10 years of the Australian Coastal Society

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Australian Coastal Society at ICS 2016

It is a pleasure to be able to write about the Australian Coastal Society in Blog Number 50. Ten years ago we established the process to form ACS. The occasion was the 2006 Coast to Coast Conference in Melbourne. We return to Melbourne this year for this conference and it will be another opportunity to showcase what ACS has been trying to do over the past decade.

The idea of ACS was germinated in Hobart at the Coast to Coast Conference in 2004. I am  forever grateful for the encouragement of those present under the guidance of Mr Tasi Coast himself, Chris Rees, to get the ball rolling. In Melbourne 2 years later it was opportune to get the approval of those present to start the formalities and in Darwin in 2008 the meeting formally approved the constitution. Yes, this all took time, but there was little alternative given the funds and time available for the small group and the rather complex series of steps we were forced to follow. Many played a role in helping me through this process; in retrospect it was a useful learning experience although not without its frustrations. These frustrations were repeated several years later as we endeavoured to obtain and win from the federal government charitable status for ACS. Beth Clouston was a major contributor to that success which subsequently facilitated some very important donations.

Over the past 10 years it has been a privilege to work with a number of folk on the ACS Executive and state representatives. There are too many to name individually, but I do wish to mention a few. Nick Harvey, Geoff Wescott and I have shared the role as Chair of ACS. They have been stalwarts and kept me on my toes. Beth and Peta Leahy have served as fantastic treasurers and Bev Clark and Tom Fitzgerald as secretary to the organisation have been indispensable. We set out to have a web site and over the years several have assisted in the role as Communication Officer. Mel Bradbury, living in the bush, maintained the lines of communication at times under great difficulty; many thanks Mel. Naomi Edwards has expanded the role as web manager and keeps me on my toes as ACS broadens its internet appeal. Then there are those like Dave Anning who have maintained the membership list; no easy task as we strive to build numbers.

We set out to have state chapters. Arrangements were quite flexible with some states seeking a more formal structure than others. It has been fascinating to observe the growth and areas of interest of the state chapters. Several states have established their own conferences every two years or so. Those held in Queensland and South Australia have been very successful. NSW has been different as there has been an annual conference in that state since 1991. ACS now contributes to that conference in various ways including Tom Fitzgerald as a member of the organising committee.

One problem we have faced is conflict of interest. Many members have been restricted in working with ACS because of their positions. I am an example of this dilemma given my role as a member of the NSW Coastal Panel and Coastal Expert Panel advising the Minister for Planning. Geoff Wescott has had similar issues. I have heard that there are those who feel they cannot join ACS given their roles in government or business. We have to work around these problems and I think we have done so without compromising anyone’s personal interests.

ACS set out to communicate coastal issues that confront the nation. We refer to ourselves as the Voice of the Coast. It has been possible to make a range of submissions to inquiries at both state and federal levels. These all take time but we have shown that we occupy an important  policy space. In this regard we have at times joined with other coastal advocacy groups such as the Sea Change Task Force and Sydney Coastal Councils Group. I expect that our views will continue to be useful in areas of coastal reform in the future as they have in the past.

This year I am stepping down from the ACS Executive. I will  continue to help whenever I can, but meanwhile it has been a great journey so far and long may it continue.

Words by Prof Bruce Thom. Please respect Bruce Thom’s thoughts and reference where appropriately: (c) ACS, 2016, posted 1st August 2016, for correspondence about this blog post please email admin@australiancoastalsociety.org.