A Historical Perspective of the RSL

By November 15, 2017

The Returned and Services League of Australia (often abbreviated to RSL) is a support organisation for men and women who have served or are serving in the Australian Defence Force (ADF).

It was formed as the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia in 1916, became the Returned Sailors’, Soldiers’ and Airmens Imperial League of Australia in 1940, and became the Returned Services League of Australia in 1965. The change to its current name was made in 1990 to reflect the organisation’s concern for current as well as former servicemen and servicewomen.

The patron of the RSL is Queen Elizabeth II.

The current National President of the League is , Robert Dick.

As of 31 December 2009, the League comprised 186,652 members from 1,306 sub-branches and 5,533 members of the League’s women’s auxiliary from 381 sub-branches.

Membership levels have been declining for at least ten years.

The RSL’s mission statement is: To ensure that programs are in place for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-service Defence Force members and their dependents; and promote Government and community awareness of the need for a secure, stable and progressive Australia.

RSL National HQ, at 1 Constitution Avenue, Canberra, near the Australian Defence Force Russell Offices HQ The League evolved out of concern for the welfare of returned servicemen from the (1914–1918) first World War.[4]

During 1916, a conference recommended the formation of The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) which included representation from Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. New South Wales was admitted to the League the following year, and Western Australia in 1918. In 1927, the Australian Capital Territory formed a branch and was admitted.

In 1940, the name of the League changed to the Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ and Airmens Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA), and a subsequent change of name took effect in 1965, as the Returned Services League of Australia (RSL). Two more name changes occurred, in 1983 to Returned Services League of Australia Limited (RSL) and in 1990 to Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL).

The objects of the League remain relatively unchanged from its first incorporation. RSL badge symbolism At the top of the badge is the Crown signifying allegiance to Queen and country. Below the crown are the national flowers of Australia, Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland – the wattle, the leek, the rose, the thistle, and the shamrock. In the centre of the badge are a sailor, soldier, an airman and service woman who are marching with their arms linked, symbolising friendship and that all services, and all ranks, are united in comradeship. The red of the badge is symbolic of the blood tie of war. The white background stands for the purity of motive – and to render service without personal gain. The blue is a symbol of willingness to render service to a comrade anywhere under the blue sky.[4] The badge may only be worn by members of the League

National Presidents

National Presidents[edit]

Order Rank Name Postnominals Period in office Term of office
7000100000000000000♠1 Brigadier General William Kinsey Bolton CBE, VD 1916 – 1919 3 years
7000200000000000000♠2 Captain Sir Gilbert Dyett CMG 1919 – 1946 27 years
7000300000000000000♠3 Colonel Sir Eric Millhouse[6] KC 1946 – 1950 4 years
7000400000000000000♠4 Sergeant Sir George Holland CBE, MM 1950 – 1960 10 years
7000500000000000000♠5 Lieutenant Colonel Sir Arthur Lee KBE, MC & Bar 1960 – 1974 14 years
7000600000000000000♠6 Brigadier Sir William Hall KBE, DSO, ED 1974 – 1978 4 years
7000700000000000000♠7 Captain Sir William Keys AC, OBE, MC 1978 – 1988 10 years
7000800000000000000♠8 Brigadier Alf Garland AM 1988 – 1993 5 years
7000900000000000000♠9 Major General Digger James AC, MBE, MC 1993 – 1997 4 years
7001100000000000000♠10 Major General Peter Phillips AO, MC 1997 – 2003 6 years
7001110000000000000♠11 Major General Bill Crews AO 2003 – 2009 6 years
7001120000000000000♠12 Rear Admiral Ken Doolan AO, RAN 2009 – 2016 7 years
7001130000000000000♠13 Major Rod White AM, RFD 2016 – 2017 8 months
7001140000000000000♠14 Warrant Officer Robert Dick 2017 – present Incumbent

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