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HEA Newsletter: FACT OR PROPAGANDA?
Members rely on their newsletter to inform them about their association but unfortunately SPIN is all they’re getting since the association was taken over by a group of disgruntled members.
How those disgruntled members came to be the 2019 committee is questionable: and that’s what this article wants to explore in addition to some of the other important questions members are asking that are going unanswered.
Having had their claims to be the legitimate committee rejected by the NSW Office of Fair Trading, this group supported joining the HEA in a legal action in the NSW Supreme Court against 2017 committee members and office administration staff. This action also failed: in mediation a settlement was reached that allowed for a special general meeting to enable the election of a new committee for the association.
Unfortunately, an unprecedented 600 members walked away from the HEA over 2018, leaving a volunteer vacuum. Threatened with being joined to the 2018 Supreme Court action, many members - would be volunteers - quit or let their membership lapse.
A volunteer vacuum that saw the failed self-appointed, so-called ‘interim committee’ stand for and be elected at the SGM. Here’s another inconvenient question not yet answered: how come conflicts of interest, required by law, were not declared to the membership by nominees before or during that SGM?
And how is it possible that someone who had just taken the HEA to court and sued it became its next president?
The newly elected 2019 committee wasted no time in proposing an extraordinary meeting be held at which they asked members to pass a special resolution to do what the NSW Supreme Court and NSW Office of Fair Trading did not: RETROSPECTIVELY recognise the members' meeting held without legal notice on 5 May 2018 as the 2018 AGM, thus endorsing the ‘interim committee’ as the 2018 committee. Members were asked to set aside - IGNORE - Rule 54 of the Constitution to enable this to happen. The motion failed.
This is three times this group of people have had their claims to represent the members as a committee denied - first by the Office of Fair Trading, then by the NSW Supreme Court and finally by HEA members. Sadly however, they are indeed the current committee, and this is the history they wish to bury with their ongoing spin.
Another question yet unresolved and largely ignored is why a WA member, long known for his involvement, support and advocacy for home education, well respected internationally for his representation of Australian home education, was dumped from the committee soon after his election at that SGM? Why did the committee change meeting times such that it made it difficult for this WA committee member to attend, knowing he had work commitments? And why did they refuse to acknowledge his apologies for not being able to attend those meetings, using that as an excuse to expel him from the committee?
Why are members being refused access to send a copy of that petition to all current members? Why are members being threatened with disciplinary action for promoting a petition? Why are they being threatened with being expelled from the association for circulating it in home educating groups? Previous petitions from members have been circulated in this way, without penalty. Why the sudden change in protocol?
Why is the 2019 committee working so hard to shut down dissent by members? Why is it censoring comments by members on its Facebook page?
How many members who disagree with the actions of their committee have had their renewal subscription refunded, in effect been expelled from the association?
The committee recently instigated a social media policy that forbids members to discuss on social media platforms - as private citizens in a private capacity - anything that ‘brings the Association into disrepute or which could lower the esteem of another HEA member in the view of the public or other members’. It is ironic, but understandable, that this particular group of people would seek to shut this gate after having widely abused this privilege through their HEA Unite! Facebook group, a group that encouraged members to defame other members, past committee members and non-members.
Reading through their latest newsletter with its new ‘Committee News’ feature it definitely looks like the 2019 committee are in damage control, desperate to save face and spin their way out of answering awkward questions posted by members and concerned home educators.
The committee newsletter states the HEA has “not spent thousands of dollars on legal bills”. What it doesn’t say is how much the failed NCAT action is likely to cost the HEA membership once the matter is finally settled in a few weeks’ time. Having relied on pro bono legal advice regarding this matter, the HEA may well be left with an expensive cost settlement to the other party.
And the committee newsletter doesn’t reveal how much money has been spent on flights and other travel expenses, accommodation and meals for members attending the NCAT hearings, or if it cost anything to file an application for the matter to be heard. Until the minutes were removed from the HEA website members at least had access to examine these costs. Why have the minutes, after being available for most of last year, suddenly been withdrawn from the website?
And while on the subject of this recent litigation, why was a petition sent to the committee in December calling for cessation of the NCAT action, and which included signatures from 5% of the membership, rejected?
And where are the motions minuted that authorise the committee to engage Northfield Lawyers to provide legal advice to the HEA, pro bono or otherwise?
Who in the HEA, representing the membership, gave authority to Northfield Lawyers to join the HEA as a Plaintiff 1 in a failed action in the NSW Supreme Court in July 2018?
Who in the HEA, representing the membership, gave authority for that lawyer to switch the HEA from Plaintiff 1 to Defendant 5 in October 2018?
How much money did this lawyer make from working on that case, and how much did the case cost, and who paid for that?
These are questions members have asked that have not been adequately addressed or answered.
The 2019 committee is keen to leave some questions unanswered as well as motivations for past decisions unexamined, choosing to instead paint a rosy picture of the association moving forward. Members deserve answers to questions relating to the past and present governance of their association.
It has been reported that the HEA is currently engaging in a promotion and membership drive ahead of the next AGM, with committee and subcommittee members requesting to join local and regional online groups, particularly in the eastern states.
And why has the committee chosen to hold its next AGM in Brisbane? The entire committee needs to travel to Brisbane: this will necessarily involve yet more flights, accommodation and meals for these already well travelled volunteers. Surely Sydney would be a more obvious and cheaper choice given that 2 committee members live within the greater Sydney metropolitan area and 1 lives in the ACT, only three hours away by car?
Could it be because the committee wants to avoid the considerable groundswell of opposition demonstrated by members living in the Sydney area at the extraordinary meeting held in Sydney in June last year? Is Brisbane a more strategic place to hold the AGM because the committee knows that they will not have to face disagreement from those attending in person? Is it a strategy designed to shield them members’ questions and outrage?
In May 2018 the HEA had over 1300 members. Members have asked but are not being told how many there are now. That question is going unanswered. Why? Why can’t members know how many people are currently in the HEA?
A 600 drop in membership during 2018 represents a loss of over $30,000 in revenue.
Given this sudden drop in revenue, why did the 2019 committee feel financially confident to join the HEA in further legal action?
And talking about finances: why were the outstanding liabilities relating to unpaid wages of office administrative staff not declared on statements required by NSW Office of Fair Trading?
And while on the subject of those unpaid wages, why did the office administrative staff receive only a part payment each, and under what circumstances was these part payments paid? How come it took almost a year for these outstanding debts to be partially repaid? And when will the rest of the outstanding amounts be paid?
And why is this matter being reported in the newsletter as being finalised, as though all outstanding invoices from the office administrative staff have been fully paid?
It’s not only the committee newsletter but the website too where spin and misinformation continues to occur.
Why is one person listed on the website as being on the 2018 HEA committee when there was no AGM held that year, no committee elected? The court-mediated settlement which restored the membership of two expelled members does not mention an agreement stating that previously held committee positions would also be restored.
If you’ve made it this far you’ll agree that this is a lot of unanswered questions! But if you are reading the HEA committee newsletter you’ll think that everything is hunkydory and getting back on track and there’s “nothing to see here, move along now.”
Until the 2019 committee together with the three plaintiffs from the 2018 Supreme Court case unreservedly apologise for causing unnecessary harm and stress to the four homeschooling mums wrongly sued, and until these questions are honestly answered WITHOUT THE SPIN, the credibility of the Home Education Association will continue to hang under a cloud.
Share this with an HEA member: their fellow members are being blocked from sharing these questions and concerns by the 2019 committee for fear of sanction by the committee.
Some background information on the disruption that has occured within the Home Education Association in recent years:
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Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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We began educating our children in 1985, when our eldest was five. In truth, we had helped them learn what they need to learn since they were born. I am a passionate advocate of allowing children to learn unhindered by unnecessary stress and competition, meeting developmental needs in ways that suit their individual learning styles and preferences. Ours was a homeschooling, unschooling and natural learning family! There are hundreds of articles on this site to help you build confidence as a home educating family. We hope that your home educating adventure is as satisfying as ours was! Beverley Paine
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