Maitland RSL Women’s Auxiliary is holding its ground in a fight with the organisation’s governing body that plans to remove the word ‘Women’s’ from its title.
NSW RSL changed the name to the RSL Auxiliary at its conference in May, on the basis that a third of serving defence personnel are female and their male partners would like to join.
But Maitland Women’s Auxiliary members argue that men are already welcome to join their ranks.
“In fact there was a gentleman who was working with us recently who inquired about joining,” Auxiliary president Christine Kidd said.
Ms Kidd said the existing name was a key part of the auxiliary’s identity.
“We have been well respected in our community for more than 80 years and we don’t want to lose our identity,” Ms Kidd said.
“We are volunteers who are out there selling badges and making laundry bags for the Invictus Games. We want to be proud of the fact that we are women doing it.”
The auxiliary recently wrote to NSW Minister for Veterans Affairs David Elliott to complain that the name change was unconstitutional.
“Maitland RSL Women’s Auxiliary members believe that both the NSW RSL Women’s Auxiliary Congress and the NSW RSL 2018 State Congress, which were held in Albury NSW, were not held in accordance as per the NSW RSL Constitution, and the NSW RSL Women’s Auxiliary By-Laws, and request that you have this matter fully investigated, and ask that a “Stay of Execution” on all motions dealt with at both these Congress’s, and declare that the Women’s Auxiliary Congress 2018 and the NSW RSL State Congress 2018, be null and void,” the letter said.
Maitland MP Jenny Aitchison told State Parliament this week that she was appalled by the process used to change Women’s Auxiliary name.
“Is the culture of exclusion of women from our armed services to continue into the next century?” Ms Aitchison said.
“What a rebuff to women who only last year were able to march at the front of the Anzac Day marches.”
Mr Elliott accused Ms Aitchison on Friday of not being across the issues faced by rank-and-file RSL members.
“If she, or MIA Shadow Minister for Veterans Affairs Lynda Voltz cared enough about veterans to attend the RSL NSW’s Annual State Congress in Albury this year, she’d know there was unanimous support for the move, which is meant to make the Auxiliary more inclusive and allow service women to invite their husbands to join,” Mr Elliott said.
But Ms Aitchison said the minister was trying to deflect attention.
“The minister is just trying to deflect attention from the fact his own party received donations from the RSL and he’s done nothing to stop it happening again,” she said.