Maria Venter – South Africans to Oz
Returned and Services League of Australia
The Clubs were established to provide hospitality for war veterans as well as a place for them to build comradeship.
Today they are profitable organisations which are frequented by most Australian families.
You find these clubs in almost every town, ranging from quite small and inconspicuous to very large, grand buildings.
I find them a very strange environment to get used to, but I’m finally getting there.
How to join
Firstly you need sign in as a visitor or sign up as a member if you live in the area (the annual fee is insignificant!).
This entitles you to discounts on the already cheap alcohol on offer.
There is always a family friendly restaurant away from the bar area, which has a range of hearty and very affordable meals.
Australian RSL Club Culture
Every evening a one-minute silence is called for in respect to honour those veterans who served the country.
Being a family friendly environment most RSL Clubs have a garden and kids play area to keep the little ones entertained.
Some of the bigger clubs have regular shows that you can purchase tickets for.
My husband and I recently went to a stand-up comedy duo that was pretty affordable and a hilarious night out!
What’s going on?
A strange thing happened on one of my first visits to an RSL Club, which I could not get my head around.
A man walks around the club asking you to purchase tickets for a ‘meat tray raffle’?? What? I was confused but coughed up my $2 anyway and waited to see what would happen.
Well low and behold, my friend I was with won the raffle and he was literally handed a tray of meat! From sausages to lamb chops and steaks…it was a very strange experience!
I have come to learn that the trays are usually raffled to raise money for local sporting teams.
Gambling is part of it
The other thing that is highly prevalent in these clubs, and it’s an activity I’m not a huge fan of, is gambling.
Now gambling is a multi-million-dollar industry in this country and it really saddens me to see how many people are addicted to it.
I hate to watch the old pensioners sitting in front of those machines for hours on end, throwing away the last of their pension payouts.
However, gambling has been a part of the Australian RSL club Culture (and many others too I’m sure) for many years and Aussies obviously love it.
Other than the slot machines they also have something called Keno which is a lottery-like gambling game where each club sets its own series of payouts.
I once worked with a girl who won $25 000 on a Friday night out which paid for her new car!
Going with the flow
So it’s taken me a few years of boycotting these establishments, especially prior to having kids, but recently we have found a few nice Clubs in our area. Now that we understand the Australian RSL Club Culture we enjoy visiting as a family.
And I’m sure you will to!
Here is a list of RSL Clubs in Sydney and New South Wales