Saturday, 18 May 2024

The Returned Services League SA/NT 106th Annual Sub Branch Conference

It is Rod’s and my pleasure, as Patron of the RSL in SA and NT, to be with you this morning to open the 106th Annual Sub-Branch conference.

Let me begin by acknowledging the recent passing of Bill Hignett, the President of the Plympton Glenelg RSL Sub-Branch.

Bill was the 2023 ANZAC of the Year, and I presented him with his award just last year at the annual conference.

Bill was a much-respected leader and advocate across the veteran community who also devoted decades to the education sector and worked to support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities across South Australia.

I understand that changes have been made to the format and agenda for today’s Conference to allow maximum participation at his funeral this afternoon. This is testament to the respect in which he was held.


As Governor, I am committed to supporting those who serve and have served our nation in any way I can.

The work that has been done in this regard by the RSL and aligned organisations over many decades is a matter of record. We admire and are grateful for it.

Through you, our obligation as a nation to invest in our service men and women and their families, can be realised, at least in part.

The respect in the community for those who are serving today and have served is deeply engrained and runs deep across the State.

Since we last met, I experienced it in Millicent, where the Cross of Sacrifice has been a symbol for remembrance for more than a Centenary and is proudly maintained.

I experienced it Port Augusta at the Centenary of the War Memorial Rotunda, it too a symbol of the community’s gratitude.

I experienced it just a few weeks ago on Anzac Day when official duties took me to Beijing and I read the Dedication at the Dawn Service, hosted this year, on rotation, by the New Zealand Embassy.

I know my Deputy, the Lieutenant Governor, Dr Richard Harris, while attending the Youth Vigil, felt humbled by the reverence shown by young people.

Similarly, he and Rod were honoured to witness the pride and emotion of the Anzac Day Parade and to pay their respects at the wreath laying.


You meet today in the context of shifting power relativities in our region, the war in Ukraine, and conflict in the Middle East, all of which demand the attention of our leaders and our community.

A strong RSL actively supporting current and past serving men, women and their families and advocating on their behalf is an important part of that community fabric.

For more than a Century, the RSL has stood for supporting those who served our nation.

Always at its core has been a commitment to serve those who have served our nation through advocacy, welfare, mateship, commemoration, and sustainability.

But the RSL of today is not the RSL of 1918. It is not the RSL of 1945.

It is not the RSL of 1975.

In my discussions with your President David Petersen, I am aware that this year has been one marked by change as the RSL examines its role in 2024 and beyond.

I acknowledge that change can be unsettling. At times, the conversations surrounding change can be confronting.

But as a former diplomat, I know the power of listening to others. It is in that active space of listening and engaging that some of our best ideas can be developed.

As your patron, I encourage you to embrace these wider conversations with the courage and commitment that have been, and are, at the heart of your service.

I urge you to give voice to opportunities that will strengthen the RSL at Sub-Branch and State level to ensure its sustainability well into the future while continuing to respect the League’s legacy.

As your Patron, I am here to support you as you navigate these challenges.

I wish you well in your deliberations and it gives me great pleasure to officially open your conference.

Coming events