on committees but today are either too old or too tired to serve today.
Unfortunately Magnetic Island does not have a growing service membership base to draw on and there are many ex-service persons who are not members of the sub-branch or the RSL in general.
Any readers interested in joining the committee or the RSL as either a services or auxiliary member can contact Geoff Barlow or Peter safe here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Story & photo: George Hirst
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