RSL NSW determined to keep poppy tradition alive

Ingleburn RSL Sub-branch president and RSL NSW vice president Ray James. Picture: Simon Bennett
Ingleburn RSL Sub-branch president and RSL NSW vice president Ray James. Picture: Simon Bennett

Every year, one week before Remembrance Day, volunteers are out in force selling poppies to raise money for veterans and their families.

It’s tradition.

But this year things are a little different.

Instead, the red Flander poppies – synonymous with Remembrance Day services – will be handed out for free to those who attend Saturday’s services.

RSL NSW made the decision to hand out the poppies after a self-imposed ban earlier this year, following revelations of serious breaches by former members of the charity’s executive.

Ingleburn RSL Sub-branch president Ray James – who was elected RSL NSW vice president after a raft of changes to the executive structure – said poppies would be handed out to those who attended services throughout the state, including those at Ingleburn and Campbelltown.

“The poppies will be handed out to all in attendance as a gesture by RSL NSW and the sub-branches to thank the public for its support,” he said.

“We look forward to the fundraising embargo being lifted in the near future and we will hopefully be fundraising again by Anzac Day 2018.”

The poppies have long been used as part of Remembrance Day services and were among the first plants rise from the soil on battlefields in France and Belgium.

Mr James said they served as a reminder of those who had fought for Australia.

“It represents our past comrades who are no longer with us,” he said.

An inquiry into RSL NSW is currently underway.

Already the inquiry has heard that former NSW RSL president Don Rowe used the charity’s funds to pay for his mortgage, family phone bills, flights, meals and accommodation.

The inquiry is expected to hand down its findings and recommendations by February next year, however, Mr James said the charity wasn’t waiting for February to implement change.

“We are not just waiting. We know where the problems and deficiencies are and we are rectifying them,” he said.

“We are working to fix the problems as we go.”

Campbelltown and Ingleburn RSL Sub Branches will both hold Remembrance Day services this Saturday at Mawson Park and Ingleburn Sub-branch Memorial Gardens, respectively.