From the President

Browse through this blog for the latest updates from the club president, including the monthly President's Report. 

As always, feel welcome to leave a comment on anything that grabs your attention.
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  • 29 Jul 2009 10:46 PM | Chris Betcher
    A quick look at the events calendar reveals a whole lot of exciting things coming up for the club.  As well as the regular Monthly Mixers and Wine Nights , there is also the upcoming Mudgee Wine and Food Festival, the Possible Worlds Canadian Film Festival, and of course the annual Thanksgiving Dinner.  Plenty to keep you busy.  And of course, as time rolls on and these events come to pass, there will undoubtedly be more events to take their place.

    It does make me wonder about a couple of things though.  

    The first is how we manage to get nearly 80 people coming out to join us for our recent Canada Day party, yet the attendance for most other events is, well, not quite so impressive.  In the last few months I’ve seen the club run picnics, hockey games, fun runs and restaurant nights, most of which attract only a small handful of club members.  And I ask myself why?  Is it just apathy? Are we not running the sorts of events that people want?  Is it just a busy time of year?  There has to be some reason why so many events attract a relatively small number of members.  Or maybe that’s “just the way it is”, and I shouldn’t let it bother me.  Maybe I should be thankful for the small minority of people who turn up to club events, and not worry so much about the majority who don’t.  At the end of the day, the people who are active and involved and come to things are the ones who benefit from their club membership.

    The second thing that strikes me is the fact that the events we do offer seem to be run by the same people all the time. If this core group of people didn’t volunteer to run or host events, I wonder if others would step up to fill the void?  Or would our events calendar just dry up?  I’ve written before about the idea that clubs are made up of members and those members are the ones that run the club.  If members don’t make things happen, then nothing happens.  Simple as that.  

    I’m glad that so many of our members see the value in belonging to the club in order to attend Canada Day and Thanksgiving once a year, I just think how much more vibrant our club could be if more people got involved in more things more often.  Just a thought.  To those club members who do get involved in club events, well done.  You truly are the lifeblood of the club.

    I’d like to welcome Chris Warrick to the role of Treasurer as he replaces Kim Preminger.  Kim is one of those valued members who has been involved in almost every aspect of the club, who helps organise and turns up to just about every club event.  Kim is a great example of the type of person who helps make clubs like ours function, but she feels like she needs to take a break from the committee for a while.  

    Other committee members who need to step down from the committee for various reasons include our Membership Officers Tom and Lou Ikeda. Tom and Lou have been doing a great job with managing the membership database, but for a number of reasons are unable to continue with that job right now.  Past website manager Lenora Carney has expressed interest in the role and I will be helping her transition into that role over the next few weeks.

    I also want to offer my thanks to Taran Cunningham, who again for personal reasons needs to step down from her role as Club Councillor. Thanks Taran for your work on the committee this year.

    And finally, we farewell Amine Ahmed-Chaouch, also a Club Councillor.  Amine has resigned from his job here in Sydney with the intention of returning to Canada briefly before taking up a new role in Thailand.  From the moment Amine joined the club he got totally involved in things, taking a committee role from his first contact with the club, and making the effort to run or assist with numerous club events.  And of course, who could forget Amine dressing up as a Mountie at our recent Canada Day party. I’m sure his contributions will be missed but I know he will have a great adventure in front of him in Thailand.

    My sincere thanks to all those people who help our club function on a day to day basis… you guys really are the reason we even have a club.

    See you on an event sometime soon!

  • 30 Jun 2009 10:20 PM | Chris Betcher
    Wow, what a great party we had on Sunday June 28 to celebrate Canada Day 2009.  Over 70 members and friends of the club gathered together on the graceful old Manly ferry, the South Steyne (now a floating restaurant moored in Darling Harbour) and enjoyed a fabulous afternoon of sunshine, fine food and great conversation. 

    It was really encouraging to have so many of our Canadian Australian Club members attend the celebration. For some, this is the one big club event they attend each year, for others it was one of the many events they regularly take part in.  We even had complete strangers - Canadians of course - wander into the party after seeing the Canadian flag hanging from the gangway of the boat!

    A huge thank you needs to go out to those who made the day happen.  The organising committee of Amine Ahmed-Chaouch, Kim Preminger and Pam Trudel did a great job of coordinating the event - from planning the day, booking the venue, making the arrangements for food, prizes, decorations and so on. These days don't just happen - they take lots of organising and planning.  Amine, Kim and Pam were ably assisted by other members, in particular Brenda, Val, Alex, Laura Mae, Suzanne and Linda (hope I haven't left anyone out - my apologies if I have!)

    One interesting aspect of the day was the number of new faces.  We had quite a few people join the club in the days leading up to Canada Day, due partly to a number of personal invitations from existing members to their Canadian friends, and partly due to Linda's terrific promotional efforts via Facebook.  It just goes to show how much we could grow this club if we really got serious about it.  Many of us work or socialise with other Canadians... have you told them about the club?  Online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter also offer plenty of potential for connecting with Canadian living in Sydney, we just need to tap into their power. The real lesson is that we need to keep finding new ways to grow and evolve the club onto bigger and better things.  The more people we can attract to the club, the more interesting and diverse the club becomes, in turn making it easier to run lots of great events.

    Finally, speaking of events, have a think about what you could do to host an event.  Perhaps you could host a restaurant night or a wine night? How about organising an outdoor event, a bushwalk, a barbeque, a picnic?  Maybe something sporty? Something active?  And what about something kid friendly?  I think last Sunday was proof that that there are plenty of families with young kids in our club, and we need to cater for these folk too.

    These events don't just happen by accident.  If you offer to run something, we can list it on the Coming Events page of the website and find people to join you.  Don't be shy!

    Anyway, thanks to everyone for coming along last Sunday and, again, happy birthday Canada!

    Chris Betcher
  • 24 May 2009 11:31 PM | Chris Betcher
    Clubs are an interesting phenomena. They are filled with people who come together for reasons that are often, when you stop and think about it, based on quite thin threads.  For example, in our club we all come from different professions, situations, ages and worldviews, but the thing we have in common is Canada, a country that lies 15,000 kms away. Whether we grew up there, lived there at some point, or simply just think it's a nice place, it's this thin thread of liking Canada that brings us together. In other clubs it might be people who have a common interest in the same music, or the same type of cars, or hiking or cooking or stamp collecting. The interesting thing about clubs is that although we sometimes start out by having an interest in something quite narrow, we can end up making friendships that extend way beyond the thin threads we started with.

    As you look at any club and the variety of different individuals within them, one of the things that we need to remember is that they all operate on the goodwill and efforts of the members within them. Although we have a committee to help keep our club ticking along from month to month, we need to keep in mind that the real heart and soul of any club is the active involvement of all members. It's easy to fall into "they" thinking - "they" should do this, or "they" should do that - but the simple truth is that there really isn't a "they", only an "us". 

    Our club is only as good as the involvement and contributions of our members.  If people get involved, run and attend events and volunteer to make things happen, then events will be run and attended and things will happen.  If we all sit about waiting until "they" do something, then nothing will happen, since there really is no "they", only "us".

    So I have two challenges for you this month.  I hope you decide to take me up on one (or both) of them...

    First challenge is this.  Get more involved in the club.  That might mean you make an extra effort to attend an event, maybe come to the monthly mixer or to one of the other upcoming events like the harbour walk or spectating at the ice hockey.  It might also mean you offer to organise and run an event, maybe hosting a wine night or organising a trip to a show, a restaurant or a gallery.  You might like to do a walk or a bike ride or a trip to the movies and invite other club members to join you.  Running an event is surprisingly easy... all you need to do is decide you want to do something that you find interesting and then let us know so we can put it in the events calendar and help find you some people to share it with.  You want to have a picnic or go hiking or try indoor rockclimbing? Don't do it alone... why not run it as a club event and make some new friends along the way?

    The second challenge is this.  Let's grow this club. In the next 30 days, try to find one other person who you think would be interested in making new friends or being part of a club like this.  It might be another Canadian you know, maybe someone you work with or a friend of a friend. Tell them about our club.  Invite them along to an event.  Bring them on the harbour walk with you, or to the monthly drinks at Quay West or to the hockey. Invite them to celebrate Canada Day with us. If we all did this one simple thing, our club would grow stronger and even more diverse, and that's a good thing.

    So get involved. Pitch in. Take an active role in your club.  Because it really is YOUR club.

    See you on an event soon!

  • 25 Apr 2009 10:59 AM | Chris Betcher
    One of the things that really seems to come as a surprise to Canadians when they move to Australia is how our seasons just kind of blur from one to the next. It's now May, and although the weather is starting to cool down a little, it's nothing at all like Canada.  When I lived there, I was really struck both by how dramatically the seasons change, and how predictably it happens.  You can know, almost to the day, when the leaves will fall, or snow will begin.  It's nice to actually have four distinct seasons.  Although most Canadians I met sounded envious of our Australian weather, there is something to be said for a distinct change of seasons.

    Speaking of distinct changes, there have been quite a few of them happening in our club over the last couple of months.  Hopefully you've been noticing some of them, and we think they will help us grow the club into the future.

    The most obvious one is the new website. As a member, we hope you've had a chance to visit the new site, log in and have a look around, and that you like what you see.  We've tried to build on the good stuff that was in the old site, adding some extra interactive features that make it more functional and making it easy to navigate your way around. The feedback we've received has been really positive so far, but we'd like to hear your opinions too.  The site will continue to change and evolve over time, adding more pages and information.

    But the website you see as a member is just the surface... The real changes have been behind the scenes, where most members never see. A better membership database is now in place, and many tedious (and sometimes error-prone) processes are now fully automated to make it much easier to manage. We are trying to move as many manual processes as possible to be part of an automated workflow, requiring minimal intervention. 

    Take the process of joining the club for example. Potential members can now click a button on the website, fill in an application form, add their payment information and join online. The system will automatically track their membership application, send a welcome email, process their payment, confirm with an emailed receipt and activate their membership, all in about 4 minutes from start to finish. This process used to take anything up to 4 weeks to do previously. Removing the friction from joining the club has seen an increase in the number of people joining, with 11 new members joining the club this month... and we haven't even started promoting it yet!  These are just folk who wander onto the website from a Google search and join because its easy to do so.

    Similar improvements have been made to the process of renewing your existing memberships, registering for club events, voicing an opinion through the online discussion forums, and so on. The biggest change has really been to make the site more member-focused so that it becomes the place to go when you need to know what's happening.

    The list of upcoming events is growing, with members offering to run or host activities like wine nights, theatre visits, and social days out. If you spot an event you'd like to attend, just click the Register button to create an RSVP.

    These changes, where we integrate the use of the Web more into our daily operations, are the way the world is heading. If you look around, you see every organisation moving their operations online.  Travel agents, banks, retail stores, schools and universities... the list goes on. To thrive in this day and age requires the ability to provide a functional and effective online presence.

    One of the other questions to emerge from all this is the need to publish paper copies of our newsletter. In an age where publishing online is essentially free, it no longer makes economic or idealogical sense to publish and send paper magazines. This is an issue being faced by every newspaper and magazine publisher in the world these days, and many of them are facing some desperate times ahead. Printed publications are in the business of disseminating information, but when that information can be provided using other means at virtually no cost, their very existence must be questioned.

    We face this same issue. The costs - both in terms of dollars and human resources - to produce, print and distribute paper copies of the club newsletter just can't be justified in an age where the Web and email can do it all faster, easier and cheaper.  To this end, the committee make a decision that we will no longer  distribute printed club newsletters via mail.  Instead, the newsletter will be available online on the club's website in freely downloadable PDF format, and an email will be sent to all members each month with a link to the download.  The newsletter will be stored in the members section of the site, so a login will be required to access it.

    There may be a couple of members that are inconvenienced by this change, and we're sorry if that's the case. We are looking at ways of trying to assist those members.  But for the vast majority of the membership, we believe that these changes will make things better and easier.

    As always, your feedback is invited through the club forums.

    Till next month, see you on an event!

  • 30 Mar 2009 11:37 PM | Chris Betcher
    The club has had a presence on the web for a number of years now and this has been a wonderful way to spread the message that we exist, providing a place where members can access important information. However, like all things, technology evolves and there are now new ways to build and maintain a website while automating many of the tedious backend processes. I’d like to thank Lenora for all her hard work with the previous website and her assistance while we transition to the new one.

    The new site is based on web 2.0 technologies and is specifically designed to meet the needs of associations and clubs just like ours. In particular, the new site aims to promote conversation, sharing and social connections. There is also a great deal of power “under the hood” with sophisticated membership management tools, automated email workflow and so on. The end result will be a much improved and simplified website experience for all our members.

    A growing number of our members expect to be able to transact and interact with the club electronically through an interactive and functional site. Now they can.
  • 24 Feb 2009 11:10 PM | Chris Betcher
     Hello everyone! It gives me great pleasure to announce we have a NEW president – Chris Betcher! Thanks very much to Chris for stepping up into this role, and even though he’s our current Website manager, he has volunteered to do this in addition to his role.

    I have enjoyed my past year, and will continue to be a part of the executive committee as a councillor – thanks again to everyone on the committee who helped make last year another successful one, and to all of YOU for attending the events!

    And now, a few words from our new president...


    Thanks Pam...

    From what I've heard, it's been a while since an Australian has taken on the role of being president of the Canadian Australian club, so I hope I can live up to the high standard set by those who have done the job in the past.

    For those that don't know me, I've lived in Sydney most of my life, except for a year when I lived in Oakville, Ontario on a teaching exchange.  It was during that time (well, just before I left to return to Australia actually) that I met a lovely Canadian girl by the name of Linda and, long story short, we both now live here in Australia.  So in our house, we have an Aussie who feels like Canada is a second home, and a Canuck who often feels the pangs of homesickness for life north of the 39th parallel.  I think these things give us a pretty good insight into why people would want to belong to a club like ours.

    Linda and I have only been members of the club for a relatively short time, but we've tried to be as involved in club activities as we can.  I've been an active member of a number of other clubs over the years and I know from experience that when it comes to clubs, you only get out of them what you put in.

    There are a couple of goals for the club that I hope we can achieve over the next year or so...

    Firstly, I'd like to work with the rest of the club, both the executive committee and the regular members, to streamline a few processes and procedures to make the club run more smoothly.  I'm sure when we join organisations like this, we do it to meet new people, do interesting activities, and have some fun.  All clubs need people to to keep them running, and that's why we have a committee, to do just that.

    Running the club, from an administrative perspective, should not be an onerous job.  So one of the goals we should set is to build an easy to use, efficient system that makes sense to the people who need to use it so we can keep the club growing.  To this end, we need to reinvent a few things... the way we manage membership, the way we manage email and the website, the way we run the back-end financial processes that our club needs.  I've spent the last few weeks looking at just how things work and I think we can do it better, easier and more efficiently.

    The club has a good website thanks to the great work of Lenora in the past.  As we move forward, one of the things we need to think about is a website that will not need someone with special talents like Lenora to keep running.  I think our website has the potential to be a really central tool for the club to stay informed and manage our own data.  At the moment, it takes too many people working too hard to keep all the wheels turning.  I'd like to work with the club to create a new website that will centralise and automate many of our processes, simplify the way we manage membership and our data, all in one central place.  I believe the flow-on effects of doing this will be really substantial.

    The second thing I hope we can achieve is to attract some new members to the club whilst keeping our long term members happy too.  I think we do this by having plenty of interesting club events, getting good deals and benefits for club members, maintaining good links between Canada and Australia, and giving people what they want from a social club such as this.  Canadians have a lot in common with Australians, and that's part of the reason our club exists.  We want to make sure that those who have just arrived in Australia have a place to feel at home, and those who have been here for a while still have a place to reconnect with their Canadian roots.

    So there's lots to do, and plenty of fun to be had while we're doing it.  It will take a bit of work, but the challenge is to maintain all the great traditions and stories that exist in a club with a 40 year history, while also looking to reinvent a few things in order to remain relevant in the 21st century. As we do this, your suggestions and ideas are always welcome and will play an important role of helping us move forward.

    Till next month,


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