My term on the Board will be up after this meeting so that this statement gives me an opportunity to reflect on my experiences on the Board and suggest to members what best direction they could take for the future.
Prior to election, my main work for the APS had been at the ‘grass roots’ level of chairing a local Branch and previously editing the Victorian newsletter. Although promised editorial freedom at the beginning, I quickly found that I was in fact subject to great pressure to conform to the National Office opinion. In retrospect, I should have realised that an organisation which finds a ‘Letters to the Editor’ column threatening is hardly going to encourage open dialogue between the Board and the larger body of members.
Modern technology means that this stifling of open debate is no longer possible unless the controlling group are willing to make, and follow through on, threats of legal action and ethics complaints against people who wish to speak their minds to their colleagues and to the Board.
Unfortunately, many members of the current Board see no problem with that course of action, though their politicisation of the complaints process has received some solid setbacks lately. Perhaps this will lead them to reconsider and acknowledge the rich potential of free communication, perhaps not.
Moving onto the Board as a Director I found that it was apparently quite satisfied with a state of ongoing conflict between the APS and the other smaller bodies which also represent psychologists. There appears to be no notion of conflict resolution or healing rifts. This is most unfortunate given the relatively static state of membership numbers – on the most generous interpretation. A less generous interpretation of the membership number situation is the fact that APS numbers are growing far more slowly than the size of the profession and there seem to be no plans to recognise this fact, let alone deal with it.
The APS is supposed to be a membership organisation and so it could be expected that they would represent the wishes of the majority of members – the 80% who are generalists. For the last 10 years, they have done nothing to rectify the situation where the generalists, shown to be as effective as the clinical psychologist group, are paid considerably less. To add insult to injury, generalists receive a lower rebate even when the work they do is identical to that of their higher paid colleagues.
There is no doubt that the two tier system is confusing for other professions and for government departments who are beginning to refuse to refer to the generalists at all. People who are paid a lower rate are, unfair as this, seen by others to be worth less and presumably less effective. Why would you refer to a less effective person? Members have advised the Board of this situation for years – far more freely now that they have a website where they can post uncensored expressions of opinion, but nothing has been done.
To my great surprise, having been the Secretary of another membership organisation, the APS Board apparently had no automatic system of acknowledging letters from members, let alone going on to reply to them in a timely fashion. The Board must be well aware of the annoyance and distress this causes to people who take the trouble to write in. This is partly because they know perfectly well that a representative body should have a system for prompt response and partly because they
The Agenda of the 51st AGM of the Society (2017) | Page 44 read the RAPS website and can see comments and posts from members complaining about being ignored and other matters. At least something has now been done to rectify this, but it’s a fairly
So now the Board, thanks to technology and the determination of a small group of members to exercise their democratic right of free speech, are faced with the fact that not all members agree with them. They cannot shut down debate and pretend that differences of opinion don’t exist. How have they reacted to this challenge? I would have to say ‘not very well’. There have been threats of legal action, Directors who have accepted invitations to attend meetings (of fully paid members
who want change) have been criticised publicly and the idea of mediation has been only reluctantly accepted. There seems to be no self awareness of the us/them social group process in which the majority of the Board is happy to engage.
It has been saddening for me to discover that qualified psychologists are quite surprised to learn that other people do not always agree with their views. I must say that the experience of the RAPS website and the receipt of some uncensored criticism is beginning to have a good effect and move the Board in the direction of greater member responsiveness. At the same time, this slow and small response is being achieved at great cost.
The fact is, dear colleagues, that you have a Board that is very set in its ways for a number of reasons. Some members have been there far too long and exert great influence to keep change to a minimum. The process of co-option of Directors means that the existing group selects like-minded people to sit around the table and agree with them – not healthy at all.
If you want to achieve a reasonable amount of change in a short time, then I strongly suggest that you vote to spill the entire Board. In this way a new Board can be elected which will represent members appropriately and respond to their wishes rather than trying to stifle debate and demonise those who disagree with them.
Dr F.C.L. Allen, PhD, MAPS,