Senior women leaders quit RSL over board skirmish

A loss of confidence in leadership has led to three senior women resigning en masse from the state’s peak Returned & Services League board.

Sep 12, 2022, updated Sep 12, 2022
RSL Torrens Parade Ground. Photo: Tony Lewis

RSL Torrens Parade Ground. Photo: Tony Lewis

Dr Paula Dabovich, Melody Earl and Jo-Anne Hanrahan issued a joint statement to the national RSL board expressing a number of concerns with state leadership following their resignations on August 21.

Among the grievances was a loss of confidence in the South Australian state board that represents more than 8500 RSL members in SA, Northern Territory and Broken Hill.

Hanrahan, a former adviser to an assistant Defence Minister who has also worked in administration and human resources for Defence, said it was disappointing to leave the board.

“There’s a sense of relief that I have been able to step back from it, but I really believe in the organisation and from my point of view, I felt I had skills to take it forward, to help rebuild,” Hanrahan said.

Dabovich, an adjunct senior lecturer at Adelaide University who completed a Phd in examining wounded, injured and ill soldiers’ adaptations through rehabilitation and transition, said it was the “decision making as it came towards the end that was my breaking point”.

She believed the three members offered skills to support taking the board forward and “feels disappointed for the RSL” at the reactions they received in discussions around changes, including to the constitution.

Earl has lengthy defence, communications and project management experience including managing communications and engagement at the Naval Shipbuilding College in SA.

The resignations are another blow to the troubled peak board that represents veterans in SA, Northern Territory and Broken Hill sub branches, which has been fighting to overhaul processes after volunteering to go into administration in 2017 over financial problems.

Hanrahan said that following the trio’s resignations from their volunteer voles, they were disappointed by a bulletin issued on August 25 by the SA state branch board informing members of the development.

She claimed the bulletin did not outline the concerns that led to their resignations but the three instead felt it “portrayed our appointment as merely based on gender”.

The bulletin, viewed by InDaily, said “All of these positions were board appointed and delivered on the objective of gender diversity of the RSL of Australian and the SA State Board.”

“At the time of their resignation RSL SA was the most gender diverse state branch board in the country of which we are extremely proud and we will continue to appoint candidates with suitable skills and diverse opinions,” the bulletin continued.

InDaily in your inbox. The best local news every workday at lunch time.
By signing up, you agree to our User Agreement andPrivacy Policy & Cookie Statement. This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

The three women took exception to their appointments being categorised as being about gender diversity, saying they possessed a range of skills and expertise intended to complement elected members.

They claimed this was demonstrated in work around the state branch’s submission for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide along with Hanrahan’s work around re-writing of governance documents.

The resignations mean only one woman is left on the state board, president Cheryl Cates.

Hanrahan said there were also concerns arising from recent attempts to fill two vacant positions on the board along with the president role currently held by Cates. An election was scheduled for a statewide annual general meeting of sub branches earlier this year, and later cancelled.

The state branch bulletin announcing the resignations thanked the three members’ “commitment to the veteran community”, in particular Dabovich’s work on the submission to RSL Australia for the Royal Commission into Defence and Veteran Suicide and Hanrahan for work on the constitution and by-laws review process.

It also said “as was agreed and the annual sub-branch conference, we have received legal advice on the suspended nomination and election process which includes the two vacant member elected board positions and will provide details shortly on how we will proceed.”

In a written response to InDaily about the former board members’ concerns, the current board said they were not raised “prior to or at the time of their resignation” but circulated later without its knowledge.

Asked about the specific concerns, the board said it was “always receptive to feedback and where specific examples are given this is always followed up. To date there has been no specific examples or formal notification of these concerns raised to the board.”

“When these examples are given and verified the board will work to resolve any concerns.”

The board also said it believed the claims about the bulletin announcing the resignations were incorrect and a “misinterpretation of the bulletin”.

It added that the bulletin outlined areas where two of the individuals contributed, and was not gender related.

“The RSL state board is however determined to have a skills-based, diverse board and is proud of the fact that it had the most gender equal board of any RSL state board in the country.”

Local News Matters
Copyright © 2024 InDaily.
All rights reserved.