RSL History

National RSL History

Between 1914 and 1918 wounded soldiers began returning home from the war finding limited government support available to them.  In June 1916, as a result of a conference of state based returned soldiers associations The Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) was founded with the aim of continuing to provide the camaraderie, concern and mateship shown by the ‘Diggers’ while they were at war.  Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria were the founding states, with New South Wales admitted to the league in 1917, Western Australia in 1918 and the Australian Capital Territory in 1927.

In November 1940 the name changed from RSSILA to the Returned Sailors’ Soldiers’ and Airmen’s’ Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA).  The name changed in October 1965 to Returned Services League of Australia (RSL) and again in September 1983 to Returned Services league of Australia Limited (RSL).  In September 1990 the name finally changed to Returned & Services League of Australia Limited (RSL).

Whilst there have been many name changes the core mission of compassion and service has never changed and instead continues to evolve to meet the needs of each generation of servicemen and women as well as their families.

The RSL has a branch network that covers Australia ensuring any veteran who needs help, gets help. Every serving ADF member and veteran will be warmly welcomed at their local RSL or club.

Darwin RSL

The first evidence of the RSL movement in Darwin appears in the Northern Territory Times and Gazette of 23 July 1917 which called 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 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 the Northern Territory, RSL Sub-Branches exist under the South Australian RSL Branch.

The League Badge

The RSL Badge is a symbol of readiness at all times to render service to Crown and country and to former comrades.  It is a time-honoured emblem – one that has been worn with a deep sense of pride by the most revered in our land and one that glorifies the forms of dress of all privileged to wear it. No wealth or influence can purchase the badge which may be worn only by those who have rendered service in the armed forces of the Crown or its allies.

Symbolism of the Badge

The wattle is symbolic of Australia.

The leek, the rose, the thistle, and the shamrock are symbolic of and represent the link with Wales, England, Scotland and Ireland respectively.

Your attention is drawn to the three colours in the badge. The red represents the blood tie of war. White stands for the purity of motive in joining the League – to render service without thought of personal gain or ambition. The blue indicates willingness to render that service to a comrade anywhere under the blue sky – wherever he may be.

Depicted in the centre of the badge, and encircled by the name of the organisation, you will see a sailor, soldier, airman and servicewoman marching together with their arms linked in friendship. This is to show within the circle of the League, all Services and all ranks, march together in unity and comradeship.