As I put pen to paper, it is just two weeks to Christmas – phew, where has the year gone?
It seems that almost everything we have done over the past year has been over-shadowed by the Covid-19 cloud with ever-changing and confusing guidance and rules from governments. No clear path can be identified to allow effective planning for the future with on-again, off-again rules and restrictions. As we open our borders and move to ‘living with Covid’ (whatever that means) we will all need to make some decisions about how we might do that.
Clubs will need to devise and implement policies on how to best exercise their duty of care to members and the broader gliding community. Some clubs have simply said that unless you are fully vaccinated, you are not to enter the airfield precinct, while others, such as my own club, have decided that to use any part of the club facility a person must be fully vaccinated. It’s a pity we can’t convert the Covid stratus cloud to scattered cumulus at 10,000ft. Having said that, it is clearly evident that much of Australia is feeling the effects of La Niña with floods in the eastern states and much lower than normal temperatures in other areas.
I don’t mean to sound pessimistic, but we do need to recognise and deal with any challenge that we encounter. Humans are generally a resilient lot and glider pilots are particularly good at dealing with challenging conditions. The weather will improve, and we will get on top of Covid.
Part 149 and constitutional review
Apart from business-as-usual, Board members have invested a lot of additional time in preparation for our move to becoming a Part 149 accredited ASAO. It is fortunate that CASA has extended the fee-free period for submission of our Exposition as it means we will be able to fine tune our documentation, but that doesn’t mean we can now take it easy – we still have a lot of work to do, and we need to keep focussed on this important initiative.
We plan to consult directly with members to outline the scope of work being done and the associated changes that are being proposed to the Articles of Association towards the end of March or during April next year. The good news is that, once accepted, these changes will have little direct impact on our members who just want to go gliding.
Gliding Australia’s Strategic Plan
I expect most members are now aware that we have a new look Strategic Plan. Many of the concepts are not new and will be very familiar to most, but the presentation is quite different, and many of the initiatives developed during the S2F program are now incorporated as part of our normal activities.
As with any plan, the committed involvement and support of stakeholders is paramount if we expect to see measurable, positive results. Each section of the plan identifies the various stakeholder groups that should drive that section. These are members, clubs, regions and of course the Gliding Australia Board. It is not a difficult document to read and I would encourage all members to spare a few minutes to have a look at the plan and question how they might personally support the initiatives along with their respective clubs and regions. The Strategic Plan is easily accessed, as you will find it on the front page of the Gliding Australia website – here is the link: https://glidingaustralia.org/strategic-plan/.
WWGC Australian Team Appeal
The issues associated with the Lake Keepit WWGC are once again uppermost in many people’s minds. The fine women who flew so well and who were denied recognition, have been most affected by adverse findings. After an extremely long-winded process the FAI has ruled against the Australian team’s appeal and in fact has upgraded the original penalty to disqualify the team. I think it is important that members are updated on the Board’s current position.
Following the competition in early 2020 the Gliding Australia Board appointed an investigator to examine the circumstances around the penalty applied against the team and to make recommendations to the Board for further action. Everyone has access to those findings and the Board’s general acceptance of the report. The team decided to lodge an appeal, but as the Board had decided not to support such an appeal, it was lodged directly through the Air Sports Australia Confederation (ASAC), which is the GFA’s and its members’ link to the FAI.
Throughout the appeal process, there have been serious concerns from both the team and ASAC regarding the way in which the appeal has been handled, with the appeal processes being questioned. In August this year the team approached the Board and requested financial support, should the team lose its appeal, to mount a final appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport (ICAS). The Board considered the matter and decided that it would not provide financial support to the team for defence of an applied penalty.
However, the Board was satisfied that there were inadequacies in the appeal process. The Board is strongly of the view that any GFA member has a right to be treated in a manner that ensures procedural fairness and should be supported in that quest, and hence made the following determination: The GFA Board believes there is prima facie evidence that the FAI’s handling of the Australian WWGC team appeal is flawed. Should the team fail to win their current appeal to the FAI, the GFA will provide $5,000 to the team to assist with legal costs in mounting an appeal to the International Court of Arbitration for Sport to ensure the team has been treated according to the principles of procedural fairness.
The issues associated with the WWGC have created vastly polarised opinions and I understand the Board’s decision may be considered controversial and will further aggravate some people. Comments in various magazines, social media, emails and forums have contained differing accounts, opinions, conjecture and blame.
Members should understand that the Board has acted not to defend the charges against the team per se, but rather to defend the team’s right to have their appeal conducted in a manner that will ensure it has been considered in a just and fair manner. Whether you support the penalty that has been applied against the team or not, I would like to think that we would all defend a person’s right to have their day in court. Giving our members and pilot representatives a fair go is important, for something that affects their reputation and well-being.
It is my understanding that once the team has lodged its appeal with ICAS, a final decision will be handed down within 6 months.
On closing I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year with lots of fantastic gliding adventures.
Fly safe and be kind to each other.