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Chief executive Marty Donoghue says it’s really important to the RSA that it acknowledges those who serve in NZ Police.

There might not be a “P” in Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association but police officers – past and present – can join the iconic Kiwi organisation.

RSA chief executive Marty Donoghue and national president Sir Wayne (Buck) Shelford are part of a drive to keep RSAs relevant and focused on what they were established for: remembrance, support and advocacy – and that includes for those who serve in NZ Police.

“Police are covered under our constitutional arrangements as ‘service’ members and are able to be supported by our network,” Marty says. “For us, it’s really important that those who have served with Police are acknowledged.”

That recognition can include a discount on membership fees, advocacy, financial assistance, and help connecting with RSA members who have had similar experiences, according to RSA bylaws. But, more importantly, Marty says, membership means officers have somewhere safe to unwind.

“Say you’re a police officer in Whangārei. The choice of venues to have a few drinks with your colleagues is pretty narrow and running into people you deal with in your work life is not always what you want to do. If you have a venue like the RSA, it’s less likely that you're going to run into people who are your ‘clients’ during the day. We're a membership organisation so someone can't just walk off the street into an RSA,” Marty says.

“For Police and the NZDF and the fellowship that they're looking for, those RSAs living up to their ethos and values are ideal places for them to go.”

In August, the NZ Herald reported that the number of “bricks and mortar” RSA clubs had fallen from 148 with clubrooms in 2010 to about 103 today as contemporary veterans looked to connect away from the hospitality-focused legacy of the traditional RSA, which were typically run by older members who were also not necessarily returned veterans or service personnel.

Sir Wayne Shelford said earlier this year that RSAs must update to survive and needed younger people to join. Marty says since 1990, New Zealand has created 61,500 veterans. “The veteran community under the age of 60 is growing and probably going to surpass those over 60 in the next year or so.”

The RSA’s mission

The RSA was formed in New Zealand in 1916 by returning Anzacs during World War I to provide support and comfort for service personnel and their families. The organisation is made up of 182 local RSAs, each an entity in its own right, with over 102,000 members. Local RSAs are managed by an executive committee while being united with the RSA in its strategic pillars, vision and values. The RSA believes in a nation joined by a heartfelt connection to the Anzac spirit of courage, commitment, comradeship and compassion.

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