A word from your President
RSLWA buildings the property of all members
To support a new generation of Veterans while still looking after current members, RSLWA must make some difficult yet necessary decisions to ensure we have the adequate and appropriate resources to do so.
A significant, potential threat to our support capability is the condition and financial viability of RSLWA’s property portfolio, which has suffered from many decades of neglect and under-resourcing. This is primarily due to an ongoing lack of funds over those past years.
Of the 130 Sub-Branches in Western Australia, 36 are situated in buildings owned by State Branch. RSLWA acquired these properties (or was asked to take responsibility for them) over many decades, some stretching back more than 80 years.
As a consequence, RSLWA (as owner) has overall responsibility to ensure the buildings and premises are in good order. There are significant financial risks, not the least being the potential voiding of our public liability insurance on individual properties due to known, long-standing defects.
As these buildings age, the Board has to consider how best to address RSLWA’s duty of care of these assets. There's also the financial implications associated with bringing ageing buildings up to standards required by law - including RSLWA’s responsibility to ensure the safety of members, their guests and other users of these facilities. Such risks include the presence of asbestos material and ageing electrical circuitry, as well as general degradation of building structures.
So on behalf of all RSLWA members, the Board is taking urgent stock of the state of our properties and the likely massive cost to sustain them. In a worse-case scenario, a conservative estimate in bringing all the properties up to current code is in the vicinity of $20 million. This is clearly unsustainable.
What’s more, we have to look at best use of our properties, and the best financial and service options for our Veterans. It must be remembered that the properties occupied by the 36 Sub-Branches are owned by the total membership of RSLWA. While it is appreciated that Sub-Branches hold strong proprietry attachments to their premises, decisions must ultimately be made in the interest of the whole RSLWA membership.
As your State President, I fully appreciate the importance of social interaction and gathering with like-minded Veterans, families, affiliates and friends. However, this goes on wherever Sub-Branches are located. Indeed, 91 of our 130 Sub-Branches function in non RSLWA-owned premises, such as local government facilities, community centres, bowling clubs, recreational centres, taverns/pubs and other suitable locations.
Further, there is growing (understandable) pressure from government and our funding/grants agencies to be more inclusive of communities and like-organisations to come together.
The Board of Directors has now instructed the Chief Executive Officer to engage expert advice on conducting a comprehensive audit of all RSLWA property portfolios so it can consider a range of options including, but not limited to, the following:
Following submission of the property portfolio audit report, consideration of the individual property options by the Board will be conducted with the total involvement of the Sub-Branch associated with that property.
- Taking no action where a property is compliant, or requires minimal investment to become compliant, and there are no other compelling reasons to take any action.
- Divestment of leased properties to the relevant local government entity or an appropriate community-based entity, while ensuring the affected Sub-Branch remains as the lead occupant on an enduring basis by entering into legally enforceable agreements.
- Leasing of ‘stranded’ properties that are not able to be divested to suitable community-based entities for a suitable period.
- Redevelopment of the property for a suitable return on investment, with assurance the affected Sub-Branch has certainty to a new facility within the redeveloped property boundary.
- Redevelopment of the property for a suitable return on investment, with assurance the affected Sub-Branch has certainty of moving into a new facility at another agreed location.
- The sale of the property, with part or all proceeds to go toward relocating the affected Sub-Branch to a new facility at an agreed location.
- The sale of property on which a Sub-Branch is located, with the proceeds of sale going toward development of a shared facility with other Sub-Branches or like organisations, including community-based entities.
- The sale of property considered derelict, with assurance the affected Sub-Branch has another facility to call home.
At the end of the day, RSLWA’s duty is to have the funds and the capability to address growing needs for wellbeing, welfare and advocacy services to all Veterans, new and old. When the RSL in WA was formed way back in 1916, that was the initial and driving motivation – with or without buildings.
I fully understand that RSLWA-owned premises have been called home for the 36 Sub-Branch that occupy them, so there is obvious and significant sentimental attachment. However, as time moves on, some difficult decisions may need to be made.
- Peter Aspinall AM, State President
Briefing from the CEO
This column in the Sub-Branch Signal is to help improve communication and greater understanding of decisions made by your Board of Directors, while being mindful of elements of confidentiality. The last Board of Directors meeting was held on 1 August.
Finances and Compliance
- Operationally, State Branch remains in the black, with the Board endorsing an RSLWA Finance & Investment Committee recommendation that the State Branch six-monthly financial review for 2019 be accepted.
- A full five-year financial plan from 2019-2024 has now also been endorsed by the Board following detailed work by the Chief Financial Officer, Peter McGlade. This allows RSLWA to have more certainty with regard to funding implications for the operations of State Branch as well as funding more initiatives to support Veterans and their Families.
ANZAC House Redevelopment
- RSLWA staff continue to work with Sub-Branches where redevelopment could be an option to allow for better management of the properties and developing new facilities for such Sub-Branches.
- Once again, a number of disciplinary and conduct matters are continuing to be addressed by State Branch.
- A number of workshops have been planned since the rollout of the new Sub Branch Tool Box (SBTB) is being well-received by many Sub-Branches.
- Work is on time and under budget on the construction of the new ANZAC House Veteran Central. The project manager reported to the Board that fit-out planning had started.
- While the wintry conditions have been challenging, the project has continued to meet all milestones, with planning now also underway for a great new facility inside ANZAC House – namely the ANZAC Club – for the betterment of ex-service and still serving Veteran personnel.
ANZAC Day Order of March
- The Board of Directors has reiterated the Veteran Hub plan that will be rolled-out over the next five to 10 years, with Sub-Branches playing a key role in supporting the geographically located within the greater Perth metropolitan area and in regional centres.
- Business and financial planning is now being undertaken by the CEO and his staff, including grant applications and ongoing office-based support for the Hubs.
- John McCourt, RSLWA CEO
- The CEO and staff are about to conduct a review of the ANZAC Day Order of March. Quite a number of suggestions and requests have come into State Branch, and Sub-Branches are of course encouraged to continue to do so.