Minutes from the AGM on 14 Oct 2021

MINUTES OF THE ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING HELD ON OCTOBER 14TH 2021 AT 12.30PM IN THE ACORN ROOM, ABOVE THE GUILD SHOPS, UWA

 PRESENT:             N Kirkham (President and Chair), and members including D Judge, A McKinley, S Tarrant, E Brink,  S Dobbs, S Maloney, B Montgomery, M Rizzi, C Bourgault du Coudray, R da Silva Rosa, M Forsey,  M Ponsonnet, A Hughes-d’Aeth, K Glaskin, T Harper,      L Fernandes, L Dales, D Ireland, A Bakker, L Wen, J Keelan, V Hayes, F O’Shea, R Bencini,       A Boyatzis, J Taylor, M Piggott, D Juckes, E Dotte, J Elfving-Hwang & Y-K Leong.

APOLOGIES:         A Gardner, G Neylon, A Gaynor, N O’Sullivan, K Tonkin, D Olaru, R Bucks,   J Lydon & D Spagnoli.

PROXY VOTES REGISTERED BY:          A Gaynor and R Bucks.

ATTENDING:         J Manvell (administrator)                K Kawaski (observer)

  1. WELCOME:

The President took the Chair and formally opened the meeting by acknowledging that the meeting takes place on the traditional lands of the Wadjuk Noongar people, recognising and respecting their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

Members were welcomed, both current and honorary, to the 2021 AGM of the UWA Academic Staff Association and thanked for making the time to come along.  Apologies and proxy votes were noted and the meeting declared quorate.

  1. MINUTES:

 J Keelan PROPOSED that the minutes of the Annual General Meeting held on 15th October 2020 are accepted. Seconded by S Maloney.

 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY  

  1. MATTERS ARISING FROM THE MINUTES:

None

  1. APPOINTMENT OF AUDITOR:

 A McKinley PROPOSED that Caffarelli & Associates, Chartered Accountants, be appointed as Auditors for 2021-22. Seconded by M Rizzi.

 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY                                                                                                                                                                 

           5. APPOINTMENT OF RETURNING OFFICER:

 B Montgomery PROPOSED that the WA Industrial Registrar be requested to arrange for the WA Electoral Commission to conduct the elections for 2022-23.  Seconded by A Hughes-d’Aeth.    

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY                                   

  1. TREASURER’S REPORT by the Treasurer, Professor Allan McKinley

For the year ending 30 June 2021, the Association finished with a deficit of $8,309 compared with a surplus of $10,398 in the previous accounting period.

The Association received a cashflow boost of $10,000 from the Government for Covid relief. The decline in membership income can mostly be attributed to higher level academics retiring and the low return on investments is a sign of the economic times.

It was necessary this year to purchase a new computer for the administrator and a significant investment was made in redesigning and updating the website. This now means that membership applications can be lodged online, which is a distinct improvement. Costs were also incurred as preparations commenced to host the biennial Philippa Maddern Award (held in August of the next financial year) and the honorarium payments to Committee members were paid for the 2019-20 year, having been previously held back during the crisis in the University finances. However, those for the 2020-21 year remain outstanding.

The committee is still well served by Ms Joanna Manvell, as Admin Officer, and she has continued to keep all our accounts and documents in excellent order.

We encourage everyone here to talk about joining the Association with their colleagues so that we can remain a robust organisation representing academics at UWA. Membership numbers have remained stable as recruitment has kept pace with numbers leaving.

   C Bourgault du Coudray PROPOSED that the Treasurer’s Report be accepted. Seconded by S Maloney.

The question was asked about spending more of the cash reserves (held in a term deposit). It was noted that these funds have accumulated over many years from membership fees and are traditionally held should litigation arise, although this is less likely since the NTEU and UWAASA now work as separate organisations. This matter will be raised later in open discussion.

 CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY

             7. PRESIDENT’S REPORT by the President, Dr Nin Kirkham

 I am going to keep my comments as short as I can, but there are a few things that I wish to say, so I hope you will indulge me for a moment or two. Once I have finished, we can open the meeting to a broader discussion of the current situation at UWA and, perhaps more specifically, what members believe UWA ASA’s approach should be at this time.

I think it is fair to say that UWAASA has had a relatively productive and successful year, notwithstanding the many, many challenges that our members and the University staff, more generally, have faced.  When attempting to summarise the year, I went back and read my address from 2020 and I was shocked to realise just how much has happened between now and then. The pandemic has done weird things to my perception of time and events, and so much has been happening in the tertiary sector, more generally, not to mention all the upheavals that have been occurring here at UWA starting with the dissolution of the faculties at the end of 2020 and now the rolling uncertainty of the structural reform program.

In any case, much of the effort of the Association in the past year has been focused on issues that have arisen because of the structural reform and attendant disruption and unhappiness, but we have also been active in a range of different contexts and towards a range of different issues.

I will try to give you some of the highlights:

This year we again held our biennial Philippa Maddern awards, created by the UWA Academic Staff Association (UWAASA) to honour the life and legacy of historian Philippa Maddern’s leadership, her mentoring of students and contribution to pedagogy. We received an excellent field of nominations and presented an award in two of our three categories (happily we received no nominations in the Posthumous category). Professor Colin McLeod was honoured in the award’s Present Staff category for his many contributions to the academic community at UWA, not least of all his unmatched ability to undertake meaningful consultation and develop consensus on difficult topics such as freedom of expression and the reform of the Academic Board. Longstanding UWA ASA committee member and fierce defender of the academic mission of UWA, Jamie O’Shea received the award in the category of Former Colleagues (Retired/No Longer Working at UWA) for his tireless service over many years fighting the good fight and speaking truth to power in his role at NTEU Branch President and as committee member of UWA ASA –as well as representing the academic staff on the senate for many years.

Thanks for all the behind the scenes work in making the awards run so smoothly must go to our very own Jo Manvell. It’s probably timely, on that note, to thank Jo more generally for looking after the Association. It’s a complicated job, mainly because UWA ASA is in the strict sense a union and so subject to all the legislative regulation that unions labour under. So, thanks Jo.

Thanks also to Jo for managing the transition to our new website this year. I hope everyone has taken the opportunity to jump on to the new website and have a look around. For my part, I think it is a great improvement and has brought the public face of UWA ASA up to date.

We haven’t hosted as many forums in the past year as we usually might, tending instead to simply host collegial drinks in the uniclub, which seem to be rather popular and relatively low key. That said, UWA ASA did hold a forum a couple of months back where Alex Knott communicated the results of his research into the public reporting of UWA’s Financial position. The report and a recording of the forum is available on our website for those who missed it.

You might also recall the presentation from Deirdre de Souza after last year’s AGM on University Governance, and the comprehensive information pack she created for us on that topic.  This year Deirdre again did a project for UWAASA, this time on the external regulatory environment of the tertiary sector. We did consider having her present on that matter after this meeting, but the consensus was that the material was a bit too dry for today, and we might better spend the meeting time discussing what our members feel is the way forward for UWA ASA in the current situation. We will organise to have Deirdre present her latest work in the coming months.

One of our other big, though slightly disheartening, efforts this year was the calling of the special meeting of Academic Board in August to discuss the Board’s role in the Structural Reform Program. While I am, personally, not thrilled with the outcome of that meeting and certainly not with the engagement of the UWA Executive with the Academic Board over the SRP, I think it was an important meeting to have and hope that it went some way to highlighting the importance of academic oversight of academic decisions. A lot of work on this matter was done by members of the UWA ASA committee, thanks in in particular go to Marco, Debra and Shane.  Some members of the committee are currently in the midst of a freedom of information request to try and dig deeply into the actual process by which the sorts of proposals we’ve seen have actually been developed and (again) to try and get the data that is said to be the basis of those plans.

Thanks also to all the committee members for their work this year, in particular the office bearers: Debra Judge, our Vice President, Allan McKinley our long-standing Treasurer, and Stella Tarrant our previous Secretary, a position now held by Marco Rizzi. This year saw one of our longest standing committee members and immediate past president Ray da Silva Rosa step down from the committee. Ray made such a significant contribution to the Association, and more broadly to the university, as President for ten years and as committee member for even longer. Of course, he remains a member, and still regularly exercises his right to make suggestions as to how we might spend our capital or exert our influence over the goings on at UWA. Ray’s position on the committee was taken up by Chantal Bourgault du Coudray, who has proved herself to be a real asset to UWA ASA. So, thanks, Ray and welcome, Chantal.

I think I speak for everyone when I say it’s been a really challenging year; for UWA ASA, and for all the staff at UWA. UWA ASA members continue to represent academic concerns on Senate, Academic Board, ACC, NTEU and many other committees around the university. We take the time to read the agendas, try to be across what is happening around the university, to listen to our members and seek their feedback.  But I must admit, in a year like the one we have had, I sometimes feel like we could have done something more or something different. So, on that note, I want to thank you all for making the time to come along and open the discussion to that very question. What would you like to see the UWA ASA Committee pursue in the coming year? What would you like to see us spend some of our money on? What can we do to support academics and represent the academic voice at UWA?

  K Glaskin PROPOSED that the President’s Report be accepted. Seconded by F O’Shea.     

CARRIED UNANIMOUSLY         

           8. OPEN DISCUSSION

  •  The new website has an on-line membership form. A simple thing to do is for everyone here to send the link to two academics they believe may not be members, in fact all members could do this.
  • Using social media, especially Twitter, will increase visibility of the Association as current members “spread the word”. Positive messaging should be the focus to foster collegiality. UWAASA does have a Twitter account but is not presently active on any social media platform.
  • Effective marketing/advertising of the Association could be achieved by running a campaign since UWAASA has a limited capacity to communicate to all staff. Many people feel powerless to address the inequity of the current reforms and a campaign would be a visible rallying point.

The Executive are not following due process; an attempt to improve process resulted in the Academic Board passing the motion that the Academic Board recommend to the Vice-Chancellor that the Chair of Academic Board, or their nominee, be an advisor of the Change Management Board (CMB) and provide advice on matters falling within the broader mandate of the Academic Board. The Vice-Chancellor has not acted on this recommendation.

Campaigning against University management, (whilst satisfying) may be undesirable but campaigning for strong governance through stronger voices could be a positive way to increase membership. UWAASA’s remit is to act for academic staff and as such, the strength of its voice to Senate (directly or via Convocation) will be strengthened by member numbers.

  • UWAASA has been effective with some of its engagement with the Executive because of its low profile but at the same time, successes need to be broadcast to grow membership into the future. The UWAASA “style” appeals when the more combative nature of the NTEU may not, so it is important not to lose this identity whilst acknowledging that both these facets of academic representation are important.

Money could be spent employing someone to write content for the website, keeping it up to date with what UWAASA has been doing.

UWAASA is a gem that needs to be promoted.

  • More events should be run, especially networking at family-friendly times. UWAASA could sponsor morning/afternoon teas or lunches within Schools, an informal way to introduce the Association to non-members, with a Committee member attending.
  • Reducing the cost of membership for the first year may be attractive and once enrolled, people are unlikely to leave.
  • Use the research voice to affect change by undertaking a social sciences research project, evidence-based, on governance and the changing structure of UWA. A sub-committee would oversee the undertaking and a project officer could be engaged.
  • UWAASA’s profile could be raised by hosting a conference (annually?) for the whole university.
  • The 2030 Vision statement is not being “lived” and could be mapped to show successes so far and the extent to which current practices are contrary to that vision, thus needing to be addressed.
  • With no reflection on current academic members on Senate, it appears that some Senate members do not understand the level of disfunction within the University or the damage arising from the structural reforms being undertaken. Broadly speaking, they are not from academia and are supportive of the Executive. UWAASA needs to get the message across of what it is really like at grass roots level.

SUMMARY

The time for action is NOW. UWAASA has funds available.

ACTION: Email all members, attaching the minutes, asking what they can do to assist with some or all the above issues.

NB: Some members present have already volunteered some time.

1.45pm: The President and Chair thanked members for their attendance and closed the meeting.

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