Published: October 09, 2019

Australia looking at another leadership challenge

The contentious atmosphere that pervades much of Australian piping and drumming could go to another level after a slate of challengers has been nominated to run against incumbents at the annual general meeting of the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association on October 20.

Among the incumbents is embattled Pipe Bands Australia president Chris Earl, who also holds the position of vice chairman with the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association and Pipe Bands Victoria.

The nominated challengers to incumbents are Angus Beath (chairman/president), David Telford (vice-chairman/vice-president), Tim Calderan (secretary), Helen Dilks and Andrew Dye (assistant secretary), and Douglas McRae (treasurer).

The incumbents nominated for re-election are Tim McLeod (chairman/president), Chris Earl and Mick Ryan (vice-chairman/vice-president – two positions), Ross Connolly (secretary), Karen Wallace (assistant secretary), and Tim Bodey (treasurer).

The state of Victoria, whose largest city is Melbourne, has two associations: Pipe Bands Victoria and the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association. The same elected officials run both organizations. Pipe Bands Victoria is the name used to market both associations, and the Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association remains active as an administrative facility to support Pipe Bands Victoria. Pipe Bands Victoria runs contests and supports Pipe Bands Australia, the collective organization made up of elected officials from each state association.

The Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association, founded in 1924, has a self-generating income stream that was set up by members from the past. Its bylaws require that income is put back into bands to develop piping and drumming in Victoria.

Pipe Bands Australia weathered an embezzlement scandal in 2017 that reportedly involved AU$200,000 being stolen by a treasurer who was charged, found guilty and sentenced. The organization reportedly looked to its branches for loans to keep the collective solvent.

According to an insider who spoke on condition of anonymity, “The primary reason for two organizations is to ensure that Pipe Bands Australia does not get their hands on all the money. The Victoria Highland Pipe Band Association owns a building in Melbourne worth about $1-million and receives significant rent from it. If there was not a holding company (Victoria Highlands Pipe Band Association), Pipe Bands Australia have control over all the assets. New South Wales is the same. They have about $100k. The new group of people has been nominated to stand against the current group with a specific policy of what is best for the bands.”

The state of New South Wales, whose largest city is Sydney, also has two piping and drumming organizations, but with different executives.

If voted out of his position with the Victoria Highland Pipe Band Association, Earl would continue to be president of Pipe Bands Australia, even though the collective organization’s executive is supposed to comprise elected officials from each state association.

Earl, a former drum-major with a Grade 4 band, was elected to another two-year term as Pipe Bands Australia president in September, surviving a challenge by Ainsley Hart, an award-winning piper and long-serving executive with the New South Wales Pipe Band Association.

The election is conducted by snail mail, members of the organizations posting their ballots, which will be counted after the meeting.

According to a memo from Pipe Bands Victoria / Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association secretary Ross Connolly:

The current executive will make arrangements for the appointment of an independent external returning officer to prepare and conduct the postal ballot. Details and timelines will be provided once necessary agreements have been confirmed. VHPBA will be providing to the appointed returning officer all information necessary and desirous of the returning officer to conduct the ballot of members and for the use in that ballot only.

The annual general meeting of the VHPBA will proceed as notified and upon reaching that part of the meeting relating to the election of office-bearers, it will be necessary to adjourn the meeting to a later date in order that the prescribed timelines for a ballot are observed and with consideration to the logistics of conducting the ballot.

The leadership challenges come at a time of political unrest in Australia, which includes suspensions and allegations against officials and members for improper behaviour.

“There are constant threats of suspension on anybody commenting about anything on anything when it relates to Pipe Bands Australia or any [state associations],” the source said. “To be honest it is a real mess. A postal ballot to decide a committee in this day and age probably sums it up.”

Stay tuned to pipes|drums for more on this story as it develops.

 


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