Associations Incorporation Amendment (Review) Bill 2016

Dr HUGH McDERMOTT (Prospect) [10.34 a.m.]: I support the Opposition's position of not opposing the Associations Incorporation Amendment (Review) Bill 2016. Small associations are the backbone of our communities. They include clubs that provide an opportunity for our kids to play sport on weekends; clubs that offer support to elderly members of our community; clubs that create relationships among those who do not have the English language skills to confidently interact in their community; and clubs that run fundraisers, such as barbeques at Bunnings. These associations are not wealthy and are mostly run by volunteers. This bill aims to reform the rights and responsibilities of organisations that have annual gross receipts of less than $250,000 or less than $500,000 in assets. In New South Wales something like 93 per cent of associations fall within this financial category—a significant number.

The bill includes amendments to the Associations Incorporation Act 2009 that will guide associations. In particular, the bill clarifies the rights and liabilities of association members; protects members, often volunteers, who are acting in good faith from civil liability; allows electronic voting for annual general and other meetings, permitting time-poor volunteer members to participate without having to attend; standardises mailing addresses; requires associations to include term limits in their constitution; and amends the model constitution that can be used by associations. I am pleased that the Baird Government—a party whose idea of individual liberty and responsibility often involves leaving people to fend for themselves—has accepted the recommendations of the most recent statutory review of the Act.

Members of this House are particularly aware of the vulnerability of local organisations. Some associations are impeccably well managed and easy to deal with. Others are not so well organised and need clearer guidelines on how to operate effectively and safely. These are issues that members of this House experience firsthand on a regular basis, not only through our involvement in such associations but also through representations to our offices. More must be done to ensure the proper management of small associations. A number of local community-based associations within the Prospect electorate will be affected by these reforms in a positive way. I will continue to consult with these associations and obtain their views and opinions on the effects of these reforms.

There are many such organisations in my electorate. I will name just a few because I do not have the time to name them all. Every member of Parliament has hundreds of such associations in his or her electorate, for example, a parents and citizens association at every school. In Prospect, the Parks Community Network and the Fairfield Parent Support Centre are two associations that do a lot of work in our community on domestic violence by helping people break the cycles of violence and poverty and implementing education and literacy programs. Their work is vitally important for people to succeed in life.

Our local sporting associations include Holroyd-Parramatta Blacktown Australian Football Club—the Goannas—which has the only full-time Australian football club field in the State. It was originally the home of the Giants, who have gone on to bigger and better things. The Wetherill Park Rotary Club, the "workers club" of Wetherill Park, is an amazing organisation of dedicated people who raise tens of thousands of dollars every year for charities and causes throughout the electorate of Prospect and New South Wales. The newly created Indian Support Centre received funding from this Government prior to the last election. I am pleased that the Government provided funding for this centre, which helps new migrants from Indian origins and also from sub-continent origins, such as, Tamil, Sir Lankan, Bangladeshi and Pakistani, to help them integrate into our society in Western Sydney.

The Cassia Community Centre, which has been operating for about 30 years, helps young mothers through the provision of postnatal classes, child care and other services. It is the bedrock of our community in Pendle Hill. Our electorate has a number of ethnic groups, for example, the Armenian Cultural Centre which runs the Smithfield Scouts. Smithfield Scouts is a very active group and it is wonderful to see that the Armenian community is heavily involved in scouting in the electorate of Prospect. Recently I saw about 80 scouts at the centre. I am told that is a regular attendance. The Prospect electorate also has the Australian Tamil Congress, which does a lot of work within the electorate and in the surrounding areas of Western Sydney. My electorate has a very large Tamil population, many of whom are refugees who fled the civil war in Sri Lanka as well as those who have arrived by boat in the past 10 years.

The Australian Tamil Congress does a lot of good work with and for refugees. The Arabic Women's Group is a new association that deals with issues of Arabic women in the community. It helps women to integrate into the community, to gain an education, and on issues relating to domestic violence. It is a key organisation that promotes women's rights and strengthens women's involvement in our local communities. Many members would know of the Assyrian Resource Centre, which has recently become famous through the resettling of 5,000 to 7,000 refugees of the Syrian conflict in the electorates of Prospect and Fairfield. The Assyrian Resource Centre assists people to integrate, for example, through English language classes. The Spanish Speaking Pensioners Association brings together people from South America and Portugal through social events. Other organisations such as the Maltese Association also promote social gatherings.

There are far too many organisations for me to mention in the 10 minutes I have available, but the sample I have given shows the variety of associations in the Prospect electorate. Every community organisation and association that I have mentioned will be affected by this bill. Of particular interest is item [9] of the bill, which relates to the model constitution. The Government, as well as the associations, must monitor the model constitution because the responsibility of the associations now rests with the committees and the boards that run them. It is important that these associations follow the model constitution and make sure that it works effectively. The recent statutory review examined the need for a review of the duties and responsibilities of an association and its office bearers. That is important.

The bill requires an association to deal with term limits, and that can be included in the model constitution. It streamlines the process for organisations to impose term limits should they be required. Amendments to the model constitution will no longer require the approval of the "Director-General" and a special resolution. These matters should be included in the model constitution. I am pleased the Minister intends to amend the regulation in the near future. The Associations Incorporation Amendment (Review) Bill 2016 is a welcome reform that will benefit the thousands of associations and community organisations in New South Wales. It is a subtle but important reform. I am pleased the 2013 review of the 2009 Act is now being addressed and supported by this House.

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