RSL NSW fundraising suspension 'grossly unfair'

Wagga RSL Sub-Branch members.

Wagga RSL Sub-Branch members.

The flow-on effects of a state-wide fundraising ban have left a small group of war widows feeling “useless”. 

It comes nine months after the Wagga Women’s Auxiliary were forced to cease raffles and sandwich making amid a probe into the financial dealings of RSL NSW. 

As a result of the investigation, a temporary ban on all RSL sub-branch associated fundraising, including raffles, barbecues, cake sales, poppy and Anzac Day badge sales. 

The state body this year said it hoped to lift the suspension before November. 

Until then, sub-branches supporting returned soldiers and their families across the region remain in limbo, as do its associated charities. 

Wagga Women’s Auxiliary president Robin Millington said its members felt as if the rug had been pulled from underneath them. 

These are the women who sell poppies in November for Remembrance Day and Anzac Day badges in April.

In addition, the small group of women over 70-years-old, have every month baked cakes and made sandwiches to sell at a Legatees’ weekly card game. 

“We’d be lucky if we made $100 from that,” she said. “But every little bit helps.”

Ms Millinton said the ladies enjoyed coming together and did their part to assist the Wagga RSL sub-branch.

She said the ban had been frustrating. 

“We feel a bit useless,” Ms Millinton said. “One day you’re just told you can’t do anything … it’s almost as if it comes to a dead stop and you can’t do any little thing to help.”

The sub-branch’s acting trustee David Williams said the ban had been “grossly unfair” for the women of the auxiliary. 

He said the charity understood the reasoning behind the move, but conceded the process had been frustrating, with the actions of few affecting many. 

While the Wagga branch has missed out on close-to $60,000 worth of donations since last August, Mr Williams said it had managed to maintain its services and programs.

“The smaller, less wealthy branches, like Culciarn, Lockhart and Henty, that continue to struggle,” Mr Williams said. “It’s the little things they miss out on.”

He said the money these sub-branches received from the sale of poppies and Anzac Day badges was generally enough to support various projects, like hampers for war widows at Christmas and electricity bill assistance.

Mr Williams said fundraising was well on the road to restarting, following conclusion of an Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Association probe into RSL NSW, this week. 

“We’re just waiting for an authority to say we can go ahead again.”