Thursday, April 2, 2009

ASA Chair’s report AGM 2009

(Georgia Blain channelled me and presented my report as I could not attend the AGM - thank you Georgia)

I am incredibly disappointed that I cannot be here in the flesh to present this years Chair’s report, aside from the fact I have a new frock, and I quite like to stand in front of crowds with a microphone, the truth is that being Chair of the ASA this past year has been one of the proudest and most challenging moments in my professional career.

Together, as a board, staff and community of members we have celebrated exciting things including:

The creation of the Graphic Comic Novels portfolio by Julie Ditrich & Jozef Szekeres who recognized a gaping hole in the services provided to this group in the writing community. Since inception the portfolio has organised Supanova seminar sessions around the country, released an ezine exclusively for portfolio members, undertaken research into comics/graphic novels publisher agreements, and will soon be releasing a Minimum Approved Contract for comics creators.

We also had another successful mentorship program with 20 Mentorships allocated and successful sessions for the writers at the Brisbane Writers’ Festival.

In late 2008 we took on the Emerging Writers Grants for 2009 from the Australia Council, which will kick off in June this year so keep an eye on our website for notice about those.

Last night we announced the second winner of Barbara Jefferis award. Congratulations to Helen Garner whose book The Spare Room won from a challenging shortlist.

Financially, the ASA is in a position where we can take time to breathe, and we will have a treasurer’s report shortly. However, in summary, I am pleased we have delivered a surplus and we have met our targets in nearly all areas. Membership has once again remained largely steady, but our strength as an organisation does come in the numbers of authors we can represent and assist. Please urge all those writers in your world who currently enjoy the benefits provided by the ASA to join. CAL, PLR, ELR all exist because of the past and ongoing work of the ASA, many writers still do not realise or appreciate this reality.

On the campaign front, we rallied hard and had some real impact against the proposed introduction of Parallel Importation. Individual members made submissions to the productivity commission, which stood alongside the ASA’s. I have no doubt it was the commitment and arguments put forward by our members and our partners in the campaign that lead to the draft report last week and its recognition that our literary culture was important enough in its own right to justify territorial copyright.

The coming year will be focussed on issues around The Google Book Settlement, and further work to defeat the proposed changes to restrictions on parallel importation.

It is not my job now, but my pleasure to acknowledge the cogs that turn the wheels at the ASA. It’s fair to say that all Chair’s reports speak highly of their staff, but having Chaired and been on numerous boards and Committees I must declare that I have never had the pleasure of working with such an efficient team.

Jeremy has a task done before I’ve even finished putting in a request, and often before I have even had a chance to make it. The incoming Chair will find their task much easier to manage than could be because of the commitment and passion that Jeremy brings to his role. Jill continues to maintain our financial commitments and I have no doubt she could have helped Wall Street if they had asked. Tim Sinclair has navigated our Communications and we continue to gain media coverage across a range of mediums, and indeed our profile has increased dramatically in the past 12 months. One of my highlights includes being the first ever guest on BBC Radio to have pre-approved profanities on their airwaves.

Kris Clarke is a quiet achiever putting in place all our professional development seminars, which continue to gain positive reviews and late last year we welcomed Arian Grant who answers the phones with such professionalism I feel compelled to improve my own diction.

This year we have seen a major change in the composition of the Committee with six members standing down, including myself. I thank all those who left and all those returned, and I would like to pay special mention to Libby Gleeson AM who joined the Committee in 1997 and was elected to the Executive straightaway. In 1998 she was Deputy Chair and from 2000-2004 she was Chair.

Georgia Blain came on to the Committee in 2002 as Chair. She stood down as Chair in 2003 and was re-elected in 2005 to 2007. Both Libby and Georgia mentored me in the role of Chair; this mentoring will help me go on and benefit Indigenous community organisations in the future.

Finally, I wish the incoming board every success for the coming year. With new members come fresh vision, passion and a swag of new ideas. As a member of the organisation I remain confident that the ASA will continue to do everything to protect my rights as a creator of cultural product.

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