RSL Care grew out of the commitment of the RSL in Queensland to ‘care for our mates’, particularly those ‘in need’, and reflects the RSL’s leadership, vision and foresight to understand and respond to the changing needs of the Ex-Service community.
Our First Home
For some ‘diggers’ post World War I, reintegration into mainstream society was difficult. Many had incurred mental wounds far worse than their physical ones.
Thus at the 1936 Queensland Congress of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors Imperial League of Australia (now Returned and Services League of Australia) in Mackay, the call was made for the establishment of a hostel for veterans - a place where they could live in ‘peace and dignity’. (Lee, 1996). The War Veterans Committee was subsequently established, charged with seeking a suitable property and was approached by prominent Brisbane businessman, George Marchant, who donated a property located in Swann Road, Taringa. As a result, on 18 June, 1938 the organisation’s first home, known as Kingshome was opened, accommodating 64 ex servicemen.
Demand for spaces soon outstripped Kingshome’s capacity and need had also been identified for ex nurse accommodation.
Our Second Home
In 1947, the League again benefited from the generosity of others. This time, World War 1 veteran, grazier and mining industry leader, Malcom Newman, donated what was considered one the finest private residences in Southeast Queensland. It was a gift at the time valued at £25,000 - $1 million at today’s values. Fernhill, Caboolture comprised 30 spacious rooms and extensions were subsequently made to accommodate another 80 veterans. The first residents moved into Fernhill, Caboolture on 5 May, 1950.
In 1968, it was evident that residents’ increasing age necessitated far more specialised facilities. Thus over the subsequent two years one of the buildings at Caboolture was demolished and replaced with a purpose built building to operate as a convalescent nursing home.
In 1975, a special lease was given to the League for 3.5 hectares of Commonwealth land on Moggill Road. Work commenced and the first residents moved into the 120 bed hostel at Pinjarra Hills in September, 1980. Subsequent work followed for a 30 bed nursing home and day therapy centre in the same complex which was officially opened in May 1982.
In the mid 1980’s, new needs became apparent with ageing World War veterans, and financial resources to meet the looming demand were deemed significant. In 1982 the Art Union commenced and subsequently provided seed funding for the continued growth of the War Veterans Homes during this period.
RSL (Qld) War Veterans’ Homes Limited
In December 1983 RSL (Qld) War Veterans’ Homes Ltd was formed under Deed of Trust to the RSL Qld Branch.
The First Retirement Village
In 1987, Mackay was again prominent in the organisation’s history with the League’s Mackay District seeking to involve War Veterans’ Homes in its bicentenary project to establish a stand alone retirement village of 25 units. From this time forward, villages were incorporated as standard components of future complexes.
In 1990 at Caboolture, 34 one and two bedroom units were occupied by residents with the villas known as ‘Fernhill Village’.
In June of that year, ‘Cazna Gardens’ comprising 54 independent living units and 82 bed hostel, community hall and recreation facility was opened.
In 1991 – following concern about lack of coverage in the Gold Coast area, a site at Currumbin Waters was purchased and in June the following year, the first stage of the 45 unit village , ‘Galleon Gardens’ was opened, quickly followed by a 50 bed hostel with swimming pool and spa
In mid 1991 a new Community was opened in Rowes Bay, Townsville.
November 1995 saw a 40 bed hostel with special care unit opened at Maryborough, with the first stage of a retirement village completed the following February. Today, this is RSL Care’s ‘Chelsea Retirement Community’.
An ageing population brought new challenges including increasing incidence of residents with dementia. Dedicated environments were required to provide residents with safety, security and the necessary support. The organisation’s first special care unit, a 12 bed cottage, was opened at Pinjarra Hills in early 1994 and purpose built cottages have been subsequently added to several other villages throughout RSL Care’s communities.
RSL Care HomeCare
It has been more recently identified that many people may require assistance of some sort but wish to remain in their own home. To address this need, in the late nineties, RSL Care introduced HomeCare - a broader range of health and support services for people living in their own homes. HomeCare continues to rapidly expand and last year assisted more than 5000 people.
The charitable organisation has undergone rapid growth, particularly in the late eighties until mid nineties, expanding from three to 12 homes, and then nearly doubling the number of homes again in the last 10 years.
Now trading as RSL Care, the charitable organisation has developed into one of the largest providers of aged care services, operating from more than 26 sites with several new developments planned throughout Queensland and NSW. RSL Care assists several thousand people in the provision of its hostels, nursing homes, secure dementia units, retirement villages providing both equity and rental units and RSL Care HomeCare services.
Underlying our growth has been a fundamental commitment to remembering the contribution of the Ex-Service community, ensuring that their care needs are met. The role of the RSL in Queensland and its ongoing support for RSL Care is of strategic importance. The organisation has grown as a result of the far sighted vision of leaders within the RSL.
As RSL Care further expands, we need to work in different ways with the RSL to ensure that their decision makers are fully conversant and supportive of our proposed strategic direction as we continue to honour the courage and sacrifice of our ANZAC heroes by caring for and supporting Ex-Service Members, their dependants and other deserving members of the broader Australian community who are in need as they age or convalesce.