Your guide to the AASW election results: the winners, the losers and their policies

Percentage of voters stays the same

The voting electorate grew from approximately 7,600 in 2015 to 8,000 members this year. But the percentage that voted remained exactly the same, at 16%, despite pleas from some candidates (including myself) to fill in your ballot and post it. If any non voters would like to comment on this – I would love to get their views- and to find out from them what would help them to vote next time.

Support for the current Board is eroding

Last year the incumbent candidate, Christine Craik won the race for National Vice President with 59% of the vote. This year the incumbent, Maria Merle, was defeated in the National Vice President race, gaining only 45% of the vote.

Candidate Votes Percentage
Marie Claire Cheron-Sauer 692 54%
Maria Merle 582 45%

Congratulations To Marie Claire. Her outstanding leadership as well as her skills in policy analysis and policy development will bring a much needed fresh perspective to the Board.

Last year in the race for two Director positions the incumbents gained 62% of the vote. This year in the Director race for 3 positions, the incumbents gained 56.6% of the vote.

Seven candidates contested the race. The first two incumbents won in clear cut fashion, with the third scrambling over the line. (See table below)

Congratulations to the all winners and losers. A contested election is a sign of organisational health.

Candidate Percentage
Anita Phillips 22%
Dr Brenda Clare 19.8%
Barbara Moerd 14.8%
Mark Wilder 14.2%
Vittorio Cintio 12.6%
Jeanne Lorraine 9%
Sarah Joy 7.5%

Voting system changed to favour incumbents and reduce the potential for diversity

Students of AASW politics will know that the in the 2015 elections the voting system was optional preferential. This enabled David Gould to win a Director position on preferences.

This year the Board changed the voting system to first past the post. (Optional preferential is widely considered to be the most democratic system, because it ensures fairness and diversity).  The four independents got 43.4% of the vote. It is very likely that one of the independents could and should have won the third position in a preferential voting system.

It is frankly disgraceful that the Board changed the voting system.

No debate or discussion between candidates- as usual

The election was conducted as usual with no debate or discussion between candidates. Some candidates answered questions in a couple of forums that were seen by a handful of members. Kudos to those all those members who took the time to ask questions of candidates.

Only a few hundred would have looked at the candidate statements on the web.

What were the candidates policies? And why do policies matter?

Boards have two main functions; Firstly making sure that everything that is done on behalf of members is legal, ethical, and efficient, and secondly driving the organisation in the right direction by ensuring that everything that is done helps to achieve the long term mission and vision.

And so a candidates policies ( what they would like the AASW to do) are a critical component of how will achieve its mission.

All candidates devoted considerable space to describing their professional background, qualifications, committees served on, interests and experience. Most outlined the vision they had for the AASW. Words like “strong voice”, active engagement, action on social justice, wholistic, equitable, evidence based, diverse representative, vibrant, responsive, excellence in professional practice, inclusivity, leadership, and collaborative all got a strong workout.

The incumbent Board members also wrote about their track record in increasing the membership, SWOT, building finances, constitutional changes, and strengthening the AASW voice on child protection. Part of their pitch was an appeal to continue the program of “reform” they had begun, but with little or no detail about what further work this might practically entail.

In analyzing the candidate statements, I have tried to infer as fairly as I could the policies of each candidate. To be considered a policy in my mind, the statement had to involve some specific future action, not just a declaration of what the candidate stands for. Below is a list, by candidate, of all the policies I could find.

Marie-Claire Cheron Sauer, elected National Vice President
  1.  Investing more in research and working with our academic colleagues to strengthen research expertise in social work
  2. Accrediting a larger range of specialist practice and post grad qualifications that support this
  3. Drive the strategic development of social policy working with social work experts in key policy areas
  4. Further develop innovative approaches for tapping into the expertise of members
  5. Further develop the profession’s policy profile
Maria Merle, defeated in the race for National Vice President
  1.  Committed to the campaign for the national registration of social workers
  2. Build membership to 15,000
  3. Increase range of flexible CPD options for rural and regional members
  4. More national symposiums and local branch events
  5. Strongly support the new student council
  6. Ensure membership fees remain affordable
  7. Pursue national registration
Anita Phillips, elected as Director, ranked 1st of 7 with 22% of the vote
  1.  The determined pursuit of registration
  2. Strong representation for rural social workers
Dr Brenda Clare, elected as Director, ranked 2nd of 7 with 19.8% of the vote
  1.  Continue the registration campaign
  2. Follow up on the changes required upon the completion of the ASWEAS review
Barbara Moerd, elected as Director, ranked 3rd of 7 with 14.8% of the vote
  1.  Bed down the strategies we have put in place (did not specify which strategies needed further work)
Mark Wilder, not elected, 4th in the Directors race with 14.2% of the vote
  1.  Pledge to cover the area of front line clinical practice and liaise with members and colleagues about these matters
Vittorio Cintio, not elected, 5th in the Directors race with 12.6% of the vote
  1. A personal AASW web page for every member who wishes to have one. Facebook/Linkedin type networking features would enable ease of communication between members across the country
  2. A national voluntary and comprehensive mentorship program available to all members
  3. Sharing power and responsibility with the Branches
  4. Build a longer term social justice agenda embedding our core commitments to equality of opportunity and social justice, in collaboration with trade unions, churches and consumer groups
  5. The creation of an umbrella group of counseling associations and non-registered professions to strengthen ethical self-regulation
  6. Working collaboratively with trade unions that cover our members to advocate for reasonable workloads and adequate supervision
  7. Negotiating with employers to enshrine the AASW Code of Ethics as the professional standard for our work
  8. Instigate a national summit of all stakeholders in social work education and social work employers to start collaboratively tackling issues of mutual concern
  9. Supporting a treaty with our first peoples
  10. Join the movement to divest from fossil fuels, and move AASW assets (bank accounts and super funds) into institutions that will invest our money ethically
Jeanne Lorraine, not elected, 6th in the Directors race with 9% of the vote
  1.  Advocate for registration of social work
  2. Partnerships with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people to ensure equitable outcomes for all
Sarah Joy, not elected, 7th in the Directors race with 7.5% of the vote
  1. Continue to grow our organisation
  2. Provide support and representation to the diverse practice groups that make up the AASW

 Next year?

Reading this list you might agree with me that policy is not necessarily a gamechanger in AASW elections!

it is worth noting that many candidates pledged their continuing support for the registration campaign. But readers of my blog would know better than most, that our representations to COAG are bound to fail, and it is only a matter of time until this will need to be acknowledged.

I await the day when the Board takes the members into its confidence and explains this.

The unfolding political scene of the next 12 months will be fascinating, both in our broader socio-economic fortunes and in AASW politics.

I will be standing for AASW Vice President in September 2017 and asking for your vote.


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