Monday 16 September 2019

Hostile Takeover and the silencing of a moderate Voice

It's AGM time for the Victorian Climbing Club (VCC) and in the previous decades this was a very dry state of affairs. Well this time it will be different. If you missed the previous post about the climbing club landscape, now would be a good time to catch up. On the 24.9.2019 the VCC will form their new committee and this one will be a show - unfortunately not in a good way.

Is the climbing governance going to derail?
Last week Kevin Lindorff and Matt Brookes announced that they're throwing their hat in the ring for the positions of the president and the vice president. Both have been long time VCC members and Kevin has been president before so that's nothing unusual.

Or is it? Both haven't done any club work in the past year, haven't led any trips and also never attended a committee meeting. Leaving the current access issues aside, I quizzed both about their vision and ideas for the future of the club: 

[sound of crickets ]

Yep. I got nothing. They simply ignored the question. Coincidentally there was a sudden surge of membership applications as well as a rather tabloid-style campaign to allow proxy voting for the committee positions although proxy voting for committee positions is against the club rules.

Kevin and Matt are current committee members of the Australian Climbing Association Victoria (ACAV) and this is where things are getting quite obvious. One plus one is still two in my books. Let's be real:

This is an attempt by the ACAV to take control of the VCC 

Given a lot of climbers on the side-line don't know much about the specifics of the ACAV, it's worth highlighting its track record:
  • They founded an organisation that declared itself a pre-eminent governing body with no consultation - creating a climbing community governance crisis in addition to the access crisis.
  • They had no issue aligning with a fringe political party - the Liberal Democrats - which openly opposes Aboriginal Traditional Law and doesn't have exactly a good track record when it comes to champion Aboriginal Rights. This creates a publicity risk without any real benefit. 
  • They are putting the climbing community's credibility at risk by saying one thing at the round-table and doing the opposite. 
  • They are taking legal action on behalf of the climbing community without any community consultation. This has already alienated some Traditional Owners because the conclusion  "the ACAV thinks climbing is more important than Aboriginal Heritage" is not far fetched and that puts the building of relationship at risk.
  • They created a social media echo chamber where many members of the climbing community feel uncomfortable to speak critically about the ACAV. I'm not even in that group and get personally attacked on a regular basis for asking critical questions with the usual framing "I'm going against the climbing community if you don't support the ACAV."
  • They created a media campaign which only resulted in an unnecessary shit-fight and left the climbing community with a damaged reputation. 
  • They are constantly trying to discredit the work of various clubs to unify the Victorian climbing community into what is currently known as the Climbing Federation. 
As mentioned in the earlier blog post, the ACAV is trying to take the seat on the Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) from the VCC in order to presumably achieve recognition by an external organisation. This is an official position of the ACAV and given Kevin and Matt are committee members, this is a massive conflict of interest. Now you can already guess what the answer was when I asked them about this one ... exactly,

The VCC is more than just rock climbing @Winter Camp 2019
Furthermore, the ACAV is working on a Climbing Management Plan but refuses to share these drafts with any other club and the wider climbing community for feedback or simply create a cross-club group which collaboratively works on this. Kevin said he'll brief the VCC if he gets elected but then didn't respond when he got asked what happens if he doesn't get elected and why hasn't this been shared already. 

The picture is very clear: The ACAV wants to control the well accepted VCC and its assets. Kevin and Matt try to look moderate so they can be perceived as normal and moderate VCC members however their unwillingness to answer quite crucial questions is very unmasking. They and the ACAV have no interest in keeping the social life and actual climbing club component of the VCC alive. This is purely a power-grab and get the VCC in line with the aggressive ACAV approach. 

If VCC members want that ACAV track record reflected in their leadership that would be sad because it would remove the VCC's more moderate approach of collaboration with Traditional Owners and land managers:
  • The VCC wants to win back long-term access by working with all the stakeholders to address the real issues and building trust - not through arguing about legal processes and suing.
  • The VCC is taking hold of an opportunity to be leaders in working with Traditional Owners to find a way to manage access together creating a model for other outdoor recreational activities across the country.
  • Together with the other clubs of the Climbing Federation the VCC addresses the issues around how we, as the climbing community, make collective decisions by playing a leading role in setting up new governance bodies and adopting best practices governance principles.
Now if you want 
  • to keep that moderate voice which respects Traditional Owners in the current access crisis,
  • don't want the club's funds eroded over fruitless legal actions 
  • and if you want to be part of an association with an active club life, 
you should 
  • attend the AGM in person - 24.9. 7pm @ The Retreat Hotel Abbotsford, 
  • vote "no affiliation" for resolution 6 - at least via proxy if you can't make it
  • quiz the ACAV candidates with critical questions, 
  • vote for the moderate officers - like Paula Toal, Dave Scarlett, Michelle Tusch, Cam Abraham, Steve Toal or Ben Wright
  • and put your hand up as an ordinary committee member. 
If you don't, don't be surprised if the club will dramatically change and not necessarily in a good way.


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