Wagga RSL Sub-Branch will not benefit from Anzac Day fundraising

Wagga RSL Sub-Branch presidents Harry Edmonds.

Wagga RSL Sub-Branch presidents Harry Edmonds.

The call to maintain a fundraising ban this Anzac Day has come as a disappointment to Wagga’s military veterans. 

While the traditional badges will be made available for purchase, the proceeds will not be received by the Wagga RSL Sub-Branch. 

The move is set to strip thousands of dollars from Wagga’s not-for-profit, with the sales of the badges accounting for more than $30,000 in donations.

This adds to a loss of close to $28,000 from the cancellation of the Poppy Day campaign sales last Remembrance Day – money that was put toward assisting returned soldiers in need across the region.

It follows an investigation into the financial dealings of the NSW Returned and Services League, which was concluded this week. 

The public inquiry came after a number of reports revealed breaches of the Fundraising Act had been made across the state. 

A call to cease the fundraising efforts of all sub-branches soon followed, resulting in public outcry across the Riverina. 

NSW Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin on Monday reported misconduct had resulted in the loss of more than $450,000 and the actions of former NSW RSL president Don Rowe have been referred to police, after he admitted to using the charity's money for his own purposes

James Brown, the current RSL NSW president, condemned past leadership as "rotten to the core".

He said the state’s charity had a lot of shortcomings to be addressed across coming months and said the fundraising suspension would continue until November at least.

But instead of calling off the sale of Anzac Day badges entirely, Mr Brown said the money raised would instead be centralised and put toward the 2018 Invictus Games. 

“Our people want to be helping veterans,” Mr Brown said. “For the first time, we will be fundraising for another charity … A critical event to look after wounded veterans and their families.”

Wagga’s Sub-Branch president Harry Edmonds said it was a disappointing outcome but it would carry on regardless. 

“You have got to make sure you’re doing everything right before you can start back up again,” Mr Edmonds said. “We need to make sure we’re abiding by the law.”

Mr Edmonds said it was disheartening for veterans to learn of the former RSL NSW leader’s misconduct. 

“When it is one of your leaders, it is very disheartening,” he said. “They put their trust in him.”