Welcome to this AGM - one of two to be held this year due to moving from our current calendar year financial reporting to financial year reporting. The next AGM will be in November 2017.
We’ve had another successful year of activities, have maintained our membership at around 200 and have the results of the recent membership survey to consider and implement. James Garriock, CEO of Insync, has again done a great job of collating and massaging input from our Committees and Board to forge and administer a coherent survey. We are grateful to James for working with the board to understand our needs, and for interpreting the data and discussing it with us – all voluntary. Over 60 % of members completed this and James will take us through the results at this meeting.
This year I’ve asked each Committee Chair to prepare a short account of the year. Our Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee Jan West will present her report separately.
First to our Membership Committee, chaired so ably by Peter Lamell. This year they have established a robust set of processes and procedures covering membership approval, renewal and related matters. Numbers are to date are 198 - a little under last years number, and the membership survey helps us to understand why there have been a number of non-renewals. My thanks to Peter Lamell who is not seeking re-election this AGM. He has devoted three years to the Board and to being Chair of Membership Committee, and we look forward to seeing him as an engaged member of the Forum. We are grateful to Michelle Quigley QC, Paul Cochrane, Fiona Fernandes, Chris Kotur, Dianne Jacobs, Dr Sheila Nguyen (who is currently on maternity leave) and Anthony Poynton who has just retired from the Membership Committee after 4 years!
The Communication Committee, chaired by Mark Avery has established a communication strategy that focusses on managing reputation and engaging the membership through an effective customer service platform. The Committee are now distilling the results of the membership survey. I encourage you to read the monthly newsletter that comes out in the first week of every month as it offers future events in one place which you can book in for without waiting for the invitations that are sent out on a Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. Our gratitude goes to Mark Avery, Lisa Bowman, Simon Savage, James Macneil, Robynne Berg and Nicola Mizen who has just retired from the committee.
The Program Committee, chaired by Anthea Hancocks has the carriage of delivering a stimulating program of lunches, dinners, and evening events. We have completed our Former Premier’s series, hosted Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, former US Ambassador Andrew Peacock, Australia Post recent CEO Ahmed Fahour, Yasmin Abdul-Magied, Meredith Doig President of the Rationalist Society and Sir Rod Eddington... amongst many others. Hot topics have been explored such as marriage equality, bullying, dying with dignity with Andrew Denton and Rhonda Galbally, health issues, energy policy and infrastructure challenges. In 2016 we introduced a new series, Melbourne Stories, convened by David Gould and Michael Liffman which has bought to life stories of some hidden gems. We are planning our first study tour, to Timor-Leste led by Dr Kirsty Sword Gusmao AO. Our cultural program led by Pam Creed and Sally Arnold has taken us to dumpling workshops, private home galleries, grand mansions and performances and a walking tour of theatrical Melbourne. This year we have had three member’s initiatives in the Members Drinks series which have received wide acclaim. The Women in Sport panel, The Faith and Law discussion and the Citizen’s Jury vs Parliamentary Democracy debate. We’re keen to explore more panel and debate formats and welcome member’s initiatives. We have also introduced MF Imbibo, hosted by Simon Savage, which are evening events to allow our members – and potential members – to get to know each other in a casual environment at a different bar around Melbourne each month. We are taking on board members suggestions in the survey as we shape the next six months program.
With our program being so full, it makes sense that the Program Committee is the largest of our committees! We thank Andrew Stops, Michael Liffman, Sally Arnold, Pam Creed, David Gould, Robert Pradolin, Martin Sheppard, Tony Walker, Dr Helen Sykes AM, Alicia Darvall, and Leesa Charlotte and Trisha Avery (both resigned during 2016), for all of their hard work.
One recurring query that I hear from members is how is the program is framed. The Program Committee members each have carriage of specific themes or strands and bring their ideas to the table. In addition members suggest speakers and topics, which are considered too. When the go-ahead is given members are asked to initiate contact and secure interest with the designated speaker. Lyndall finesses the details with them or their staff. Often we are thwarted by referral to a speaker’s agency, which means a no-go as we don’t pay speakers fees, nor travel costs as a rule. Sometimes dates just don’t work, other times people are reluctant to speak to a small audience or are self conscious about the efficacy of the Chatham House Rule. This is in spite of it never being broken to my knowledge.
Our profound thanks to our Executive Officer Lyndall Tennant. She is multi talented, multi tasking and simply quite brilliant at all she does for Melbourne Forum.
And my thanks to the hardworking Board of Directors – all of whom chair, deputy chair and sit on committees along with other members and take on many tasks. We are a voluntary organisation, with one paid employee.
James Macneil – Deputy Chair and new Chair of the Membership Committee, Michelle Quigley QC, Secretary, Jan West AM, Treasurer, Anthea Hancocks, Mark Avery, Lisa Bowman, Michael Liffman, Simon Savage, Andrew Stops and Janice van Reyk.
Directors are generally appointed for a three-year term, but as we move our financial reporting year and specific skills are required for this period. Janice van Reyk’s term has been served, but has offered herself for nomination for an 18 month period with her term ending in November 2018.
Bruce Hartnett AM has been filling the casual vacancy of Peter Lamell, but decided to withdraw his nomination for the three year term. After consultation with the Succession Advisory Committee it was agreed that Dr Michael Henry AM would fill the casual vacancy until the November AGM in order for us to utilise his skills through this transition period.
As we have the same number of nominations as vacancies, I have much pleasure in declaring that Janice and Michael are elected.
Our 2017 Board of Directors will now consist of Mark Avery, Lisa Bowman, Anthea Hancocks, Michael Henry AM myself, Michael Liffman, James Macneil, Michelle Quigley, Simon Savage, Andrew Stops, Jan West AM and Janice van Reyk.
So another successful year for Melbourne Forum now in its 8th year and continuing to hold true to its formation value of gender equity, and to provide opportunities for a stimulating engagement with matters promoting a civic and civil society.
In 2017 we have held 25 events already. This consists of 15 lunches, 2 dinners, 2 Melbourne Stories, 2 MF Imbibo and two Members’ Drinks.
Our attendee’s have increased from 467 last year to 530 this year – and counting! It is great to see many more guests this year as well. There will be some information regarding accommodating guests and other frequently asked questions on our website – another reason to keep your eye on it!
In calendar year of 2016 we had a total of 1171 attendances over 72 events. We are almost at half this amount today. So my thanks to you, our members who participate and animate our events, and who are the lifeblood of our organisation.
I am delighted to be the Chair of such an invigorating and engaged membership organisation, and I look forward to serving you, as your Chair, throughout the remainder of 2017.
Professor Emeritus Andrea Hull AO