The Royal Commonwealth Society, established in London in 1868, is the oldest civil society organisation in the world. The RCS (ACT) Branch was founded in 1958. Although clearly connected by history and purpose with RCS London, the ACT Branch, like other RCS branches throughout the world, is legally separate, fully autonomous and has its own constitution.
Many RCS branches are registered charities and others, although not registered as such, give priority to their work for charitable and humanitarian enterprises. Overall, the Royal Commonwealth Societies are committed to the principles and values underpinning the modern Commonwealth of Nations.
These are Democracy, Rule of Law, Human Rights, Social and Economic Development. In their day-to-day work, however, the RCS branches are involved in activities encouraging friendship and understanding in and between peoples of the Commonwealth, particularly among the young.
Many members of the ACT Branch of the Royal Commonwealth Society have lived and worked overseas, often in other Commonwealth countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific. This experience and knowledge of other cultures and languages has brought a dimension to their contributions to the work of our Branch, to the multi-ethnic activities of the capital, and to our interactions with the Commonwealth diplomatic missions in Canberra with whom we have established relationships.
In 2004, the RCS (ACT) promoted two initiatives that have helped it facilitate a greater range of local educational and promotional opportunities to raise the profile of the modern Commonwealth and the values that underpin it.
One has been the establishment in Australia of a chapter of the UK-based Commonwealth Round Table. The Commonwealth Round Table in Australia (CRTA) organises seminars, briefings and contributions on commonwealth issues to various journals. The Round Table also sponsors the Commonwealth Lecture given by a prominent Australian on a subject of national and international importance. Past speakers have included former Prime Minister, Malcolm Fraser, former High Court Judge, Michael Kirby, and former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who, as Foreign Minister, addressed a large audience in Perth before the start of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).
The second initiative was to set up a group known as the Commonwealth Day Celebration Committee (CDCC) which organises a multifaith multi-cultural event to mark Commonwealth Day in March. Participants include leaders of the major faith communities in Canberra and traditional dance and musical performances by members of various ethnic groups.