July 02, 2016

You can’t fire us; we quit! Whitehorse story continues

combination of each that resulted in disciplinary action.

Canterbury Caledonian will not be competing at the 2016 Australian Pipe Band Championships in October. The adjudicators for the event have not been announced.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, one member of City of Whitehorse said, “We believe that we were suspended for the comments that were made, about a judge that apparently can’t be identified in the photograph. At least that’s what [the PBA’s] latest statement says. We have requested the source of the photograph and we apologized for the fact that it had come out in the open, however, we never apologized for the comments as they were a private conversation. To be honest, this has turned into such a mess and [Pipe Bands Australia] has changed the ball that often we don’t really know what we’ve been suspended for.”

The Pipe Bands Australia statement of July 2, 2016, reads, “The post photograph did not identify a highly-respected and long-standing adjudicator mentioned in post comments. That the offending posts were on a Facebook page with increased privacy settings only compounded the seriousness of the breaches when the image entered the public domain.

City of Whitehorse competing at the 2016 Victorian Championships.

“The seriousness and disappointing actions of the five members included unacceptable vilification of a highly-respected and long-standing adjudicator and publication of false and misleading information as part of a social media post and commentary that breached the Member Protection Policy by engaging in cyberbullying and created a hostile environment bringing the association into disrepute.”

The four City of Whitehorse members so far officially suspended are P-M George Shepherd (48 months), L-D Olav Goud (24 months), Jamie Gibson (24 months) and Kirsty McLellan (24 months). The fate of a fifth City of Whitehorse member will be made “following completion of all processes.”

At the time of this story’s publication, Pipe Bands Australia President Chris Earl had not responded to the question of why the duration of the suspensions were doubled and his association’s opinion regarding City of Whitehorse’s line of reasoning that their players can’t be suspended if the band is no longer a member of the associations.

“The reason why I joined City of Whitehorse was because I believed there was room for a band that strives to set the same standards that are set in Scotland. George [Shepherd], Kirsty McLellan] and myself all have extensive playing experience in Scotland and wanted to build a band that could go over and compete at the highest level,” Goud said when asked about the matter. “In a very quick time frame the band has elevated to a standard that even surprised us. I am highly disappointed in the lack of support we have had from Pipe Bands Australia and especially the Victorian Pipe Band Association and, looking at how this matter has been dealt with, I’m happy to no longer be a member of either association. It appears that the APBA is now conducting a manhunt in relation to wanting to notify anybody and everybody in relation to these matters even though we are no longer members.”

In a post on the publicly-available City of Whitehorse Facebook page, the band republished various correspondences from Pipe Band Australia. The band also wrote, “We resigned before being terminated. An individual no longer a member cannot be suspended nor have sanctions enforced.

“This all points to incompetence, negligence, bias, and recklessness on their [Pipe Bands Australia’s] part.

“This will be the last statement offered. The matter will be followed up by legal council [sic].”

In essence, the band has stated a version of the old workplace adage of, “You can’t fire us, we quit!” maintaining that therefore no one can be officially suspended. It is to be seen whether another association will buy that reasoning if the band applies for membership elsewhere.

The situation once again brings into question several issues. First, the definition of acceptable free speech by members of pipe band associations regarding other association members, and, in particular, adjudicators. Second, whether commentary that is intended to be “private” between members of an association, whether on social media or other published platforms or verbally in places such as band halls and beer tents, is truly private. Third, whether it is acceptable for pipe band adjudicators to be seen wearing merchandise or articles of or complete uniforms of bands that they might judge. Fourth, whether it is acceptable for pipe band adjudicators to accept teaching or other support assignments with pipe bands that they might judge.

These issues are nothing new to the pipe band world, but have never been well defined or answered as to what constitutes permissible behaviour, particularly in rapidly changing times when technology makes dissemination of views and perceptions potentially far more widespread and uncontrollable.

With City of Whitehorse’s resignation from its local Victorian Highland Pipe Band Association and the umbrella Pipe Bands Australia organization, it effectively gave up its right to appeal, leaving the entire pipe band without membership to any association, which is necessary to be a contestant in virtually any competition governed by any pipe band association in the world.

The band had expressed its intention to compete at the 2017 World Pipe Band Championship in Glasgow.

Russell is also an inspector with the Victoria Police force. Russell served as the pipe-major of the Victoria Police Pipe Band, which won the 1998 World Championship but never returned to defend the title due to new stipulations put on the band by the force. The band is now for most purposes defunct.





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