The Papua New Guinea Association of Australia is about to embark on the biggest overhaul of its constitution since it was founded nearly 60 years ago. At a national committee meeting in Sydney yesterday, a four-person working group chaired by veteran PNGAA identity Ross Johnson was appointed to review the objectives and shape of the organisation of 1,700 members.
Central to the review is a desire by many people to provide a more effective structure for the PNGAA, to make it truly national in scope and capable of adequately representing and delivering services to members throughout Australia. The working group has been asked to propose recommendations defining the membership of the national body, the establishment of State and Territory branches and how the relationship between national and State and Territory bodies will work.
In terms of control and management, the PNGAA has been a Sydney-centric organisation since its inception and, while this seems to have been effective in the past, it is not necessarily suitable for an Association with an ageing membership and which needs to recruit people who did not necessarily work in Papua New Guinea pre-Independence. Their ranks are thinning rapidly and there is a need to augment them with new, younger members: people who were born and raised in PNG, people who worked there post Independence or simply people who have an interest in Australia’s relationships with our closest neighbour.
The working party will also look at updating the objectives of the Association to include aims not envisaged by the original drafters of the constitution, including publishing, advocacy and philanthropy. It will also look at how the PNGAA can identify new revenue sources to provide it with opportunities to support worthwhile projects in PNG, offer scholarships and fellowships and underwrite exchange schemes involving young Australians and young Papua New Guineans.
The review group will report progress to the next meeting of the national committee, which will need to endorse recommendations for change before they go to a special general meeting for adoption. It is intended that the changes be effected before mid 2009.