RA-Aus AGM – membership apathy reigns

Lots of empty chairs at the AGM

Lots of empty chairs at the AGM

On Saturday 18 October I flew over from Tyabb to Lethbridge for the Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) Annual General Meeting (AGM). It was a great day for flying – high cloud filtering the warm sun and light northerly breezes. A perfect day for my first visit to an RA-Aus AGM.

However, out of a total membership said to be approaching 10,000 people, only around 50-55 attended and 15 of those were board and committee members and executive. That makes 35-40 ordinary members out of 10,000 willing to make the effort to go. Says a lot about something…

I know that AGMs in any sphere are not renowned for high attendance rates. However, RA-Aus does not have any electronic voting and proxy voting or live AGM web-casting, all of which would potentially reduce physical attendance.  So I was stunned by the tiny numbers. A mountain of pre-meeting burgers and bangers (‘snags’ to my Australian friends) went to waste. As did over 100 empty chairs in the meeting hangar.

I want to say right out that I make no direct criticism of the officials – elected and employed – who have clearly been putting a lot of work into turning round the disastrous mess left by previous RA-Aus administrations. Solving and resolving the problems of registrations and re-registrations, sorting out the technical issues and dealing with the mighty bureaucracy that is CASA isn’t an enviable task. Also, it cannot be easy to report mounting financial losses, particularly when CASA pays RA-Aus about $7 per member per year for the $170 per member per year value of RA-Aus services CASA receives in return.

I was also stunned by the interminable questions from the floor – mostly inaudible and not repeated by the recipient using the microphone – about rearranging the deck-chairs. The new CEO, Michael Linke, made two short presentations (he only joined in July) about what he saw as the recent achievements and what’s on the radar to deliver. He seems to have a good grip after only such a short tenure and he was at least trying to look forward. Jim Tatlock, the Treasurer, also deserves a mention for a commendably concise and clear presentation of the financials. Much of the red ink is down to investing in technology and other things which should have been done long ago. It always costs five times as much to catch up as it does to keep up.

But for the rest…too much concentration on the cost part of the equation as opposed to income generation. And nothing remotely inspiring to get your blood pumping about the future. Maybe that’s why attendance was so low – although Eugene Reid (a previous President of RA-Aus) said that it was about ‘average’ for these meetings.

No doubt there will be a full report of the meeting on the RA-Aus website in due course (please note: you’ll need to be a member of RA-Aus to access financial reports and other similar material). And lengthy analysis in the forum chatrooms by people who didn’t attend….

I’m not going to end on a negative note. A few people – at least the 15 board /committee members and employees at the meeting – have been willing to put up their hands and spend a lot of their time and energy working to get RA-Aus back into a state we can be proud of. The least we can do is show up and support them.

So why couldn’t you muster up the enthusiasm to attend the RA-Aus AGM?

PS – One small point: I am wondering why RA-Aus has not formed a trade forum for recreational aircraft manufacturers and importers? After all, we experience at first hand the questions & reactions of buyers, all of whom are potential and existing RA-Aus members. 

2 thoughts on “RA-Aus AGM – membership apathy reigns

  1. Wow I find that rather alarming too but how much do you think it’s just the distance factor ? How many RA-Aus members live within, say 3 hours drive of Lethbridge ? One hopes that an AGM in somewhere like ( e.g.) Watts Bridge in the Brisbane Valley would get better turn out. I also wonder, given the intrinsic geographic dispersal of the membership whether all AGM should be virtual meetings – it’s easy enough to do with GOTOmeeting and similar tools.


    • I reckon Peter is spot on with his comments. We all appear to have been hit with the apathy stick!

      A couple of additional comments.

      * At 15 members I think the RAAus board is larger than the BHP board.
      * There are no female board members though I know there are plenty of female pilots. BHP has several women on the Board. (Of course, if they don’t nominate they will not be elected.)
      * When a board member questions the financial management during the AGM one has to wonder about the understanding of Board roles and discipline. The Board should be fronting the members with an agreed position. The time for Board discussion is before the AGM.
      * Proxy voting is possible though you have to be asiduous in your quest to access it. Go to RAAus website, find the constitution and at page 23 you will find the proxy form. Hardly an encouragement to participate if you cannot make the meeting. ( Of course proxies can be the refuge of the scurrilous – at the extraordinary meeting of February last year, one of the board members under challenge had apparently called in 300+ proxies to protect his and the president’s inept performance.)

      Andrew asks some relevant questions regarding holding the meeting at Lethbridge.
      In answer, and without knowing the geographical spread of our membership, I point out that no part of the wider Melbourne suburbs should be much further than two hours drive on a Saturday afternoon.
      We are pilots and have access to aeroplanes. Taking 80 knots as a conservative speed for a Foxbat, not only Melbourne and Geelong are within an hour’s flight, but also major population centres such as Warrnambool, Stawell, Ararat, Bendigo and Ballarat.
      Simply we were not there because we were not interested enough. I suspect location has very little to do with the size of the attendance.
      The members who arrived for the BBQ but departed before the meeting demonstrate that quite clearly.

      I believe that most of the current Board are well intentioned and able. They have ideas and we should be supporting them enthusiastically. Reform of the organisation is required and I think this Board might just bring it about.
      I hope so. More of the same will see us out of business pretty quickly.

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