An open letter to WIA Affiliated Clubs in Australia, From Ian Jackson, President, GGREC
This letter has been composed with the highest regard to the interests of Amateur Radio.
The Gippsland Gate Radio & Electronics Club is based in the South Eastern suburbs of Melbourne. We have been an active club for almost forty years now and have been a WIA affiliated club for the past 35 of those years. We are not the largest, nor the smallest group of amateurs in the region. We do most of the same things that other clubs do, Annual hamfest sales, field days, lectures, barbecues and projects. We maintain repeaters we have built ourselves, support the Scout & Guide movement each year and from time to time, stage Amateur exam events.
Like other clubs, our future is dependent upon good relations with the ACMA for continued access to the radio spectrum and access to a solid Examination and Licensing structure. For these things, we rely heavily upon the effectiveness of the Wireless Institute of Australia. As a club, we do what we can to bring new people into the hobby, but our resources are modest and like most clubs, confined to a local area.
For most part we have just been observers of the Institutes operations. We have seen the decline in both WIA members and Amateur operators in general and have been somewhat dismayed by the few initiatives raised at a national level to arrest this fall.
Our concerns were escalated earlier this year when we discovered that our Public Liability insurance policy, administered by the WIA had not been processed in a timely fashion, putting at risk our ability to meet in a public hall and stage events. This was for many of our members, the first sign that things were not as they should be.
We began to get member feedback that general enquiries to the WIA office by phone and email were not being answered in a timely way and often not at all. We learned that the institute was loosing money each week, that several WIA Treasurers had quit their positions and that a very expensive ‘administrative review’ had failed to improve this situation.
These are not subjective concerns, they are a matter of public record. Like many, we looked forward to the Annual General Meeting of the Institute to find what the Auditors can tell us about the true state of affairs, but instead found that there was no audit this year, just a review by an accounting firm who would take no responsibility for the accuracy of their report. Indeed, several financial discrepancies raised at the AGM and no informed accounts representative was on hand to answer these questions.
There has been a lot of discussion about this within our Club. We are proud of our affiliation with this national body. We want the WIA to represent us in the best possible light. WIA membership is not cheap and it’s hard for members not in full time employ to make these expensive payments each year, so it’s crucial to see that our contributions are being spent effectively.
The present model for conducting exams make it slow and difficult for new people to enter the hobby, particularly in rural areas. We don’t want to alter the standard, but we do want the examination process to be more accessible to candidates and allow them to move through this process in a timely way, for a reasonable cost.
In this past month we have found more information about present WIA management. We have learned that both ASIC and the ACMA are displeased with the performance of the Institute in a number of areas. We learned that two WIA Directors moved to dissolve the board and hold fresh elections. This is an extraordinary action, but other than knowing the motion was defeated by the rest of the board, we have few details. Our members want to know more about why this took place, but apparently the two directors are being prevented from having their reasoning presented on WIA news broadcasts and print media. Regardless of what they may be trying to say, this act of self-censorship appears to be an unprecedented attack on transparency.
As a Club, we have become aware that the ‘WIA Reform Group’ composed of ex-WIA office bearers, have started a presence on the internet. Their stated aim says they are about distributing information and seeking improvements to how the WIA is run. Even though similar conclusions are being drawn by many within our Club membership, we must be clear that this letter has been raised independently of that group.
The reason for this open letter is to discover if we are alone with our concern, or if other Affiliated Clubs also feel that there is much work to do before full confidence can be restored. Please discuss these issues with your members at length and see if a consensus of opinion can be reached.
We would like to hear from you.
The WIA is a Public Company owned by its members and not by its board, so full transparency and certainty are really important to us. We want the WIA management to be as good as they can be. We wish to support our peak representative body and want help promote our amazing hobby into the foreseeable future.
Ian Jackson VK3BUF,