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RSL NSW & RSL LifeCare have agreed to Enforceable Undertakings following compliance actions by the Australian charities regulator, the ACNC. This follows significant governance failures identified in an investigation which began in 2016.

ACNC Assistant Commissioner, David Locke said “Over the last nine months we have made public statements regarding compliance action against registered charities under the RSL umbrella”.

“Today’s announcement of enforceable undertakings with both RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare follows lengthy, in-depth, investigations into the activities and operations of the two charities.

“We commenced our investigations into these charities in 2016, and they remained open to ensure the findings of the NSW State Government’s Bergin Inquiry were taken into account.”

"For decades, charities associated with the RSL movement have provided services and support to servicemen and women, and their families,” Mr Locke said.

“However, they cannot do this important work without the support of their members and donors.

"RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare must now demonstrate improved governance and accountability to regain trust, and to ensure our veterans and their families are getting the best possible support and care."

RSL NSW

The enforceable undertaking between the ACNC and RSL NSW is in response to serious issues the ACNC identified during its investigation into the charity’s governance, specifically:

  • The misuse of charity funds by now-former State President, Mr Don Rowe.
  • The now-former State Council’s failure to properly investigate the misuse of funds or to report the allegations to police.
  • The now-former State Council’s misleading statements regarding the circumstances of the former State President’s resignation.

RSL NSW is already working to address the ACNC’s concerns. As part of the enforceable undertaking, the charity has committed to 15 measures to demonstrate improved governance, transparency, and financial management.

RSL LifeCare

The enforceable undertaking between the ACNC and RSL LifeCare is also in response to serious issues the ACNC identified during its investigation into the charity’s governance, specifically:

  • The charity’s directors approving and receiving remuneration and allowances, in breach of their obligations to the charity.
  • The charity’s funds being used to pay for directors, staff and others, to attend functions linked to the Liberal Party of Australia without consideration as to whether attendance was compatible with RSL LifeCare’s charitable purposes.
  • Non-compliance with the charity’s fundraising authority under the NSW state Fundraising Act.

RSL LifeCare has already taken significant steps to address its governance failures. As part of the enforceable undertaking, the charity has committed to four measures that demonstrate improved board governance. These include addressing issues relating to board remuneration and risk management, as well as adherence to its Political Advocacy Policy.

Both the enforceable undertakings cover a three-year period. RSL NSW and RSL LifeCare must provide quarterly reports to the ACNC on their compliance with their respective agreements during the first 12 months, and then provide annual reports for the two years after that.