It is acknowledged that the National Servicemen’s Association of Australia (NSAA) at Sub-Branch, State and National levels has a mix of two generations. Within those generations there are significant differences in the experience from which the membership is drawn, and in the numerical balance that makes up the organisational base. The existence of the NSAA is largely due to the fact that there had not been an organisation willing to accept National Servicemen (NS) into their fold or in which National Servicemen felt entirely welcome or comfortable. This has been especially true for the first NS who generally, after completing their commitment, had little or no contact with the defence Force, individual units or ex service bodies such as the RSL. The later generation of NS had greater exposure to Regular defence Force due to the length of full time service and overseas deployment on operations. They were not overly encouraged or embraced by ex-service organisations, but had greater affiliation with units or formations. Their relationship with those units and formations has depleted the available numbers able or willing to further commit time and energy to the NSAA through natural competition.
National Service ceased in 1972 and has not been reactivated, nor is it likely to be. The result is that membership of NSAA is not able to be replaced unlike say the RSL, albeit at a much lower rate than in the past. Another important factor is that the Association largely operates from donor facilities and has few physical assets. The Association’s major asset is its membership and what cash reserves are generated to manage operations at Sub-Branch, State and National levels of the organisation.
These underlying factors give rise to the question: What is the future of the NSAA?
While it is an unpleasant thought, it is a fact that in say 20 – 30 years, there will be very few if any former NS who are able to responsibly carry the burden of office to carry the NSAA forward. To that end it is incumbent upon the current and future office bearers of the organisation to plan for the future. This must be done within the next five years. They must ensure that the NSAA passes from an active to a passive entity with dignity and integrity that the business elements of the organisation are managed prudently and that member assets are distributed in such a way as to bring credit on the organisation and its memory.
These criteria can be achieved if it is acknowledged that the NSAA is a ‘once off’’ entity. By acknowledging that it is a ‘once off’ entity the organisation must have a finite life and a plan must be in place to ensure that the Nasho Spirit passes into history in the most effective and appropriate way.
It is acknowledged that achieving the successful transition of a diverse and egalitarian organisation such as NSAA will require of its membership to:
Firstly gain an understanding and an acknowledgement of the issues outlined in these comments.
Secondly, there will be a tremendous amount of good will and cooperation needed to establish an agreed succession plan.
Thirdly, for the sake of the organisation’s reputation as a whole, there will need to be a well documented, consistent methodology put in place that takes, as time dictates, single elements, State bodies and ultimately the NSAA National entity to its rightful and well chosen place in history.
All of this can be achieved with good planning, research and above all, good will. The outcome will be a ‘succession plan’ to be put to the membership for debate.
Amendments, as appropriate will culminate in an agreement, nationally endorsed by the membership, which will contain an action plan and time line options for implementation.
If the above premise is accepted, that is, the NSAA will eventually have to pass into history as an active entity, what then does the membership wish to see as the resting place for the organisation and its accumulated physical assets, its ‘spirit’ and community values? Choice may conclude Legacy, the RSL, Defence Welfare organisations, Non Government Organisations (NGO) like Red Cross, Care Australia or the Salvation Army.
Alternatively, the organisation could establish a trust into which cash assets are channelled, managed by a legal charter and audited by third parties reporting to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) and used for an educational scholarship for children who meet an agreed selection criteria. What better way to maintain the Spirit of the Nasho than to promote and support education?
It was from this point that our thinking turned to what is now The National Service Scholarship Foundation which will be the vehicle to provising advanced education and training for the benefit of all Australians and is represented by the logo below.
If this option were to be adopted sooner rather than later the NSAA would be able to see the benefit of its support flourish well before its eventual passage into history. In addition, if such a Scholarship Foundation were to commence in the medium term, it may well attract further membership support to an organisation not only interested in providing for its membership, but clearly able to determine its future and make the best of its current and future assets. This could become a powerful message to the community at large.
The choice of any of the above, a combination or suitable alternatives, should form the basis of debate, research and the founding principle on which the ultimate decisions are based.
An analysis of the circumstances concludes that the passing of the NSAA into history is inevitable. Good planning, open and honest debate, straight forward good will and a passionate desire to see only good come from the NSAA place in Australian society will see the organisation pass into history with dignity. Its integrity and values as an organisation will be held in the highest regard and its legacy, on public display, will ensure that National Servicemen continue to enjoy the affection and gratitude of the nation they served. With good planning, all this can be done at a place and time of its choosing.
Sub-Branches, State organisations and the national body should be confident in taking this important debate forward to the membership and members of good will should champion this initiative for the sake of all Nashos.
Nashos are, and will remain a unique entity in the history of Australia and the Defence Force. National Servicemen should leave their mark in the most positive way as to ensure the nation remains proud of the service and achievements of those chosen to serve. This can be achieved. Take time to think this through and participate in the debate we must have. Be proud and bold enough to make it happen while we have full control and are masters of our own destiny.
Allow full, open and robust debate to occur at all levels of the organisation and don’t be put off by ignorance or negativity.
Don’t allow the problem to become someone else’s. It is ours alone to solve, soon
Remember the old military adage ‘Time spent on reconnaissance is not wasted’
Adapted to this situation, Representatives, reporting to State and National Committees should be formed to take carriage of this important initiative on behalf of all National Servicemen.
12th December 2002
This article, in its entirety, was submitted to the State Council for consideration at the June 2003 State Council Meeting at Mornington but to date, no action has been taken on the suggestions which have been put forward.
By supporting the Foundation you will have the satisfaction of knowing you are contributing to the further education and skills development of those already committed to the enhanced learning and medical skills that will be of significant benefit to our society as a whole.