By Alex Schlotzer, National Secretary
Transition to new structure
The transition towards the new structure continues to progress very well. There has been, since the new constitution was approved, work done to ensure the National Council works more smoothly and focuses on important governance, strategic and campaign matters. This has included more actively working with Member Bodies and ensuring Bylaws remain up-to-date while not being the focus of meetings. It is also more evident that Member Bodies are taking greater ownership over the affairs of the national organisation with the new structure.
The regular meetings of National Council has resulted in meetings focusing more on the important issues around governance and future direction, rather than time spent debating changes to Bylaws. And with the implementation of the Governance and Finance Committee there will be greater support for the Treasurer and Deputy Treasurer roles, while providing additional support to assist National Council in continuing to have a focus on financial governance. Delegates to National Council are also more focused on working towards solutions in the interests of the national organisation with greater collaboration and cooperation.
National Council continues to develop and expand its relationship with our federal Members of Parliament, providing them with more opportunities to check in with the Party. The relationship also continues to become stronger as we work through the transition and work more closely together.
The new structure has also withstood what was a very long and hard-fought national election campaign. The National Council was able to provide guidance and direction to the campaign management team in a timely manner to enable greater coordination of national campaign activities.
A lot of work has been done over the past 12 months to ensure that there is a more productive National Council and national organisation. Many aspects of the national organisation are now being given the due attention they deserve. However there remain other challenges that require the focus of National Council including the development of disputes handling and resolution mechanisms; ensuring robust mechanisms are developed to aid member engagement with the affairs of the national organisation, and rolling out a comprehensive process for the national strategic plan.
Yet given how the new structure has been operating, such issues can, and I believe will be resolved sooner under the new structure. This is not to suggest that there isn't more work to be done or that sooner means tomorrow. But with the continued goodwill and good faith of Member Bodies' delegates, and the work they do, the new structure can be bedded down.
I strongly believe that the new national structure is working better than expected with Member Bodies indicating their support for how the new structure works and the output of the new National Council as a decision-making body.
It is exciting to see the transition continuing to progress well and that the national organisation is in a stronger position as a result of the new structure.
Progress on the national strategic planning process
One of the big matters coming out of the 2015 Annual National Conference was the need to undertake a strategic planning process following the election. A significant amount of work has been done on identifying initial issues and areas requiring further information and/or investigation. This Conference will give members attending another opportunity to provide their feedback and input.
The National Treasurer, Nick Cooper, needs to be congratulated for his work in helping to ensure that the national organisation is undertaking a national strategic planning process. There is little doubt that this process will help ensure that the Australian Greens are able to continue to meet our goals and expand our representation at every level of government in Australia.
Supporting Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples participation in National Conferences
Since the 2015 National Conference work has been progressing on finding a way for the national organisation to better support Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to attend and participate at our National Conferences.
One of the barriers to participation can be the lack of safe space for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and supporters to meet among themselves to discuss issues important to them and their communities. Another barrier can be the prohibitive cost for some people to attend.
However the Australian Greens are making a more concerted effort through directly inviting representatives of community-controlled organisations and the National Council has created a grants-based program to financially assist Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members and supporters. In addition, a culturally appropriate meeting space has been provided at this Conference specifically for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
The Greens are realistic that it will take time to grow the funding for the grants-based program, however this program, along with direct invitations and culturally appropriate meeting spaces, means helping to diminish the barriers for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people coming to future national conferences. (Make a donation towards our grants program now!)
A final few comments
I'd like to thank the Deputy National Secretary, Holly Kemp, for her support especially in the lead up to Annual National Conference and the current Office Bearer Group for their work and support over the past 12 months.
I also want to thank and acknowledge Giz Watson and Penny Allman-Payne, the outgoing National Co-convenors, for fostering an open and robust approach to the transition and their leadership as we've continued the transition to the new structure. And I give my thanks to Brett Constable, the National Manager, and our amazing national team of staff who offer a wealth of talent, expertise and experience; and deliver great things with few resources.
And finally, I want to thank the members and supporters who make fulfilling the role of National Secretary so worthwhile. It is amazing to see the energy, talent, passion and dedication of members and supporters around the country. It makes me proud to be part of the Australian Greens.