I (A4 Convenor) received the following letter via email on 24/5 ...
To the Convenor of A4
A post has appeared recently on the ASA forum website of the recent circumstances of locking out Steering Committee Members with an ASD.
I am writing in response to the post as a private person and member of A4 and not in the capacity being an Office Bearer of Asperger Services Australia. I am a parent of a 21 year old son and have volunteered on the Board of Management and other positions at ASA for the last 15 years.
Although I joined initially the A4 group in 2002 at the Inaugural World Autism Conference A4 has done nothing to increase the support services for my son. I think we all had face in Ms Judy Brewer Fisher to be the Convenor of the Steering Committee at the time due to her connection with the then Government and her enthusiasm to bring the attention of ASD to the then Government.
My concern is that over the last 7 years that A4, which I believed was to become a lobby group to lobby the Federal Government for services for ASD, and it appears still has not developed into a statutory entity, ie being incorporated or otherwise to become a peak body speaking on behalf of all concerned with ASD. The Steering Committee was well located to be close to Canberra and the Government sources. At the conference I attended the AGM of the then Autism Council of Australia in Melbourne and I found to my horror that they had been in existence for almost 40 years and nothing had been achieved to advance services for Autism. A group of parents were most upset that the Autism Council was ineffective to people with Autism/Asperger’s.
Since Autism NSW revamped itself and other Autism organisations, new CEO's of the respective State Autism Organisations have joined the Council now known as Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders. Only invited members are allowed to join. ASA has not attempted to join this group due to the exclusion clause in their policy nor has ASA been invited to join as an incorporated body with over 700 members.
I read on the A4 website that A4 was ...."acting to complement the work of the Australian Advisory Board on Autism Spectrum Disorders"... If this is the case, is A4 associated with the Advisory Board and was it acknowledged as such? I cannot find any reference to that on the website it only shows the State Autism Organisations as members and no other organisation is part of it or associated with the Advisory Board. I can only assume that A4 is not recognised as an entity to complement the work of the Australian Advisory Board as stated on A4’s website.
I assume A4’s Steering Committee was structured by governance and accountability to its members. It would have engaged office bearers and members on the Committee. I am not aware of how many members where part of the Committee, which is my fault not taking note of the proceedings. I have never received any Minutes of any decisions to be made by A4. As an incorporated body by law it is required to work under the basic rules set down by the Office of Fair Trading and/or have a constitution.
Steering Committee Definition
A group of high-level stakeholders who are responsible for providing guidance on overall strategic direction. They do not take the place of a sponsor, but help to spread the strategic input and buy-in to a larger portion of the organization. The Steering Committee is usually made up of organizational peers, and is the combination of direct customers and indirect stakeholders.
As a member of A4, the first notice I received was on 20 May of the changes of name and changes on the Committee. IMHO the Convenor of the Steering Committee had the duty to inform the members of A4 of any upcoming name change or change of direction if this what is going on. At no time have I been informed of any changes to take place. As far as I am concerned, I am a member of A4 and I should have been informed of any changes that the Steering Committee is suggesting and it is my privilege to stay as a member or leave the membership, if A4 does not reflect my view or direction the Steering Committee is taking without my knowledge. Although I have not kept in contact with A4 I cannot recall that any of this was discussed or advised via the newsletters.
IMO A4 is an email group, where a dedicated group of volunteers have joined the Steering Committee and has taken on the task to lobby Government to support development of services for ASD, but has failed to develop the lobby group into an entity to have political clout to make services happen.
Although I read in the A4 newsletters over the years of lobbying, it seems that the Convenor was not effective and I assume that the committee members were starting to get nervous about the direction the Steering Committee was taking, if any. I am not privy to the Steering Committees disagreements, but from the Convenors email on the 20 May it must have been serious.
I am supporting all members of a Steering Committee, as I am unable to join the Committee due to my own commitments on the ASA Board of Management, but agree whole heartedly that any committee of any organisation should have representatives of people whom they represent on any Board, in this case ASD. I know personally of the calibre of expertise several ASD A4 Steering Committee members have and acknowledge their contributions made. I also acknowledge that is appears that the expulsion of a minority group has been very unprofessionally handled by the Convenor of a National Steering Committee.
As I am not aware of the Steering Committee’s governance and what rules or guide lines were in place, I would like to ask these questions:
Did any documentation exist which included clauses of appointments of steering committee members or removal of them? This procedure should have been adhered to. There must be a clause giving reference to what constitutes a quorum to remove a committee member, it must indicate the circumstance when and how and why and a member can be removed? I think these questions should be asked of the Convenor and should be provided to all members of A4 including the ones that seem to have been locked out without notice.
For A4’s Steering Committee to keep face and professionalism I urge the Convenor to release the circumstances of why a minority group has been voted out of the Steering Committee without notice. Would the Convenor also please explain to all A4 members, why A4 members were not notified of the changes to take place, ie name change and I assume new directions. We as members need to be informed of the Steering Committees intentions and make sure that the Steering Committee is a true representative of its members for Government lobbying. Having read the member notification on 20 May at this moment it seems that the Steering Committee is unworkable and it is difficult for the membership to assess the value of being a member.
I am pleased that the Convenor was able to be involved and being part of the new government initiatives supporting Early Learning for the upcoming generation and thank him for that. Due to my many years of volunteering with Asperger Services Australia and my son’s age, I am very aware that there are still no services available for young adults and adults with an ASD in Australia.
I request that A4 Steering Committee urgently supply the information to my questions above to all the A4 members so that we are informed of the proposed changes, intentions of directions and the circumstances of the minority group having been voted out without notice.
Member of A4