In the local paper the other day there was a notice that the local branch of the Country Women’s Association was holding a new members meeting on Saturday 18th March 2017 at 09:30 in the local hall. Since I’m stretching my wings & attempting to get a social life I decided to attend. In theory I’d be an ideal member because I sew, knit, crochet, quilt & bake plus I used to like getting involved in social assistance projects.
OMG it was harendes. I was the youngest person in the room by about 30 years (I’m 43 so you do the maths). The local branch ladies totally ignored me. The divisional reps tried to be nice but you could have cut the air with a knife the bad vibes were so thick. As it turns out the branch has 7 paid up members just enough to stay a branch. But no one would nominate for secretary & the president resigned on the spot due to difficulties with the State Devision. This meant they either had to become a sub-branch with a deadline of 1 July 2017 to get new members & fill the two vacant executive spots or die then & there. They are now a sub-branch but when I suggested going to local school P&C meetings & the university to requruit members – it was NOT well received. The mutted comments were things like “humph that sort of rif-raf would want to change everything”. I’m going to assume she meant shock horror working mothers and girls studying at university. I mean women should be happily married & staying at home to raise their children just like they did in the 1930s when the branch was started & the meeting date/time was set for 09:30 on the 3rd Friday of the month.
This is not the first local community organisation in my area to have the life strangled out of it by the retiree set.
The Buderim War Memorial Community Association is over 70 years old. However now most of its members are over 65 years olds and it’s rapidly getting to the point that the organisation will die as the ageing members become to senile to run it or die.
The BWMCA was set up in 1947 as a living war memorial and as such it is not only a unique war memorial it is a unique organisation. Just about every adult in the Buderim Village used to be a member and it was vibrant community organisation that held balls, parties, billy cart races down the hill past the school as well as war memorial parades etc. Even as the original members aged their children and grandchildren joined.
About 20 years ago the retiree rot started to set in. Suddenly all committee members were retirees over 65. Meeting times got changed from early evenings or Sunday afternoons to mid-week day time e.g. 10:00 on Wednesday so busy working mums/dads stopped coming. The membership drives were done in the retirement villages of which there are many in Buderim because the BWMCA members either live in those retirement villages or their friends do. Events like the annual ball were considered to time consuming to organise and the members (now mostly retirees) weren’t interested in attending. Communication and member ship requests remained paper based and old fashioned. To join you must physically collect a membership form from the BWMCA headquarters and then either pay in cash or send a cheque to pay for membership. The newsletter is still printed every fortnight and posted to members there is no online version of it and the newsletter is the only way to find out who the Committee Chair people are if you’re interested in putting in a written application to join a committee..
3 years ago when I moved back to Buderim Village my dad was the Vice-President of BWMCA. He urged me to join the BWMCA & to apply to be on the Marketing & Communications Committee (M&CC). At the same time he did an unusual thing he attended meetings for all other local community groups, the school P&C meetings, local kindy care groups & university clubs to find out why these people were not joining the BWMCA.
I lasted all of 3 months on the Marketing & Communications Committee before I was spectacularly kick off the committee . After 3 months of being alternatively ignored or ridiculed by the M&CC Chair and being told I had no idea what Marketing & Communication was supposed to do I became a rebel. I’d had the audacity to send a memorandum to the BWMCA governing board with a 10 point communication plan not approved by the M&CC Chair to drag the BWMCA into the modern world. I also suggested they unceremoniously sack the M&CC Chair & the other members on the grounds they were totally useless & replace them with younger members who actually know what things like brand marketing, twitter or blogging were. It turns out the M&CC chair was the son of a founding member of the BWMCA & how dare I suggest he was an incompetent twat he’d been a member for over 40 years.
Dad at the same time on his investigation tour was hearing things like
- Who are the BWMCA
- I tried finding them on the web/Facebook/twitter/Wordpress/Instagram but there was no info so I gave up
- Don’t you have to be retireed to join the BWMCA
- Oh them, ha they don’t like none retirees trying to join
- I’d join but none of their committees or meetings are at times I can attend
- Why would I waste my time & money joining an organisation that doesn’t want to include my generation (said by a university student)
He tried hard in his 2 years as Vice President BWMCA to get the board and general assembly members to at least start to engage the younger generation their way (web, Facebook, twitter, blogging, Instagram) and was poohooed & blocked every time. When he had the hide to suggest that at BWMCA Sponsored events they wear branded t-shirts he was told “we don’t need to do that everyone knows who the BWMCA is & what we do”. Which proves how totally out of touch they are with the Buderim Village Community. Sadly the person who took over as the new Vice President BWMCA is in their late 80s & the rest of the board are not much younger. As a result the resistance to change anything about how the organisation operates or communicates has now solidified into and impenetrable fortress .
Today I watched the start of the slow death of the Buderim CWA because they can’t or won’t evolve to scoop in the new blood they desperately need. Within 10 years the same thing will happen to the BWMCA. Unfortunately this is a pattern repeating itself all over Australia.
People are now going to howl in protest that retirees are the only ones with the time, money and energy to run these organisations. This is a very sad reflection on how little younger generations (yes that includes me) actually value the existing Community Organisations and that we’re possibly either to disinterested or to selfish to bother to fight to modernise how they run to suit the new wants and needs of the Community.
I firmly believe that retirees should be an active part of Community Organisations it’s both good for them and good for the community. However the minute you allow the retirees to take over and start to run the Community Organisation you have condemned it to slowly rot and die with the retirees who will keep a deathly strongly hold on power and resist any hint that the organisation changes to meet the needs of the wider community not just the needs of the retiree community, mainly because they fear they will be left out.
At no point in time in history has there been a bigger cultural and linguistic divide between the under 50s and the over 65s. The under 50’s want to get a 142 character Tweet as a notification or comment about an event, they want to view and accept/decline an event via the Facebook page, they want to read about the event on a blog, they want to find contact information via the web page where they can also fill out their membership form, they want to pay their membership via direct transfer from the app on their phone and they want to sit at home in comfort sipping a relaxing drink while they have their meeting via Skype. When my dad said all of the above in his fair well speech the one and only thing said by the people at the meeting was – what is a tweet is it some bird raising club!