On the evening of 19 November 2020, YWCA Australia held a virtual Annual General Meeting for the first time in our 140-year history, enabling members from across the country to participate in this important governance meeting.
President Helen Conway set the scene, noting that while there has been significant progress since the 2018 national merger, the global COVID-19 pandemic had prompted a process to boldly re-imagine the Y of the future. This process will ensure that YWCA emerges from the pandemic stronger than ever, with a clear and consistent purpose tailored to size, delivering distinct and measurable impact.
In an unprecedented year marked by bushfires, floods, and a global pandemic which have all impacted our financial performance, there was still a lot to celebrate during this AGM.
Membership and Governance
We congratulated the Y women who were recognised in the 2020 Australia Day Honours List, all passionate about serving their communities.
We welcomed four new Life Members, recognised for their outstanding and distinctive contributions to our work in advancing equality, significantly impacting our organisation, community and the YWCA movement – Caroline Lambert, Verity Hawkins, Sarah Goulding and Michelle Higelin.
We celebrated elected directors – Georgina Morphett, Khayshie Tilak Ramesh, Yasmin Poole and Lina Tchung (re-elected), and thanked our three board directors who are stepping down – Lauren Tanner, Cara Gleeson and Nicole Freeman. Currently, 55 per cent (6/11) of our board is made up of young women, reflecting the values of YWCA as a young women’s organisation.
We announced the 2021 Young Women’s Council and thanked and farewelled the young women stepping off the Young Women’s Council this year.
While the AGM is a celebration, it is also an opportunity to recognise the contributions of those who we have lost. We honoured a number of Y women who sadly died this year – Pat Sharpe, Vivienne Ashcroft, Michelle Clark, Mary Guthrie and Lorraine Olifent. We also recognise the passing of Judith Sammut, a valued YWCA member.
Operations and Financial Statements
We celebrated the launch of our CBF (Cyber Feminist) online advocacy group, inspired by responses from the 2019 Membership Survey where members told us they wanted more opportunities to be involved in advocacy.
We noted the launch of our research report ‘Women’s housing needs in regional Australia’, especially its significant findings, and the advocacy and stakeholder engagement activities we have undertaken since then to lobby for additional funding for affordable housing solutions.
We acknowledged the hard work of our committed team around the country particularly those who have ensured that our essential community programs, services and affordable housing could continue during the COVID-19 pandemic. We thanked our Song team, whose dedication to innovation and excellent customer service continues to support our mission.
Recognising the significant level of interest in organisational finances through questions submitted by members prior to AGM, Chief Executive Officer Michelle Phillips provided a detailed presentation on the financial results of FY20. Full financial statements are available from the Annual Reports page of our website.
YWCA is a membership organisation, and the YWCA movement has always been driven by the passion and dedication of valued members. We addressed all of the pre-submitted questions from members during the meeting, both in the prepared presentations and in the Q&A portion of the AGM.
We also received feedback that the webinar format wasn’t ideal for some members, and will consider this for future events, on balance with many other factors such as ensuring the cyber security of the platform and risks of ‘Zoom bombing’.
Looking Forward – 2021 and Beyond
We are progressing the Re-imagining the Y, with a refreshed strategic plan expected to be delivered in mid 2021. It is important to note that we are not starting from a blank sheet of paper – we are building on 140 years of YWCA in Australia with important inputs into this project from members, board, staff and volunteers! This scope of work is a chance to further consider our impact and purpose and refine this for the future.
Whatever the results of the Re-imagining the Y process, one thing is clear. Our commitment to the YWCA movement and purpose remains the same as the generations of Y women who have come before us – to progress gender equality in Australia for women, young women and girls.