History of the RSL

A Short History of the beginnings of the RSL

In 1915, returned soldiers associations had formed in Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria from clubrooms provided by public subscription for invalid returned men. They became a gathering place and centres for discussion regarding the serious wounds and health problems which were faced because of their war service, and the lack of organised repatriation facilities and medical service available. 

As it was realised that without unity nothing would ever be achieved, a meeting of a representative of each of the four states was held in Sydney on the 10 May 1916 where it was agreed to hold a more representative meeting in Melbourne to reach agreement regarding the formation of an Australia-wide Returned Soldier’s Association. This meeting was held from the 6-12 June 1916, at which a provisional constitution and statement of aims and object was drawn up and the named Returned Sailors and Soldiers Imperial League of Australia (RSSILA) was suggested.

In November 1940 the word “Airmen’s” was added and the name became Returned Sailors, soldiers and Airmen’s Imperial League of Australia (RSSAILA) and, in October 1965, a change to Returned Services League of Australia was made. In September 1990, to cater for a wider membership, the name was changed to Returned & Services League of Australia which remains today.

The first Federal Congress was held in Brisbane from 11-16 September 1916 at which the formation meeting minutes and the suggested name were adopted; the RSL had commenced operation.