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Governance Review 2015

The AASW has a new Constitution

All the  amendments to the Constitution proposed in the special resolution were passed at the AGM on Friday 27 November 2015. These changes have now been incorporated into the Constitution and By-Laws and Governance Charter.

Key documents

  1. Take five minutes to watch this video on the Governance review featuring Vice President, Christine Craik.

2. Read this information sheet for more information about the key changes

3. View this table on the proposed Constitutional amendments and rationale

Q&A about the proposed constitutional amendments

Current best practice for governance in Australia adopts a portfolio of three types of documents: 

1. Constitution
A constitution describes the establishment of an association; the limits of the role and responsibilities of the board, criteria for association membership; statutory compliance obligations with legislation such as the Corporations Act 2001; and what to do if things go wrong. The constitution establishes the legal framework within which the association works.

2. Governance Charter
A governance charter is the statement of intent for the governance culture and values of an association. It clarifies the responsibility of the Board, the Branches, the National Committees and other entities, such as the Journal Editorial Board to act in the interests of the membership. This document describes how an organisation is regulated.

3. Bylaws to the Constitution
The bylaws to the constitution bring together the non-statutory administration rules in a single place using transparent non-legalistic language, to enable organisational units such as the AASW’s Branch Management Committees and staff to carry out their roles and responsibilities. This is a procedural document. ​

Many of the AASW’s current policies and practices are good, but they are just described in the wrong place.  As you will see from the table and rationale above, many of the proposed changes simply relate to moving a current provision from the Constitution to its more appropriate governance document.

Still not sure about the proposed constitutional amendments and what they mean? Read the Q&A with members so far.  Or you can send your questions (including your name and branch) to AASW Governance Review. We will publish them and the AASW’s responses on this web page unless you ask us not to. 

What is good governance?

Governance may be a buzz word at the moment, but its true application is very important to the overall running of an organisation. Put simply, governance refers to all the processes that coordinate and control an organisation’s resources and actions. It includes ethics, accountability and management controls.

So how do we ensure good governance at the AASW? The Board members take their duty to ensure good governance very seriously. Earlier this year, Board members were asked to participate in training that would assist them to provide good governance for the Association.  This training was carried out by the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD).

The AICD is Australia’s primary national organisation providing leadership on Board issues and promoting excellence in governance. It was during this training that Board members became aware that while the Association had some excellent practices and processes, best practice has moved on since the AASW’s last review.

The last review of the AASW Constitution was approximately seven years ago so the Board agreed it was timely to undertake a review of the Constitution. Board members discussed what needed to be reviewed and how this review would take place. They developed a three tied structure of governance which included the AASW Constitution, AASW bylaws and a Governance Charter, which all need to work well together for best practice in governance.

A working group was set up to review any possible Constitutional change in conjunction with legal advice from a lawyer. I was one of the members of the working party and it was an honour to work with that group and the wider Board members to look at the need for constitutional change to ensure our association is developing best practice in governance.

Helen Hopper
AASW Company Secretary

Strengthening your Association: Proposed changes to the AASW Constitution

The main changes to the AASW Constitution that the Governance Review is proposing – the ones we have consulted with members about throughout this year – relate to membership eligibility criteria, protecting the democratic appointment of Board members, the process for terminating and suspending membership, and the appointment periods of Directors and other office holders.

  • Safeguarding our membership eligibility criteria in the Constitution: This will make sure that the AASW remains the association of, and for, professional social workers and the students who are studying AASW-accredited social work courses. It will also help our ongoing campaign for professional registration with the federal government. The Constitution used to stipulate that all members have an accredited social work degree or be in the process of studying for one, but an amendment in 2008 saw these requirements moved to the AASW’s bylaws. This means that currently the Board – not the Constitution (or members) – determines membership qualifications. While the present board upholds the pre-2008 eligibility requirements, future Boards may not.
  • Protecting the democratic appointment of Board Directors: the current Constitution permits AASW Directors and the Chief Executive Officer to remove other Directors. This contravenes Australian Corporations Law which stipulates that a Director can only be removed by a vote of the membership or as a result of being disqualified under the Act – and therefore exposes us to legal and financial risk.  As a result we are seeking to remove this clause from the Association’s constitution.
  • The periods of appointment for Directors and other office holders: Currently AASW leadership roles involve consecutive short-term appointments and regular elections. In order to increase stability and provide governance continuity, including succession planning, the proposal is to increase the term of the National Vice Presidents and Directors to three years  (instead of two), and reduce the maximum number of terms they can serve to two (instead of three). This will align Directors’ appointment terms with that of the National President.

    Christine Craik
    National Vice-President and Chair, Governance Review Advisory Group

Governance Review Advisory Group

The Governance Review Advisory Group was appointed to consider the consultation feedback from members and to make recommendations to the AASW Board about the changes required to our governance documents, including the Constitution. The Advisory Group members are:

  • Christine Craik (Chair and National Vice President)
  • Brenda Clare (Board Director)
  • Anita Phillips (Board Director)
  • Helen Hopper (Company Secretary)
  • Sabina Leitmann (WA Branch President)
  • Fotina Hardy (QLD Branch President)
  • Wendy Bowles (NSW member & former National Education & Knowledge Development Committee Convenor)
  • Terry Simpson (WA member & former National Social Policy Committee Convenor)
  • Robert Hansen (VIC member & former National Ethics & Practice Standards Committee member)
  • ​And senior staff members Glenys Wilkinson (CEO)​ and Kym Daly (Senior Manager Professional Standards) 

Governance Review Advisory Group Terms of Reference

More information

AASW - Australian Association of Social Workers