If the success of a conference is judged on attendance numbers and seminars then this year’s Associations Forum annual meeting was a real hit.


Held at the Sydney Convention & Exhibition Centre on July 16 and 17 with the conference dinner at nearby Dockside, more than 400 delegates travelled from interstate and internationally to attend this, the 8th Associations Forum National Conference.

From the outset Associations Forum general manager, John Peacock, was happy with the level of interest in the program in terms of delegate attendance, and was thrilled with having a record-breaking exhibition component in 2013.
Delegates also appeared appreciative. In many sessions, like that of the Re-engineering Engineers Australia, presented by its CEO, Stephen Durkin, it was pretty much standing room only.

Despite having 100,000 members and a balance sheet of $50 million, Mr Durkin told attendees that Engineers Australia was going through significant change to keep relevant to members and continue to grow.
He was brutally honest with attendees, sharing comments from some of Engineers Australia’s dissatisfied members, and referencing the growth in competition from international associations, particularly one from the UK.
As part of the strategy Engineers Australia has already invested $7 million into new IT solutions to better improve its offering to members.
International and national speakers were a clear drawcard for the conference, with Associations Forum flying in the executive director of the American Industrial Hygiene Association, Peter O’Neil, for a keynote on resilience in the age of major association change.

Many presenters were high flying executives including the CEO of beyondblue, Kate Carnell, CEO of HammondCare, Stephen Judd, CEO of the Australian College of Nursing, Debra Thoms, CEO of Gas Energy Australia, Michael Carmody, and CEO of Cystic Fibrosis Australia, David Jack.

Sessions and panel presentations made for lively debate on a range of topics including:

  • Advancing health charities
  • Chairing a not-for-profit
  • Maintaining relevance and adding reinvention
  • Why associations fail or succeed
  • Board effectiveness and efficiency

MEA CEO Linda Gaunt, MEA national conference manager, Janette Beedell, and international director of sales at the SCEC, Annabel Norris, gave a presentation on the success of the MEA conference and the reasons why.