What is a constitution?
- basically… it’s a handbook for when things go wrong
- it’s publicly available, especially to members and other organisations
- defines important legal stuff
- gets attached to grant applications and our non-profit club registrations
How did we change our constitution?
- Members of the committee read the guidelines from NSW Fair Trading
- Our draft constitution, written by Denise Burdett and Amanda Dalziel, was based on the model constitution
- After a phone call with Not-for-profit Law, it was decided to not add specific DGR clauses at this time due to upcoming legislation changes specifically concerning Deductible Gift Recipient Status. Any donations to the WFSC remain not tax-deductible
- Our draft was read and inspected for legal issues by lawyers from Arts+Law
- It was read and approved by the WFSC committee to mail out to members with 21 days notice of the AGM
- At our AGM, a special resolution was passed unanimously by the members present, more than the 75% required
- “That the Writers of the Far South Coast adopt the new constitution with any amendments proposed and endorsed at the Annual General Meeting on 21st April.”
- The draft had a few spelling, grammatical and formatting errors, picked up by Steve Kirkpatrick and Angelika Erpic, as well as a bit of confusion over a legal term that was changed to something more human-readable but still legal.
- The motion and amendments are noted in the AGM Minutes taken by Angelika Erpic on the 21st April 2018
- The constitution and exact wording of the special resolution was submitted to NSW Fair Trading along with an A6 form and the prescribed fee paid by cheque.
- A letter was received by from the NSW Department of Fair Trading acknowledging receipt of our constitution and stating it would become effective from the 6th July 2018
Why did the constitution even need to be changed?
- The club’s previous governing documents were only slightly changed from the default, Model Rules, provided by NSW Fair Trading in December 2006. They referred to the outdated Associations Incorporation Act 1984 which was repealed and replaced by the Associations Incorporation Act 2009
- The new legislation is improved upon even more in the Associations Incorporation Regulation 2016
- Even the name of an Incorporated Association’s governing documents has been changed from Rules to Constitution
- Adopting the new constitution has made the club up-to-date with current legislation
What are the important changes?
- readers to required to refer less to the Internet and other legal documents for important information
- slightly less legal jargon; more human-readable
- includes our name, objects (what the club aims to do), non-profit status, founding member, our location in the Bega Valley on the NSW Far South Coast, our logo, ABN, INC#
- lots of updated references to technology, less paperwork
- easier to become a member online
- the secretary doesn’t have to officially do everything, they can delegate
- pro-rata rates for members who join part way through the financial year
- ordinary, honorary and life memberships
- clear requirements of the office-bearers
- change of financial year to June/July
- a minimum term of 2 years for office-bearers
- a minimum term does not mean a committee member is forced to hold their position for 2 years. A committee member can still resign at any time, without any repercussions, in order to go back to concentrating on their writing. Which is a resonable request and one that everyone can relate to.
- what it does mean is fewer elections, more stability within the committee and less drama.
- it is similar to the 3-year minimum term of office for the Australian prime minister and members of parliament. We should all remember the time we had 5 prime ministers in 5 years! (Kevin Rudd, Julia Gillard, Kevin Rudd again, Tony Abbott and then Malcolm Turnbull) Can you imagine electing a representative for Eden-Monaro every year? That’d be a lot a sausage sizzles…
What do these changes mean for members of the WFSC?
- Another AGM in December 2018, possibly asking for a secretary and ordinary committee members.
- We can combine our AGM’s with Christmas parties
- Fewer elections
- Increased stability
- An elected committee will be able to concentrate on a full calendar year of events without worrying about scheduling an AGM in the middle of everything
- Financial year will be the normal financial year like everyone else in Australia
- Future membership fees will be due between the 1st July and 29th September
- There will be a part-membership payment of $20 that will be required after 1st January 2019 to cover members until 30th June 2019
- Hopefully more funding
A lot of effort has gone into changing the constitution by all members of the club. The process has taken over a year and many discussions at committee meetings. Legislation may not be glamorous, but it is a necessary evil to allow the club to continue providing avenues of professional development for local writers.