This Annual General Meeting of Melbourne Forum Ltd is our sixth and follows another great year of activity.
I think you all know that this is my swan-song as chair and a director so stand by for a long statement!
By December last year, we reached our highest number of members – 229. The renewal process went well although a higher number (36) did not renew, for a variety of reasons. We make a point of contacting all those who do not renew to ensure we get feedback.
Today, we stand at 207, 15 more than this time last year with 5 applications pending approval and 26 people who have made enquiries about membership. As you know, the Board has set the membership limit at 250 and it is likely that we will hit that cap in the coming twelve months. That limit was determined so that we can protect the intimacy and engagement that are vital attributes of our events.
However, we must be very mindful of the larger number that did not renew and ensure that the club stays very close to the members and their needs and interests. Even though we are running a higher number of events – placing serious pressure on our Executive Officer – many fill quickly so cause frustration. It may be timely for the board to consider conducting another survey of our members to discover if there is something that we are missing.
Diversity remains a bit of an issue. The breadth and variety of the backgrounds, beliefs and attitudes of new members is an important part of continuously reinvigorating the membership and broadening our reach and networks. When nominating potential members, as all of us need to do, I would encourage you to think more widely than your circle of close friends.
We continue to seek cooperation with other organisations to co-host events and explore major issues. I was delighted to meet recently with Martine Letts, the new CEO of the Committee for Melbourne. As you may recall, we have sought closer cooperation with this group in the past with not much success but Martine is very enthusiastic. This might help us address the fact that we have a relatively small number of corporate executives in our ranks, as well as building a greater focus on ‘doing’ as I would like to see amongst our membership.
I am keen on encouraging more of our members to be ‘doers’ and hope that Melbourne Forum members increasingly look for opportunities to ‘make a difference’.
Now to Board membership
It has been a hard working and effective board and I greatly appreciate the support they have all given me. I have particularly appreciated the work of the office bearers – Janice van Reyk as deputy chair, Jan West as Treasurer and Michelle Quigley as Secretary.
During the year Peter Lock and Jack Haber left the Board for work and relocation reasons. Jack had been a very valued director on the board from the beginning in 2011, working on the premises options - until the members ruled it out! – then leading the events program.
Under our Constitution, the Board filled these casual vacancies with the appointment of Anthea Hancocks and Simon Savage who, as our constitution requires, offer themselves for election this evening.
Four directors retire at each AGM but with these and casual vacancies, there are seven positions to be filled. The four directors retiring by rotation are: Prof Andrea Hull AO, Lisa Bowman, Justin Bokor and James Macneil.
Justin has decided to not to seek re-election. He joined the board in 2011 and has made a great contribution, particularly in the years when he ran the events program. Justin has been a very important contributor to the development of the Forum.
To show our appreciation for the contribution that Jack and Justin have made, Jack a founding director and Justin only moments behind, the board is delighted to offer them both a year’s honorary membership.
Mark Avery and Andrew Stops have nominated for the board after both spending 12 months on the Program Committee.
As we have the same number of nominations as vacancies, I have much pleasure in declaring that Andrea, Anthea, Lisa, James, Mark, Andrew and Simon are elected.
Our new board will consist of: Mark Avery, Lisa Bowman, Anthea Hancocks, Prof Andrea Hull AO, Peter Lamell, Michael Liffman, James Macneil, Michelle Quigley, Simon Savage, Andrew Stops, Jan West AM and Janice van Reyk.
In a change of past practice, I will shortly adjourn the AGM so that the board can meet to select the new chair and office bearers, as required by the constitution, and report to you before we conclude.
A number of other members have expressed an interest in appointment to the committees which will be a matter for the new board. I hope that we can accommodate all who wish to play a part.
This level of enthusiasm and commitment from members is a great indicator of the health of our club.
I would like to express appreciation for the work of the committees this year. A great deal of work is done in the committees, each of which is lead by a board member and which report to and advise the board. Melbourne Forum would not be able to operate as it does without the individual contributions of so many committee members. It is vital that the committee members share the work-load if we are to maintain the massive program without Lyndall having a nervous break-down!.
The Program Committee has been chaired by Andrea Hull and includes Michael Liffman as deputy chair, Sally Arnold, Mark Avery, Pam Creed, David Gould, Anthea Hancocks, Robert Pradolin, Martin Sheppard, Andrew Stops and Tony Walker.
The Membership Committee has been chaired by Peter Lamell with Michelle Quigley as deputy chair, Paul Cochrane, Fiona Fernandes, James Garriock, Chris Kotur, Sheila Nguen and Anthony Poynton.
Communications committee has been chaired by Lisa Bowman with James Macneil as deputy chair, Nicola Mizen and Simon Savage.
Finance committee has been chaired by Jan West with Janice van Reyk as deputy chair and Mark Anderson and Laura Conti. We are in very safe financial hands. Our revenue growth has meant that we have hit the threshold and can no longer escape GST, a fact I am sure all of you have noticed.
We also established a Succession Advisory Committee with Yvonne von Hartel, Michael Henry and Janice van Reyk who have been invaluable with their objective advice on governance and assistance with the recommendation of members to fill the casual vacancies that have occurred.
And so to our program.
Since June 2015, we have had 70 events – more than one a week for our operating period which excludes December and January. Last year 52. There have been 37 lunches, 16 cultural events, 10 evening drinks, 1 breakfast, 3 dinners and 3 of our new ‘Melbourne Stories’ which are limited to 12 people for an intimate conversation.
And in that 2015/2016 period there were over 1380 member and guest participations. ( up from 1100 last year)
In calendar 2015, 184 (up from151) members attended at least one event, and in 2016 to date 148 members have attended at least one event.
Managing all this is our excellent Executive Officer, Lyndall Tennant. She has now been in this role for three years. We are all amazed at how well she manages the many pressures of a massive activities program and support for the Board and committee meetings. Lyndall’s work time with us has steadily increased and she is now an employee rather than a contractor.
The work-load is enormous but Lyndall handles it with strength and good humour. The quality and range of our venues continues to expand as Lyndall searches the city for interesting venues, good prices and good quality.
Booking, paying for and diarising functions is simple and about to get even better. With the support of the Communications Committee, a re-designed website will soon be launched and it will include pay-pal as a payment option as well as credit card and EFT. The event invitations and newsletter format will also be up-dated.
We go into the next twelve months with a clear strategy to protect and preserve the attributes that you have endorsed. We need to ensure that we continue to offer our members the opportunities they want as we build our role as the hub for learning about and engaging in the issues that matter in Melbourne.
Our reputation and standing continue to grow and we readily attract so many exciting and stimulating people to converse with and learn from.
Tonight is my last hurrah as board member and Chair. I have looked back over my five previous reports to remind myself about how far we have come and how many people have contributed to the success of Melbourne Forum. Too many to name all of them but I do want to express particular thanks to the current board who have shown great commitment. With Janice as deputy chair, Jan as treasurer and Michelle as secretary, I have not been able to step out of line!
And if I may, I want to thank two people in particular who have given me great advice, support and guidance whenever called on. I am greatly indebted to Yvonne von Hartel and Michael Henry.
I am very privileged to have been able to work with so many outstanding people who shared the vision for creating and operating a club to offer access and stimulation to all Melbournians who are passionate about our city and the issues that are important to it.
Our membership is remarkably talented and engaged. I am very confident that the new leadership will build on this base and take the Forum into other and exciting areas so that, as members, we are motivated and empowered to make a difference for the better.
I thank you all for the opportunity that you have given to me to be the Chairman of such a distinguished group.
26 May 2016