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RSL crisis: Club closes after SA branch calls in $2m debt

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The SA Returned and Services League’s ongoing financial crisis has prompted the closure of the cash-strapped RSL club in Alice Springs, after administrators demanded the sub-branch repay long-standing loans totalling more than $2 million.

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InDaily revealed in March that a series of loans to the troubled-plagued Alice Springs operation from RSL SA – which oversees both South Australia and the Northern Territory – had left the state branch with a $2 million black hole, which insiders feared would be effectively written off.

The state branch called in administrators Rodgers Reidy last month as its cashflow problems mounted.

Alice Springs sub-branch vice-president Shane Cadan told InDaily Rodgers Reidy contacted it last week demanding repayment of the debt in full.

“I wasn’t there when the actual debt was established,” he said.

“They called in that debt [and] that was something we really couldn’t do… we just sought legal advice for the best way forward and were advised to appoint administrators.”

SA-based administrators Clifton Hall are now dealing with the fallout for the Alice Springs sub-branch.

Asked if the SA branch had any hope of recovering the full amount, Cadan said: “Certainly not from us at committee.”

“It’s all between the administrators at the moment, as to how they work it out,” he said.

He described a “pretty sombre mood” at the favourite watering hole for local veterans.

“I’ve been there the last three days, and we’ve got the regular barflies who have come and, finding out the news, they’re pretty devastated,” he said.

One such regular is well-known Rat of Tobruk Syd Kinsman.

“He’s absolutely devastated,” said Cadan.

“He came down with his camera to take some last photos, and we sat down and had a good yarn… it’s a real shame.”

The branch said in a statement that because the SA branch – “the current owner of the property” – is in voluntary administration, it “no longer provides financial security over the Alice Springs RSL club”.

“It is therefore the decision of the RSL sub-branch committee, under the Associations Act, that the ongoing operation of the RSL club facility is no longer compliant under its constitution without RSL SA financial guarantee,” it said.

The sub-branch will continue to provide welfare support to veterans and “all memorabilia and artifacts will be preserved and placed in temporary storage for future use”.

Cadan said the administrators had been “kind enough to let us have it all and not be part of a fire sale”, while the NT Government “have been kind enough to lend us a space to store it in the meantime”.

“There’s been a momentum shift in RSLs,” he said, amid ongoing turmoil in branches across the country.

“They all seem to struggle; they’re set up for legacy of veterans and they’ve got to focus on that.”

He said further focus on history preservation, bars and kitchen services was “a lot for volunteers to do”.

“It’s pretty tough.”

A briefing to RSL SA members by president Tim Hanna – the contents of which were revealed by InDaily last month – sought to put a rosy face on the succession of loans to Alice Springs, which allowed the sub-branch to upgrade and reopen the club after it shut its doors in 2011.

RSL SA president Tim Hanna. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

“It is fair to say that without the commitment from RSL SA to invest in and reopen the Alice Springs RSL sub-branch, it would have remained closed,” Hanna said at the time.

“It is important to acknowledge that RSL SA recognised their moral obligation to support and preserve a significant part of Australia’s military history, and advocacy obligations… I applaud RSL SA for making this decision at the time.”

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