Author:
MaryJo Lelyveld

Late last month, the AICCM National Council convened at the Australian Museum in Sydney to map out the future path of the organisation through its 2016-2020 Strategic Plan. As part of this process the National Council has revised the current Vision and Mission Statements to better reflect the key activities and aims of the organisation as it serves the profession, the membership and the public (as owners of our collective cultural heritage). In addition to the revised Vision and Mission Statements, we have updated our organisational values as outlined below:

VISION

The conservation of Australia’s shared cultural heritage through strong professional conservation practice and public engagement.

MISSION

To maximise members’ contribution to conserving the nation’s heritage through programs of communication, professional education, advocacy and project support.

VALUES

  • Collegiality: we value the input of colleagues and a participative approach to carrying out our work
  • Respectfulness:we recognise differences, value diversity and regard the needs and desires for whom we carry out work
  • Passion:we care deeply about the work we do and seek to share our knowledge and excitement with others interested in cultural heritage
  • Professionalism: we conduct our conservation work through a Code of Ethics and ascribe to on-going professional development
  • Accountability: we seek to be responsible with our resources and explain the social, cultural and economic value of the work that we do

The changing face of membership

Effectively planning for and pursuing a desired future for the organisation requires insight, foresight and action. Part of the two days was spent undertaking a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) analysis to gain some insight into the evolving nature of the profession and our membership base. The next edition of the e-newsletter will deal with this in greater detail, however the following points, drawn from membership surveys, administrative records and government figures, gives some indication of our current state:

  • The vast majority of conservators are AICCM members—the Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011 Census notes that 474 individuals identified their profession to be a conservator whilst the AICCM recorded 493 Current Members in the same period
  • AICCM Membership has grown by 16% over the past 3 years
  • Although more than 20% of conservators in the 2011 ABS Census were 55+ (see table below) and would therefore be nearing retirement within the next 5-10 years, there has been considerable growth in the number of emerging professionals with over 100 conservation graduates in the last 3 years
  • Almost 20% of AICCM members are Professional Members with NSW conservators leading the way
  • The ABS Labour Force Survey projects strong growth outlook for the profession (Conservator ABS No. 2549-11) to 2019 (grouped within ‘Other Natural and Physical Science Professionals’)
  • The majority of our members work in the public sector where overall, annual expenditure for cultural industries remained stable across the 2008-2013 period. An 11 % increase in cultural industries expenditure at local government level may indicate further opportunities for private conservators who tend to work in this sector (Australian Council for the Arts ‘Arts Nation’ 2015)
  • Over 200 individuals have volunteered their time with the AICCM over the past 3 years in some capacity
  • The AICCM website has experienced a five-fold increase in visitors over the last two years

ABS Census 2011 – Conservator and technician by age group

Age in years

15-19

20-24

25-29

30-34

35-34

40-44

45-49

50-54

55+

Total

Conservator

0

11

27

56

68

64

70

72

104

472

Gallery or Museum Technician

4

20

31

30

21

22

22

19

36

205

Library Technician

40

237

309

420

566

797

1177

1338

1999

6883

Gallery, Library and Museum Technicians, nfd

0

0

0

3

3

0

0

4

0

10

Admittedly, such statistics can only capture a superficial understanding of our industry and organisation but generally the picture is an extremely healthy one. No doubt we have a dedicated and supportive membership committed to our purpose. It will be key, over the next few years, to determine how we engage with the growing number of emerging professionals and interested members of the public to ensure that the AICCM remains a core resource for professional development and a source of relevant information about conservation practices in Australia.

A sustainable organisation

One of the issues raised was the operational sustainability of the AICCM’s human and financial resources. AICCM is a largely volunteer organisation supported by three contract staff in the roles of Secretariat, Web Editor and Accountant. We rely heavily on our members to carry out the operational tasks of the organisation—everything from planning and realising our SIG and State events, through to publishing and editing our various communication platforms of e-news, The Bulletin and social media.

As noted above, almost half of our members have volunteered their time to assist with the AICCM over the last three years, something for which the current National Council are deeply grateful! However the development and maintenance of our dynamic new website and transition of The Bulletin across to Taylor and Francis, has meant an increase in our annual running costs. Our current membership fee of $160 is well below the average for national conservation organisations (Table 1.) and competitive against many Australian industry bodies. 

Table 1. Professional membership fees of Australian GLAM and International conservation organisations

 AUSTRALIA – GLAM Organisations

INTERNATIONAL – Conservation organisation

ICOMOS Australia

$189.75

ICON

£105 (approx. $200)

Australian Library and Information Association

$333

AIC

US $144 (approx. $193)

Museums Australia

$160

IIC

£100 (approx. $190)

Australian Society of Archivists

$330

 

ICOM Australia

$140

 

Records and Information Management Professionals Australasia

$330

 

National Council are looking to increase membership fees to more effectively cover the operational costs of the organisation. To fully cover the annual running costs of the AICCM on membership fees alone, our current Ordinary Member rate would need to double to $320 per annum, closer in line with our archivist and library peers. We appreciate that this would be unwelcome to many. We are therefore seeking to raise Australian Individual Member Fee rate to $240 per annum and our Australian Student/Concession rate to $84 for the coming 2016-2017 period.

This fee increase will not only allow us to maintain the provision of two editions of The Bulletin, increase the delivery of our e-newsletter from three to four times per annum and ensure provision of timely content to members and the public through social media. But continued investment in the website is critical if we are to promote the work of our professional members and conservators at large. It is anticipated that the remaining gap in expenses will be made up through an active events program and sponsorship revenue streams. An e-mail detailing the fee increase will be sent to members in the coming weeks.

A rose by any other name

One of the more provoking issues raised was a proposal to change the name of the organisation. The proposal was initially met with bemusement, however it became apparent that the awkwardness and confusion when using the name was very real. Many of our industry peers and even some of our own members it seems find it difficult to remember our name! There are of course costs involved with such an activity (of the financial, administrative and reputational kind) to be weighed against any gains of an easy to remember, apt and impelling name. Given the 40+ years of history and legacy associated with the name, there are no immediate plans to give our name the heave-ho just yet but it is certainly an idea to consider. As part of our 2023 birthday celebrations perhaps?

Please feel free to contact me at president@aiccm.org.au with any comments on any of the above.

MaryJo Lelyveld

AICCM President