ESTONIAN COMMUNITY AND CULTURE IN AUSTRALIA AT A TIPPING POINT

Kaili Ford and Mart Rampe 24. jaan. 2019

At the recent Annual General Meeting of the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia (AESL), it became clear that the Estonian Community in Australia was facing a real threat to its ongoing viability and future as a unique cultural entity. Individual organisations were generally reporting falling membership numbers, inadequate funding and declining volunteer participation.

The AESL was established in 1952 as the Australian Estonian community peak body, representing a number of independent and geographically dispersed Estonian-related organisations. Since its inception, the AESL has sought to serve as a unifying body to the diaspora, by coordinating activities of the representative organisations in the preservation and advancement of Estonian culture and heritage.

However, given the significant changes that the Estonian community demographic has experienced over the last decade or so, it is felt that AESL needs to adapt dramatically or "wither on the vine". To that extent, it was pleasing to note that a number of motions were adopted at the AGM to address these issues.

In the first instance, it was agreed that AESL should become an incorporated entity. This is recognition of the fact that the AESL needs to review its governance and operating structure through which to better serve the community. Principles of the new structure (or constitution) should be designed to inter-alia, facilitate:

Faster decision making Accelerated implementation of agreed motionsReduction in duplication of activities and services, andEconomies of scale.

This transformation plan is essential to revitalising the purpose and value the AESL brings to the Australian-Estonian community, and to extend the lifespan of our services for both our old and new-wave migrants and their families.

It was further agreed that a sub-committee (Tiiu Salasoo and Dr Juho Looveer elected) be established to oversee a process which would enable the above principles to be discussed and tabled with the objective of presenting the findings to an Extraordinary General Meeting of AESL member organisations on or before June 30th, 2019.

The following timeline of activities outlines the critical stages of the governance and operating structure review process.

31 March – Governance and operating structure proposals from AESL member organisations due

30 April – First draft of Proposal portfolio prepared by Committee and sent to member organisations

24 May – Member organisations to make final submission

31 May - Committee to recommend Final Proposal for AESL Constitution

30 June – AESL holds EGM to vote on Incorporation and related matters

We urge all members of the AESL to participate in this transformative process. To assist the various organisations with their deliberations, a Proposal Template will be made available. This template can be sourced from or the ERC website (www.erclimited.com.au). Please ensure that your submission and/or proposal is forwarded to Dr Juho Looveer at by 31 March, 2019.

Details regarding the proposed collaborative effort between AESL and ERC – which is an important element to this whole approach, can be found on the ERC's website – www.erclimited.com.au. These documents should be read in conjunction with the above proposal.

This is a definitive time for Estonian societies in Australia, and our future is both at risk and full of possibility. Get involved and have your say!

 

Kaili Ford and Mart Rampe

On behalf of the Estonian Relief Committee Limited – a member of the Council of Estonian Societies in Australia.