The RSL Darwin – Its Foundations

The forerunner of today’s Returned Services League of Australia (more commonly known as the RSL), the Returned Soldiers, Sailors and Airmens Imperial League of Australia, was formed in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

An informal meeting of one representative from each of these associations was held in Sydney on 10 May, 1916. This meeting set the date for the founding conference, which was held in Melbourne on 6 June, 1916. Over 4 days a provisional constitution and statement of aims and objects was drawn up and presented at the first congress, held in Brisbane on 11 September 1916.

New South Wales refused to affiliate with the other state organisations at the first congress, being dissatisfied with the majority decision that all branches should have equal representation on the governing body. They soon found difficulties in going alone and joined the league in 1917.

Western Australia remained outside the League until 1918, mainly because of distances involved in attending meetings and partly because of internal policies. The ACT was granted representation, and PNG in 1951.

The first evidence of the RSL movement in Darwin appears in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 23/07/1917, calling for a meeting of returned men at the Club Hotel. At a further meeting on 6 September at the more sober venue of Bells’ Tearooms it was decided to organise a concert and dance in order to raise funds for the embryonic Darwin organisation.

The concert was held at the Darwin town hall on the evening of September 13, 1917 before a capacity audience. This was the first public event of the RSL in Darwin.

In 1922 a Soldiers’ Memorial Hall was completed by a local builder, Harlod Snell, who had served in France. The Hall was opened on 20th October 1922.

During the early months of 1941 a series of meetings finalised a constitution applicable to a licensed Club. The licensed Club opened for business in the Soldiers’ Memorial Hall on 6th June 1941

The original building was sold in 1970, trading continued in a temporary premises until the existing building was completed in 1972. This building has since been extended and its interior upgraded on a number of occasions.