Re: [RML] SPAM National membership

Barry Meiklejohn (barrym at powerup.com.au)
Tue, 10 Feb 1998 09:46:24 +1000

* WARNING * - lengthy post on off-topic thread. The surgeon general has
probably never advised that reading lengthy notes from your monitor could
have undesirable effects - like adopting strange callsigns like Merlin,
Frex, Rooster or Georgia Mountain web :) but it is probably true.

I thought about keeping this off the RML however the chance to hear so many
other opinions was to good to miss. I know we have a lot of people out there
who have or are currently involved in club organisations and many others who
would be OM (ordinary members - the lifeblood) of clubs... This letter is
written in a way that hopefully will ellicit response however in no way is
it aimed at any one person or organisation. If I tread on any raw nerves I
apologise now - that is not my intent, but I would like to open up dialogue
so that we can progress forward on some of these "issues".

Yesterday I found a copy of the ANGFA constitution. I do not know where I
got my copy from but I remember 4-5 years ago that I thought I probably
should have one. Many copies I have seen had been labelled DRAFT however
this one is the accepted and incorporated version stating adoption on the 13
July 1993. (I will send you a copy big Al). The OBJECTIVES of ANGFA as
stated in the constitution are:

RULE 2: OBJECTIVES
2.1 To promote the exchange of information on all aspects of the care of
freshwater fish of Australia and New
Guinea.
2.2 To hold periodic meetings, publish reports and undertake such
activities as may be desirable for the furtherance
and spreading of knowledge of, and information about the freshwater
fish of Australia and New Guinea.
2.3 To produce a quarterly journal to be known as "Fishes of Sahul" to
promote the purposes of the Association.
2.4 To produce a quarterly newsletter to be known as "ANGFA Bulletin.
2.5 To develop and encourage development of any other material
beneficial to the education of aquarists and
fisheries scientists.
2.6 To co-operate with other learned societies and organisations with
like purposes.
2.7 To encourage aquarists, aquariums, zoos and other like institutions
to implement policies that serve to achieve
the following aims:
1) To foster an interest in the keeping of native fishes of Australia
and New Guinea under conditions of captivity
2) To promote the propagation of native fishes and in so doing to
maintain the integrity of species and local forms.
3) To foster captive breeding programmes of rare and endangered species
in order to reduce the depletion of wild
populations.
4) To co-operate with other institutions in helping to establish viable
long term breeding programmes of species
affected by national quarantine regulations.
5) To promote research and information exchange between institutions and
hobbyists in order to aid captive
breeding programmes.
6) To establish and maintain studbooks for rare and endangered species.
7) To investigate and promote the re-introduction of captive bred stock
to suitable natural habitats.
8) To maintain sufficiently large captive populations of 'status'
animals to ensure an adequate gene pool until such
time as these animals can be re-introduced into the wild.
9) To develop aquarium displays and interpretative graphics which
promote an understanding of the importance of
aquatic habitats and the need for their preservation.
10) To develop public education programmes that encourage an
appreciation of aquatic life and which are orientated
towards young people.
11) To promote public awareness of the problems facing rare, endangered
and uncommon species.
2.8 To support such conservation issues of national or international
significance as may be decided on from time to
time by the Committee. Notification of issue and action to be taken to
be included in issues of "ANGEA Bulletin".

Now that to me looks like a grandious set of ideas and ideals. I think the
facts are that we will never be able to achieve all of these as a National
committee. Why not? Well the National committee is basically 6-7 people. 2
are retired but still seem busier than the rest of us whilst the remainder
hold down full time employment. Historically the National committee was
located in one place. Even though others had asked to share in the workload,
(at the time) the committee decided it would be to cumbersome to have a
committee spread through different states. I think this was a reaction to
the workload demanded by publication more so than a correct attribution of
committee workload.

Ever since the current committee took over the running of the organisation
we have tried to get the thought out to Regional Groups (RG) that we would
like to see the committee decentralised. Why? Well we believe that there are
a lot of people with a lot to contribute who live outside of the mainstream
ANGFA "strongholds" of Melbourne and Brisbane. It is also an acknowledgement
of the fact that we (as individuals) are not in a position to continue in
our current roles indefinately (Mr T will be leaving the Bulletin Editor
position at the end of this year). We know it will be hard to get enough
people applying for positions as it is without having to have all committee
members from the one location.

(Our position in Australia as an incorporated body is probably a little
different from the situation in the US. I am only surmising here as I don't
really know enough about the club system over there, but ANGFA must hold
committee elections once a year and the positions are open to all financial
members who wish to nominate.)

Some members are not sure about this current direction of ANGFA and would
like to see a stronger more unified body committing itself more to RG and
there associated organisation and runnings. This is typified by the
insurance aspect of clubs. As I understand it many RG do not have public
liability insurance and RG officials may be concerned about being open to
liability in the event of an accident on club premises or trips. I can only
comment on the situation in Queensland as it applies to the RG I belong to.
ANGFA Qld was the first of the RG to incorporate. This was due to the
afore-mentioned reasons and happened prior to Qld hosting the national
convention in 1990. At the time the national body was not incorporated (and
didn't become so til '93).

As an incorporated body Queensland has had some benefits - perhaps being
able to organise our own insurance is one of these benefits. However this
incorporation proved a double edged sword driving deep rifts between Qld and
the national committee (then residing in Melbourne). This rift widened after
the first Brisbane convention when Qld committee thought it was fair and
equitable to divide the profits from this first "profit-making" convention
50-50 with National. The National executive had believed that the profit was
money belonging wholly to the parent organisation. The split this caused
between the two groups was severe and can still be felt 8 years on. May I
point out that although the split was caused over a misunderstanding that it
was the personalities involved that frayed the unified whole and caused such
an unravelling of the strands of the then ANGFA.

This leads ultimately to the politics of clubs. Who wants the politics?
No-one I know of - however it is a fact of life that when you get a group of
people together you will get an immense range of talents, ideas, dedications
and ego's. I think we all have ego's to one degree or another and they will
sometimes get in the way, getting bruised, bumped, dented or boosted in the
process. In any club, personalities will conflict and personalities will
align, and it is through this interaction that the club can grow. It is
important for all of us as club members to recognise this is a fact of life
and that we must all be tolerant of other peoples ideas. No one member a
club makes and without our membership we are nothing. Even on emotive issues
we must find ways to compromise - or if we are "outnumbered" at least to
tolerate. "Spitting the dummy" and leaving the club may make people feel
better, however it does little for the betterment of the club, the hobby or
the ideals of any organisation.

Bruce asks in what way are we not providing the support the RG would like.
It is an area of little feedback maybe because people feel "intimidated" or
think that someone else will ask or maybe has asked and nothing gets done.
Andrew mentioned that he had a long running perception of this problem and
although he didn't commit himself I assume it is one of the reasons that he
didn't wish to renominate for a (ACT) committee position a couple of years
ago? My personal opinion is that even now ANGFA (committee) is playing too
much of a role in RG life. I think the sticking point again lies within the
current constitution of ANGFA.

Rule 22.6 decrees "Only members (as defined in Article 9) shall be eligible
to be a member of a Regional Group.

This basically says that members of a RG must all be members of ANGFA. I
believe this rule is wrong. This rule and some few others that basically
give ANGFA total control over the RG (both finances and running) are out of
date and may be hangovers from the initial splits that occurred between
"personalities" of ANGFA. Indeed there is an article in rule 9 that states

A person who is not a member of the Association at the time of
incorporation ... shall not be admitted to membership unless ... his admission
is approved by committee.

This rule was clearly designed to remove the threat of dissenting voices to
the then committee. Many of these rules show how outdated our current
constitution is and why Alan and Andrew rightly argue it is worthy of
replacement. However may I state that the current committee is fully of the
view that the only way to run an organisation is in as open and forthright a
manner as possible. We do not mean to have hidden agendas, discreet meetings
or whispered converstations in the "ANGFA corridors of power". So much of
what we are trying to achieve does fly in the face of our current
constituion - however we have neither the time nor I suspect the energies to
replace this document with a more worthy one (not that our secretary Doug
Collom doesn't try to motivate us).

Please take it for granted that the current committee wants to promote
stronger RG growth. We see this as the greatest and most effective means of
promoting the objectives of ANGFA as espoused earlier in this missive. The
current committee (most being members of Qld RG) are more than aware of the
problems regarding RG and the constitution. We may not have blatantly stated
it before (but I will here): we are not interested in "examining your books"
, nor of forcing every one of your members to belong to the parent body.

We trust that RG committees will foster an appreciation of the national
publications and that your members will see the benefits of belonging to
"both" groups. If however they do not see value in the $25 to belong to
ANGFA then why should we alienate them and tell them they can't participate
in the RG activities - that is silly and short minded in the extreme. WE
WILL NEVER DO THIS.

I see no problems with RG examining the issue of their own incorporation.
Perhaps you already have looked at this? This has proved to be the way to go
for ANGFA Queensland and has solved some problems for us, insurance for
example. I think that the name ANGFA would probably be a valid association
name within each state/territory as incorporation seems to be within each
state/territory anyway. National committee when resident in Victoria had no
problems registering the name ANGFA within that state even though an
incorporated society called ANGFA Queensland was already registered in Qld.
I can see no problems with WA, NSW, ACT derivatives as per ANGFA Qld.
Perhaps we may wish to talk more on this between RG and national committee?
What are your thoughts?

Anyhow this missive has been long enough as it is. I will finish now hoping
that I have trodden on no-ones toes. I apologise for singling out A&A
however your emails had some thought provoking items that I wanted to
elaborate on. I hope that this can lead to more discussion on the good and
bad of ANGFA politics and that we can do our bit in making the club a
stronger, healthier club.

Yours in association

Barry (Baz) Meiklejohn
Membership Officer - ANGFA
President - ANGFA Qld