Maryborough RSL Sub-branch members gather outside the club in Lennox St ahead of their special general meeting last month. Photo: Cody Fox
Maryborough RSL Sub-branch members gather outside the club in Lennox St ahead of their special general meeting last month. Photo: Cody Fox

Mental health concerns as M’boro RSL sub-branch issues continue

WAR veterans at the centre of a bitter stoush with the Maryborough RSL Sub-branch say ongoing toxicity and the feeling of not being heard are taking their toll on the mental wellbeing of already traumatised ex-servicemen and women.

It comes after more than 100 people fronted a special general meeting at Lennox St last month with the intention of voting on a proposal to ­remove sub-branch president George Mellick and his vice-president Robert Anderton.

It stemmed from a petition which called for the special meeting amid concerns about the hiring of RSL general manager Craig Lenihan, who has since been charged with military imposter-related offences, and the alleged culture presided over by Mr Mellick, who has since been charged with assaulting a Vietnam veteran on Remembrance Day.

Neither Mr Lenihan nor Mr Mellick have responded to the allegations against them or entered a plea in court.

However, the vote on the sub-branch’s leadership was not allowed to go ahead and some members stormed out of the RSL building, claiming proceedings were dictated by the ‘top bench’ made up of local sub-branch and senior RSL Queensland leaders.

A RSL spokeswoman said the motions were not ­supported by any evidence and could therefore not go ahead.

“That would have been prejudicial to members who elected not to attend as well as to the president and vice president who would not have had the opportunity to defend themselves,” the spokesman said.

“This was explained to the members who attended the SGM. The motions were therefore not put to the vote.”

The RSL also said that had the vote gone in the aggrieved members’ favour, the positions of president and vice president would have remained vacant until the upcoming AGM as no names for nominees were included on the notice of meeting, as required by their constitution.

The group calling for action has since hit back, arguing the reasons given to prevent the vote were “weak, confusing and invalid”.

Their spokesman, Tony Bates, said the situation had turned ugly.

“Dozens of people were left disgusted by the local and state hierarchy using flimsy grounds to disrupt their right to vote,” he said.

Mr Bates said members were distressed by the handling of their concerns.

“How incredible that their stress has now been added to by persons in positions of power in an organisation that professes to care for veterans,” he said.

Mr Bates said the special meeting was requested by 50 per cent more members than the number required by their constitution.

The reasons for the motion to spill the positions of president and vice-president were listed. The constitution allowed members to nominate new officers from the floor and motions to do that had also been lodged to follow the spill motions so there was never any question that the positions would be vacant until the AGM.

He asked why the meeting had been allowed to go ahead if the leadership team had known the motion wouldn’t be accepted or members allowed to speak about their concerns.

Meanwhile, RSL Queensland president Tony Ferris reaffirmed the state body’s belief that the issues raised by the aggrieved members were a sub-branch matter and it would “therefore be inappropriate for them to comment further”.

Mr Ferris stressed the independent, external investigator probing historic and current management issues at the Maryborough RSL Sub-Branch and its financial position had been asked to complete the work as soon as possible.

He said it would be premature to comment before the investigation was completed.

The sub-branch will vote for a new president at its AGM on February 23.

It is understood the vice-president’s term has not yet come to an end and the position will not be up for re-election.

Mr Lenihan has been on stress leave since November.

He has been charged with faking his military credentials and the improper use of service decorations.

Mr Mellick faces one count of assault.

Both cases are due in Maryborough Magistrates Court on February 18.