Inspired by the spirit of mateship, the modern day RSL prize home lottery was born in the dark days of the Depression following World War I. In the early 1930’s, diggers were finding it extremely difficult to reintegrate into mainstream society – the mental scars carried were often worse than their physical wounds. The plight of many was described in “The Golden Years – A Story of Comradeship”: “These “Fighting Men of Australia” had through no fault of their own, been reduced to straits of poverty and despair. In the years since the armistice of 1918, many had prematurely grown old or unfit, through war wounds and illness; many had no job and little hope of getting one.”
During this period, the national RSL began realising the need to provide accommodation for our Australian heroes. A few War Veteran Homes did exist, largely funded through generous public donations by a wealthy few and the tireless fundraising by sub-branches. However, in a time when unemployment was high and money was scarce, the need to create a secure funding source to increase Veteran services was desperately needed.
From these early beginnings, the prize home lottery proved popular, effective and was widely adopted. Queensland commenced Art Union fundraising operations in 1956, with proceeds providing various services, including accommodation, to ex-servicemen and women, their dependents and families.
During the early 1950’s circumstances at home in Australia were again tumultuous, with World War II rationing only recently ceased, while rumblings were being heard in Vietnam. The need to provide care and services to war Veterans was ever-present. Further fundraising activities were introduced in Queensland, including the "RSL Girl in a Million" contest.
These days the RSL Art Union is well known for changing the lives of our lucky winners – but most importantly, is still the most effective fundraising activity supporting those who defend our great country. Hopefully, with your continued contribution, this long tradition of mateship will persevere for many more years to come.