Peter Jones looks at the associations issue.
It’s a very good question and one that has been discussed regularly but always dependent on one’s belief of what it expects from being a member. Key issues seem to dominate the discussion so in no particular order here is my understanding of what has transpired:
- Have the associations lobbied hard enough to stop the industry being shut down?
Not even the most popular person in Melbourne, Max Gawn the Premiership Captain, could stop border closures and lockdowns if he was to become a spokesperson for our industry.
You only have to look at two of the biggest national associations – Tourism and Restaurant & Catering, who have a lot more clout in the media yet still, have not been able to directly influence those state decisions. But that doesn’t mean they have not been successful in other ways.
Another key point is that both these associations were set up to be an advocacy group, whereas the likes of EEAA, MEA, Australian Festivals Association and many others were not. I think only BECA was originally designed as an industry advocacy group on a national level.
The only industry with a strong association that has kept going during the current lockdowns – albeit with a few hiccups – is construction, but that’s purely a reflection of its economic and political clout on a national level.
- What have they achieved over the last 18 months?
In my opinion a lot but it may not be as obvious if you were not directly involved, as much of it has been behind the scenes. They have all kept the many issues well and truly in the governments’ minds whether, it is on a national or state level, including:
- Member representation
- continued financial support
- a road to recovery
- ongoing industry comment and advice
- what the industry is doing to address a COVID world
This role is not going to be an automatic fix, but working collectively with government to address the key issues is of more long-term benefit.
- But I’m not represented by an industry association so what can I do?
The greater majority of the industry who are small operators are certainly not members of any organisation hence the emergence of groups that speak out for them. Right now, they have provided an outlet adding to the proliferation of messages in the market. Whether they are all here for the long-term and can provide ongoing benefits – only time will tell.
- Why are there so many industry organisations and can’t there just be one to represent us all?
By far the most asked question and it’s even been asked by the Victorian government itself. Is there one organisation we can speak to and exactly what is the events industry?
The answer is unfortunately no due to the fact that the events industry is so diverse, as others have also pointed out. How do you represent a public festival, weddings, trade exhibition, conferences or a local fete all who classify themselves as events? On top of that, throw in state vs national interests to add another level of complexity.
I don’t believe it is feasible for such an organisation to exist as a viable long-term option so it is really academic to keep raising it. However, I’m going to throw this one out for discussion:
- How about we ask each industry association take a new look at what its core role is and the benefits it is providing for members
- If advocacy in a COVID world is seen to be a major point for each then why not create a subgroup representing those who want to be involved simply for the one key objective and nothing else.
Can you imagine festivals, weddings, regional events, expos, public events and business events even coming together? It would be a pretty powerful group, and the key issues are national so it is not reliant on one state.
The COVID impact will dominate our events world for the foreseeable future, both on a national and state basis, so is this the opportunity to address that even if it’s temporary. Discussions with governments are not going away even when we reach say 90% vaccinated.
To do this it would mean some key industry leaders having a think about whether or not it was even viable or would achieve anything in a meaningful way.
This industry is full of great leaders so I don’t doubt for a minute that it wouldn’t be discussed somewhere.
Until four weeks ago I never thought Melbourne would win a Grand Final in my lifetime. It is amazing what can happen when you least expect it.