President's report: Susan Keogh

Past president (I know that sounds odd, but since I printed the name labels, I know – Trischa Mann – that you’re the only one here!), accredited editors and members:

If it seems that it can’t possibly be a year since our last Annual Branch Meeting, that is correct. Last year, the ABM was held in August; this year, we have brought the meeting forward to July for two reasons. Now that we are a branch of IPEd, rather than an incorporated organisation in our own right, we do not have to prepare audited accounts, so we can have our meeting much closer to the start of the financial year. In addition, it also gives us the chance to think about holding an event that can capitalise on the Melbourne Writers Festival – which will now be a task for the next committee.

(I’d just like to emphasise that this no longer an annual general meeting, where you are required to vote on financial statements. The finances are now national, as is the AGM, and our CEO, Karen Lee, will advise you about both later in the year.)

Your branch committee, like your national board, has worked hard over the last 11 months. We have tried several initiatives and brought other concerns to an end. While we will hear in more detail about each of the different portfolio areas from the responsible member of the branch committee, as president, I’ll provide a quick overview of the year – well, 11 months – that have just passed.

I’m going to start with endings. The most significant conclusion for the past committee has been the formal winding up of the remnant ‘Editors Victoria Inc.’ as a separate organisation. While this may not seem very important, it marks the conclusion of Victoria having its own individual editors’ organisation, and the end of what has been a long transition into becoming IPEd. Charles Houen, the Secretary of Editors Victoria and then the Victorian branch, fittingly took charge of this final chapter, as it marked his final contribution as a committee member. Charles was instrumental in our transition from Editors Victoria Inc. to becoming the Victorian branch of IPEd, and in the formation of IPEd as a whole. (The name ‘Editors Victoria’ does live on as the name of our branch.) Charles made a significant contribution as both Treasurer and Secretary over many years before he decided to end his time on the committee last November; we have all benefitted from his work.

Charles was not the only departure from the committee. Margie Beilharz edited her last newsletter for the branch in April, and will be stepping down as our Communications Officer. Margie has also served us all for a number of years, in one of the most public roles we have. And also the most stressful – just imagine the pressure of editing something that will be read by more than 400 editors! Margie too will be much missed much, and we thank her for her contribution.

Our final departures from the committee are Sally Holdsworth, A.J. Collins, Danielle Vecchio and Helen Efthimiou. Sally and A.J. served on the Events subcommittee and helped greatly in greasing the wheels so that our events ran smoothly before they resigned (Sally late last year and A.J. earlier this year), while Dani and Helen leave us tonight, having worked on the Communications subcommittee. The members of your branch’s subcommittees, while not receiving or necessarily wanting the profile that the portfolio officers have, are a vital part of our organisation. We simply could not do the work that our committee needs to do without them. I am sure you will join with me in thanking Sally, A.J., Helen and Danielle for their efforts.

There was one more ending: we no longer have a branch post office box. If you wish to send us an actual letter through that quaint, old-fashioned thing that used to be known as the postal service, you’ll have to send it the national PO box.

So much for endings! I’d like to cover some of the new things we tried this year. One of the first of those was towards the end of last year, when we ran our first Book of the Year awards, with Markus Zusak’s Bridge of Clay our inaugural winner. I hope these awards continue.

Probably the most visible innovation has been our trialling of new venues. Our venue tonight makes our fourth new venue for the year, in addition to the Terminus Hotel in Fitzroy North, CoffeeHead in Camberwell and the Monash Conference Centre, which is also in the CBD. The Events subcommittee, headed by Marie Pietersz, is committed to finding venues that not only offer the best value for money but also provide better accessibility for all members. It is likely that events will continue to rotate between different venues, with the idea being that if one or two locations are harder for you to get to, others will be more convenient – although this, of course, is something for the next committee to decide. As 232 people attended our seven events over the past 11 months, the new venues were apparently convenient for a number of you! We managed to hold the same number of events in the last 11 months as the previous committee held over a year, and also the same number of freelance lunches, organised by our Vice President, Susan Pierotti. I have to say, with some sadness, our endeavour to hold a regional literary lunch in Kyneton failed to get off the ground, but I’m sure the next committee will look at other options for providing more services to our substantial number of members living outside metropolitan Melbourne. On the other hand, our networking event for in-house editors was very well received.

We held fewer professional development sessions this year – just eight – but with good reason: there was this little thing called a national conference happening in Melbourne, incorporating a full professional development program. It is a tribute to our PD team – Maryna Mews, Jane Fitzpatrick, Claire Kelly and Michelle Manly – that they were able to produce a program that attracted a total of 174 participants, an increase of more than 25 per cent on those who professionally developed themselves in the previous year. I think they deserve our thanks.

We also have the PD team to thank for another initiative: a student representative to the committee, to help keep this large group of our membership in our plans. I encourage all student members of the branch to consider applying for the position (the details were in the July newsletter).

And then there are the things that have just kept rolling along ... Marnie Hannagan, our Budget Officer, has moved invoices smoothly along the payment path, and is about to oversee our budget process for the year. Sharon Lierse has stepped into the Secretary’s role and is keeping the committee much better organised than it was under the Acting Secretary (ahem, me) after Charles’s departure. Susan Pierotti, our Vice President, has not only organised freelance lunches but taken on the amorphous job of scoping our branch history project. My thanks to all of them.

The Communications team – Margie Beilharz, Bridget Blair, Helen Efthimiou and Danielle Vecchio – have kept us all up-to-date, informed and entertained, through the newsletter, through the Victorian website and through social media. Again, I’d like to thank them.

I haven’t yet mentioned the biggest achievement for the year – our hosting of ‘Beyond the Page’, the national conference. Unfortunately (or, with strict accuracy, fortunately), Renée Otmar, the national conference organiser, is in Cuba tonight, so we can’t thank her in person. As I’ve said before, while I’d love to take the credit for the conference, I can’t: not one bit. All the kudos go to Renée and her organising committee, most of whom are here tonight, and if you were one of the hundreds – and I mean that literally – who attended the conference, the gala dinner or the workshops, I’m sure you’ll agree that high praise is indeed deserved. In connection with the conference, I’d like to mention Nicole Mathers, who was our branch Administration Officer until December, but who provided administrative support to the conference team as a volunteer. One final thank you to Renée, Nicole and the rest of the conference team.

Finally, I’d like to thank all of you. While I didn’t succeed in talking to every member this year, I have talked to a fair number of you, and I’m grateful for your ideas and feedback.

I hope the new committee finds its time as rewarding as I have found this committee.

President Susan Keogh DE

ABM Susan Keogh

 Susan Keogh at the ABM. Photo: Marie Pietersz