This is an expanded version of the President’s Report given by Mark Proctor at the May 6th 2015 Annual General Meeting of the Adelaide Bushwalkers.
The main aims of the club – great walking experiences and introducing new members to bushwalking – are in very good shape. We have doubled the number of events and most events are posted on our Activity Program far earlier than in previous years. Most activities are fully subscribed and reports coming back are that members are enjoying their walking events. I am keen for members to post photos and comments about activities that you have enjoyed on our Facebook page. These are easily shared with other members and offer a great advertisement for people thinking about joining.
We often get emails from people enquiring about joining the club but in many cases they just want to do day walks. The club’s emphasis and the criteria for full membership remains the successful participation in three qualifying walks i.e. three multi-day, pack-carrying walks. After qualifying, new members are able to continue with just day walks but we would prefer that they do participate where possible in multi-day walks.
Facilities and Programs
The facilities and programs of the club continue to grow. New members are able to learn from others on the trail and through our training programs such as the very successful New Members Weekends. We also encourage all members to use our low-cost gear hire service so that you can try and compare many items of equipment before buying your own. From your first day in the club you are entitled to generous discounts at most of the Adelaide speciality bushwalking stores. Once qualified, members can receive higher-value gift vouchers from the friendly Scout Outdoor Centre and are eligible for subsidised bus trips and first aid training. But the greatest advantage of membership is learning about the great places to walk and experiencing these with like-minded people.
Our website was completely re-designed in February last year and it has worked exceedingly well. The number of members at the close of the current club year was 194, operational activities are up more than 50% and member services are receiving great praise.
I believe that the success of the website is because it is well organised, informative, up to date and it speaks in the genre of internet- age people. Supporting this are the number of contacts that we have had from other bushwalking clubs either praising our site or asking how they can create a similar site. We have an ongoing program of review and enhancement of our website which is maintaining our strong progress.
These days, clubs are forced to spend more time on administration than on operations. Government and community regulations seek more paperwork which falls on committee members who already have other demands on their lives. Just handling all the advertising and spam emails coming to the club is an onerous task.
But the administration of the club must continue and we need willing people to do that. I have said that being on the committee is a reward in itself as you learn so much more about bushwalking and are able to apply your ideas for the benefit of other club members. I can understand that nominating for a committee position can be daunting but there are a number of positions that do not demand much work and they still give the experience of learning from the other very experienced members.
There is another way that you can get involved. Why not volunteer to be an assistant to one of the committee positions?. You do not have to attend committee meetings and you can learn from the experienced committee members and most helpfully fill in for committee members on the odd occasion when they are absent from a general meeting.
John Bartlett has recently taken over the role as the Wednesday Walkers Coordinator. As such he is an Assistant to the Committee. He has Committee access privileges to assist him with his job and he advises the Committee as necessary but not attend committee meetings. We need more assistants.
ABW is officially recognised as a volunteer organisation. This is because we assist in activities that benefit more than just ourselves e.g. the cactus eradication activities. But the volunteer status also recognises that nobody is paid for the services that they give to the club. The club’s walk leaders are vital in this regard and the continuing growth in Endorsed Leaders is heartening.
There are a number of other roles that also need helpers. The roles of Auditor, Public Officer, tea and coffee caterer and authors of Tandanya articles are all tasks that need people to step forward to help. “Think not what your club can do for you, but what you can do for your club.”
Promotion of the Club
The redesign of the club website and the creation of a Facebook page have been huge successes. Since going live in February last year they have provided active advertisements for the club, a line of communication about our activities and a drawcard for new members. The activity program is now a living feature with daily updates and responsiveness to both leaders posting activities and members joining those activities. Since inception, the website has been constantly growing in functionality. There have been 67 recommendations for improvement of which 63 have already been implemented or are in progress. A small handful have been rejected as not feasible. Recently, the website has had a few outages due to denial of service attacks on our internet provider but none of these has caused any loss of data or security breaches.
The advertising of information about club events and handy hints about bushwalking have greatly enhanced our standing. Noting this, I have decided that communication and promotion are functions which need to continue with the same high standard. Accordingly I have decided to dedicate one committee member to this task. The Constitution allows us six office bearers and five other members without prescription as to what roles the additional five members perform. For convenience and clarity we have given identities to these five additional members such as Social Secretary or Tandanya Editor. From the date of this AGM I intend that one of these additional committee members will fulfill the Promotions role and that the Conservation role, for which we have no candidates this year, will lapse.
The Promotions role has previously been appended to the Tandanya Editor’s role but I feel that it deserves attention by a separate person.
When we first talked about modernising the website, there was a cry about whether this would be the end of club meetings. I said at the time that it was certainly not intended to eliminate meetings even though the website would enhance our information flow and enable club operations to proceed more expeditiously. I think that information is conveyed more accurately and members are able to consider activities more carefully when browsing the website rather than at meetings.
Monthly social meetings have typically attracted audiences of between 40 and 70 members and they have usually run for about 1 hour 30 minutes. The more formal monthly General meetings have seen attendance fall below 20 members and the duration has declined to about 25 minutes. Unfortunately, the tradition of members staying for socialising after each meeting has virtually disappeared except for the group who regularly gather at the Daniel O’Connell pub over the road. The website has been an outstanding success but I don’t think that it is to blame for falling attendance at General meetings.
I proposed that we combine the roles of the General meeting and the social meeting each month and the combined meeting to be known as the General meeting. The meeting should run for between 1 hour 45 minutes and 2 hours. The best day for this combined meeting is the first Wednesday of each month to align with the current timing of the Social meeting. And while we are at it, the meeting will begin at 7:30 pm so that they will finish earlier. Just for clarity, the Constitution requires us to only hold the General meeting each month but it makes no mention of a social meeting.
The monthly Committee meeting will move to the third Wednesday of each month and all members will be able to access Gear Hire services on the Committee meeting night between 7:30 and 8 pm (as well as the General meeting nights).
Member’s Items of Interest Segment
Several years ago, there was a great level of discussion during club meetings. This included walk reports as a regular part of meetings and debates over policy and issues of concern were frequent. This has declined in recent years to the detriment of member interaction at meetings. While in the past some walk reports were deadly boring (probably intentionally so that the leader concerned would not be called upon to give a walk report ever again), I still think that a limited number of interesting walk reports are worthwhile. I have tried to reinvigorate discussions on General Meeting nights with a Member’s Items of Interest segment. The first two attempts did not foster much debate but we had a good discussion on a number of items at the last meeting so I hope that members will come to future meetings armed with questions, suggestions or walk reports.
Kayaking and Canoeing Guidelines
After a few weeks of discussions between a group of kayak activity leaders, we have come up with a new set of Kayak and Canoeing Guidelines. This will now be taken to the committee and when agreed will replace the less specific Kayak Guidelines currently in the Risk Management Plan. There was review of the need for a specific kayaking certification for leaders but this was decided to be unnecessary for the flat water scenario of our activities. On the other hand the new guidelines will give leaders the right to test the skills of unknown kayakers before embarking on a kayaking trip.
The project to construct Water Tanks in some popular walking areas where water is less available has progressed to the point where we have a design and have identified the necessary tools, materials and skills. The next steps to be undertaken this year are to determine where these tanks are to be located and to seek permission from landholders. The construction phase should be completed next year.
John Bartlett has initiated a review of the current state of ABW containers and logbooks on peaks in the Flinders Ranges. As a result of John’s article in Tandanya and by word of mouth, quite a lot of information has come in and this will be summarized in a forthcoming article in Tandanya. John is leading a walk to Cleft Peak in the Gammon Ranges in June to replace a full log book there. John will continue to work on this project which he has been involved in since about 1986.
For more than a decade we have had two Bus trips per year; one to the Flinders and one to the Grampians. The number of walkers on the Flinders bus trip remains reasonably high but the numbers on the Grampians bus trip have been steadily declining for several years. This is now at the point where we cannot rely on getting enough passengers to run the trip economically. So there will not be a Grampians bus trip this year.
I am sure that we were all appalled to hear about the earthquakes in Nepal which have created vast destruction and suffering in this epic mountain walking country. Many club members have walked in and enjoyed Nepal over several years; the latest group returning only a few weeks ago. To assist with the disaster relief, ABW has made made a donation of $500 to the Himalayan Development Foundation – Australia. Our Patron, Duncan Chessell is a board member of this foundation.
In closing, I want say how much I appreciate the vital contribution of members of the Committee throughout the year. For those who are not continuing, your help has been highly valued. For those continuing, I look forward to another productive year with your great support.