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Changing Guard at the RSA

RNZRSA Media Release
31 October 2008

Changing Guard at the RSA

Today marks the end of an era when Mr Pat Herbert retires as Chief Executive of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services’ Association after 17 years of loyal and dedicated service – the second longest tenure in the 92-year-old history of the organisation founded by Gallipoli veterans.

During Mr Herbert’s tenure the RSA did not fade away but is today still one of the largest voluntary organisations in the country with over 200 RSAs and 125,000 members. Over the period there have been significant change in terms of the demographic of the membership with the passing of the last World War One veterans and demise of the World War Two veteran population, but largely offset with the growth of Service membership as well as Associate members, without military service, that now number over 60,000. Through this transitional period for the organisation Mr Herbert has strongly guided the RSA to the strong and respected position that it enjoys today.

“Pat Herbert has always dealt with issues as they arise, with a straight bat, a high sense of right and wrong, and in the same, even-tempered way,” said the RSA National President Mr Robin Klitscher. “His great leadership skills and compassion have been applied at all levels throughout the organisation. All done with great humility which explains the very obvious regard in which he is held by everybody out there in the RSA community, the public service, and by politicians,“

“Pat has been an exemplary advocate and representative of the RSA and we wish him some well-earned R&R in his retirement, “said Mr Klitscher.

For Mr Herbert the greatest and most rewarding change has been the growing numbers of New Zealanders wishing to honour and remember our past and present servicemen and women as highlighted by the resurgence of interest in ANZAC Day and also Armistice Day, with the 90th anniversary of the latter taking place next month.

“To see so many families and young children attending Anzac Days and at the RSA afterwards is wonderful as our veterans deserve this recognition. There are so many great personalities and stories in the RSA which is what makes it such a wonderful organisation,” said Mr Herbert.

Mr Herbert’s successor, Dr Stephen Clarke, who takes up the position from tomorrow (1 November 2008), is no stranger to the RSA. Dr Clarke has been associated with the RSA from university days when his study of the observance of ANZAC Day was supported by the RSA. He returned from further overseas study in 1999 to take up the role as the Association’s official historian and since 2001 has been based at RSA National Headquarters in many roles such as research officer, commemorations, web manager and most recently public relations.

“We welcome Dr Clarke into his new position in full appreciation that he will be taking up an appointment left vacant by a particularly well-respected and skilful Chief Executive, but confident also that he will discharge the duties entailed in an equally effective manner,” said Mr Klitscher. “We know that Stephen brings with him an obvious and deep understanding of what we are all about”.

A graduate from the University of Otago and the Australian Defence Force Academy, Dr Clarke has specialized in military history and is an expert on the history of the return of service personnel and war remembrance in New Zealand. He is a frequent consultant on film television as well as contributor to newspapers and books both here and overseas.

Over the last eight years at National Headquarters Dr Clarke has launched and managed the Association’s website, poppy projections on Parliament and the Auckland War Memorial Museum, as well as the first mobile phone Poppy Appeal this past year. He was closely involved with the return of the Unknown Warrior in 2004 and has represented the RNZRSA in London for the dedication of the New Zealand Memorial in 2006 Memorial and in Turkey where he fulfilled a lifetime ambition to visit Gallipoli.

At 40, and married with a young family, Dr Clarke is the youngest permanent head of the RNZRSA since World War One. As the first Associate member to be appointed to this position, Dr Clarke is looking forward to assisting and guiding the RSA movement forward in the 21 Century.

“It is an exciting time to be involved with the RSA and the veteran community at a time when we enjoy such generous support from the community. The respect and connections we see each ANZAC Day is a reminder that veterans are treasured members of our society and that their stories is a part of our story as a nation,” said Dr Clarke.

“I look forward to providing New Zealanders with new opportunities to connect and support the RSA, whether it be on ANZAC Day or Poppy Day, through our welfare and youth support programmes, or ‘down at the Razza’ itself.”

From Kaitaia to the Bluff, Dr Clarke envisages the RSA will long continue to play an important role in local communities as it has done over the last century.

“There’s plenty more history left in us yet,” said the historian and new Chief Executive.


ENDS

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