How the League Evolved

The RSL evolved as a direct result of the camaraderie, concern and mateship shown by the “Diggers” for the welfare of their mates during and after the 1914 – 1918 War. That ethos of compassion and service remains today the motivating influence of the League. Some key historical dates in the history of the League are:

  • June 1916 – Conference of Returned Soldiers Association recommended formation of The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA)
  • September 1916 – First RSSILA Congress (delegates from QLD, SA, TAS and VIC)
  • March 1917 – NSW admitted to the League
  • March 1918 – WA admitted to the League
  • 1927 – Formation of the ACT Branch
  • November 1940 – Name changed to the Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA)
  • October 1965 – Name changed to Returned Services League of Australia (RSL)
  • September 1983 – Name changed to Returned Services League of Australia Limited (RSL)
  • September 1990 – Name changed to Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL)

Role and Objectives

To serve the interests of its members, veterans, the ex-service community and members of the Australian Defence Force, the RSL executes its role by effectively implementing the following objectives, which are in accord with the League’s Mission Statement:

  • Welfare.
  • Advocacy and Representation.
  • Assistance to all veterans and ex-service men and women regardless of their membership in the League.
  • Commemoration and Remembrance.
  • Participation in employment Programs for veterans, ex-service members and their dependants.
  • Commitment to democratic principles and practices.
  • Provision of a means for members to enjoy camaraderie and mateship.
  • Provision of effective and efficient management of RSL assets and resources for the benefit of its members and serving members of the ADF.
  • Act as an effective lobby group to Government and its departments.
  • Provision of moral and active support for the ADF.
  • Provision of a respected and meaningful voice within the community and Australian society.
  • Promotion of loyalty and pride which the League has for the Nation, its people, the Crown and the Flag.

Supporting the Australian Defence Force

RSL Standing Policy states that the primary objective of Australia’s Defence and foreign policies should be to promote Australia’s national security and safeguard Australia’s vital interests. To meet such an objective, the RSL believes that Australia should maintain:

  • Regular armed forces (Navy, Army and Air Force elements); to be of a size able to operate without additional forces in limited roles, and with additional forces in major roles either at home or overseas;
  • Reserve forces (Navy, Army and Air Force elements); able to augment the regular forces, on callout able to undertake combat operations with minimum additional training, and able to be mobilised in times short of war;
  • Cadet forces;
  • A National Service scheme in the form of military or civilian service to provide a reserve of trained and disciplined manpower;
  • A Defence industry; and
  • A National Defence infrastructure.
    RSL support points of particular significance are:
  • Defence policy should be above party politics. Because of its long-term nature, major political parties must strive for agreement on Defence policy.
  • The Defence vote should be progressively increased to be not less than 3.5% of the Gross National Product.
  • The special nature of service in the ADF should be recognised by the provision of adequate housing and financial conditions of service for members and their families.
  • The Navy, Army and Air Force Reserves must be active and essential components of the ADF.

The NSW Branch

The RSL NSW Branch was formed in 1917 and currently has 57,000 members in 420 sub-Branches throughout NSW. The State Headquarters is located at ANZAC House, 245 Castlereagh Street and Sydney.

Mission Statement

To provide for the well-being, care, compensation and commemoration of serving and ex-serving Defence Force Personnel and their dependants and promote Government and Community awareness of the need for a stable and progressive Australia.


  • Provide effective and efficient management of the League’s assets and resources for the benefit of its members and of the serving members of the ADF.
  • Provide Welfare and Advocacy services to serving and ex-service persons and their dependants.
  • Assist all serving and ex-serving men and women in need of support.
  • Provide a support base to encourage future membership of the League.
  • Support the provision of commemoration and remembrance of those who have served our Country.
  • Encourage fellowship and mateship for members of the League.
  • Act as an effective lobby group to Government.
  • Provide moral and active support for the ADF by:-
    • Promotion of fair pay, allowances and benefits for ADF personnel.
    • Provision of comfort parcels for ADF members serving overseas by through the RSL Australian Forces Overseas Fund.
    • Provision of Honorary membership of the League for the ensuing year for members of the ADF returning from operational or peace keeping duties.
    • Promotion of loyalty and pride for Australia, the Crown and the Australian Flag.
  • Co-operation with other ex-service organisations.
  • Support the education of the Australia’s youth in the achievements of our Armed Forces.