State loans $200,000 to city RSL

HELPING HAND: Employment Minister Kyam Maher with Mount Gambier Community Returned and Services League president Bob Sandow at the league’s Sturt Street premises. Mr Maher today announced a $200,000 loan to the RSL to assist in overcoming its financial difficulties. Picture: LEON RADEMEYER

MOUNT Gambier’s cash-strapped Community Returned and Services League received a boost from the State Government today as it announced a $200,000 loan to help the iconic organisation keep its doors open.

Employment Minister Kyam Maher was on hand at the league’s Sturt Street premises at noon to personally deliver the good news.

“The State Government intends to provide a secured loan to the RSL to enable it to continue to trade as it works its way through financial difficulties,” Mr Maher said.

In what can only be described as a remarkable turnaround, the league was ready to put itself under voluntary administration last week.

But within nine days it received a vital boost in community support and State Government intervention.

“What they do at this organisation is truly extraordinary – from providing a range of community services to being an employer of local people,” Mr Maher said.

“This RSL is one of the cornerstones of the community it serves.”

Growing up in Mount Gambier, Mr Maher said he visited the RSL with his parents on many occasions.

“It’s always good to be back in my hometown and to visit the RSL, which is at the heart of the community,” he said.

“The State Labor Government’s intention to provide the loan followed discussions with Veterans SA and the club’s president.

“The loan is subject to the club’s books being in order and its capacity to repay the loan.”

RSL president Bob Sandow described the loan as “fresh hope for us to continue”.

“We are much more than an organisation which only caters for seven days of remembrance every year,” he said.

“We are on duty every day of every year and need to be here for generations to come.”

Mr Sandow said the organisation is in the process of restructuring its operations and is determined to “ride the storm out”.

He described the restructuring process as a “team effort” and thanked all those involved, including Mr Maher.

Veterans Affairs Minister Martin Hamilton-Smith said Mount Gambier’s RSL is a major contributor to the wellbeing of the community and its defence services veterans.

“As the largest RSL sub-branch in the state, it reflects the South East’s commitment to the nation’s defence,” he said.

“Today we return some of that commitment.”

Since securing a $2m loan in 2009 to build its current premises, the Mount Gambier RSL had not been able to cope with monthly repayments in addition to day-to-day running costs and salaries.

Turning to the community it has served for a century for assistance, the RSL made an urgent appeal for funds to keep it afloat.

Local businesses and community members heeded the call and donations began to flow in, reaching a pinnacle with today’s State Government announcement.