CHEERS TO THAT: RSL Memorial Club staff Jo Morgan and Evy Goransson raise a glass to the club's future.
CHEERS TO THAT: RSL Memorial Club staff Jo Morgan and Evy Goransson raise a glass to the club's future. Julia Baker

Brighter days ahead for Chinchilla RSL club

JUST three months after Chinchilla RSL Memorial Club held a crisis meeting to discuss its dire financial situation, a new committee has been working hard to save the club and say its future is already looking bright.

Last November, more than 400 club members convened for more than two hours to have a much needed conversation about the best direction in which to take the club, which at the time was struggling financially.

On February 22, the club held their annual general meeting where they elected a new committee. It's the first time since before 2010 a vote has been held to decide upon committee members.

Paul Gearon was elected president with Julie Gorring assuming the role of vice president, while Peter Bellgrove was voted in as treasurer.

RSL Club Manager Tony Minnis said the new committee is focused on making changes which will benefit the club's long term future and that the community had rallied behind it in recent months.

"We have made a lot of changes to the club and reduced our overheads and we're going in a positive direction,” he said.

"There are other clubs that just closed-down without members even knowing, it's pretty shattering when a club closes down, it's really bad for the community and we didn't want to see that happen here. The members patronage of the club since the meeting has been amazing.”

The new committee has scrutinised its expenditure, decreasing wages by almost $26,000 while increasing membership fees to $20 for an annual membership and $80 for a five year membership.

Mr Minnis said the club had also introduced a perpetual membership and that the RSL sub-branch had lent the club a significant hand.

"We had incredible cooperation with the sub-branch which has reduced our rent. They made a considerable reduction,” he said.

"The support from the community has also been noticeable, we've increased our membership fees and we've created a perpetual membership. It's $500 but if people take that out they're members for life.”

President Paul Gearon said the financial health of the club had also been buoyed by members of the community.

"We were looking for support from the community and a lot of people made a commitment to support the club financially and they made donations,” he said.

Mr Gearon said the club was "tightening its belt” and while its financial situation had improved it still faced challenges moving forward.

But he was adamant the club's doors would remain open. "The structure of running a club in a rural area is very difficult at this time. The laws they are making are for the bigger clubs in the city but have a trickle down effect to the smaller country clubs,” he said.

"Our club is afloat and it will remain afloat, we're tightening up here and there to stay open.

"It's a tradition for the town, it's been here for as long I can remember.

"The RSL goes back a very long time, it's a part of this community and it's always been. We have one of the best clubs west of Toowoomba.”

The club has also sold 12 gaming machines and their entitlements in a bid to raise capital, reducing the amount of machines at the club from 52 to 40.

Mr Minnis said selling off the gaming machines had raised $75, 000 and "hasn't affected (gaming machine) turnover one iota”.

As part of the club's efforts to reign in their spending the club is also selling Rustlers Espresso Bar, which is currently under contract to a local buyer.

Mr Gearon said the committee is extremely positive the club will continue on to bigger and better things.

"We think the town will continue to get stronger after the downturn and the club will be at the forefront of entertainment in town.”

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