RSL NSW CEO Jon Black visits Gloucester sub branch to talk future plans

Members for the Gloucester RSL Sub-branch and women's Auxiliary met with NSW RSL CEO, Jon Black. Photo Anne Keen
Members for the Gloucester RSL Sub-branch and women's Auxiliary met with NSW RSL CEO, Jon Black. Photo Anne Keen

Jon Black has not been the chief executive officer (CEO) of the Returned and Services League (RSL) NSW for long but he's hit the ground running.

In an unprecedented visit with the Gloucester Sub-branch and women's auxiliary members on Monday, March 9 at the Gloucester Soldiers Club, Jon was in town to listen.

He has been making the rounds to all 349 branches around the State to talk about the new strategic plan for the organisation for the next five years.

"The members have had the plan for a little while and I'm here today to listen to what they have to say about it," Jon said.

It wasn't the first time some of the members had met Jon but it was the first time they'd had a CEO visit their branch and they were ready to tell him exactly what they thought.

Gloucester member Max Poole said he felt that their suggestions so far had been heard and he was looking forward to what was in store for the organisation.

Jon took over the role in September last year and his goal is to redefine the way the RSL is viewed within the community.

Being a returned soldier himself, leaving the Australian Army in 2005, he knows first hand why the RSL is so important to veterans but he also knows that there is a disconnect with the younger veterans, many not knowing what the RSL has to offer.

"We need to be relevant for the future, the community, the veterans and commemoration of our history," Jon explained.

"There is no future if we don't change."

Gloucester member Dallas Heard said he knows how important it is to connect with veterans but knowing how to find out where they are is an issue.

So how does an organisation which has been struggling to attract younger members reconnect?

For Jon, it's all about changing the focus to ensure that veterans know that their local RSL can help them connect to a wide range of services covering everything from mental and physical health to financial. It's about offering activities to help bring like-minded people together for the camaraderie, like organising another branch to come for a four-wheel drive trip to Gloucester.

There is no future if we don't change.

Jon Black

It's about connecting veterans with their community, providing access to lifelong friendships and face to face interactions and ensuring Australia's military history is preserved, acknowledged and remains a pillar in the community.

Part of the key message is about making better connections with younger veterans and clarifying the difference between the club and the branch; that they're not about cheap drinks, old people and pokies.

"Operating a one RSL but delivering locally," Jon said.

The vision is to have every veteran and serving defence member in NSW want to be a part of the RSL. It's recognised that less than 10 per cent of the some 30,000 service members are under the age of 55, with less than 1000 under the age of 39.

"It is clear that without intervention, RSL in NSW will no longer be a viable organisation from between 10 to 18 years from now," the strategic plans states.

After Jon listens to the feedback from all the RSL members, he plans to take the final strategic plan to the board by June. According to the plan, in order for change to happen there needs to be collaboration, an openness to change and the membership needs to hold the board accountable.

For more information about how to get involved with the RSL Gloucester Sub-branch contact Max via email on max.poole1@bigpond.com or call 6554 7087.