Constitutional Change for Reconciliation SA

On Tuesday 29 September 2020, Reconciliation SA held the first event at its new premises at Pitt Street Adelaide, in the form of a Special General Meeting, this meeting proposed a new Constitution for the organisation.

Reconciliation SA Board have been working hard for some time to look at how the 2011 Constitution was reflective of the work that is now being undertaken and asked of Reconciliation in 2020. With the assistance of Mr Kim Cheater, Partner and Co-Chair National Reconciliation Governance Committee, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the review was undertaken and a number of recommendations were made to contemporise this important document. In addition to the meeting being held on site, CoVid19 restrictions also called for the meeting to also be held live on-line via video conferencing.

Reconciliation SA Board Co-Chair Helen Connolly speaks about the process and this significant change:

Why did the Board ask members to adopt a new constitution for Reconciliation SA?

Over the past few years, the Reconciliation SA Board has embarked on a journey of modernising and professionalising the organisation.  This has included creating a new strategic directions plan, developing new sustainable sources of income, revamping operational practices, becoming more tech savvy and doing all we can to create a reconciliation movement in SA.

This has also required the Board to look at the way it does its work and identify any barriers to achieving our vision.  We identified that the Reconciliation SA Constitution was no longer facilitating or supporting our capacity to achieve our ambitious goals. We then embarked on a lengthy process of rethinking and rewriting the new Constitution supported by Greg Franks from the Board and Kim Cheater from PWC in a pro bono capacity.

What will the new constitution mean for Reconciliation SA and its work going forward?

The broad aim to modernise our governance arrangements included a capacity for a mix of elected and appointed Board members to bring together the best of both worlds, in terms of community connection and a skills mix.  We want to develop new membership opportunities to allow a range of groups and individuals to be part of the movement, rather than only those named in the Constitution.

We also wanted the principles that underpin our actions to be enshrined in our guiding documents in particular the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

What change/s are you most excited about and why?

The new Constitution will support us to achieve these endeavours.  We have had positive feedback already on the changes, particularly from people in regional SA who are keen to be part of our work.

I am looking forward to revamping our membership model more broadly and looking at really creating a movement of organisations and individuals united under a reconciliation banner.

Did you learn any lessons from the process of constitutional change?

The process of changing the old Constitution was not easy with 75% of all members needing to be present and 75% of those present voting in favour.   If not for COVID-19, and the capacity to move to an online meeting, it is unlikely to have ever achieved the changes, so as strange as it sounds COVID was good for this process.  The individual calls to members to explain the significance of the changes was also a massive effort.  This engagement was incredibly important.

The new constitution is the last major plank in our future proofing strategy, and I am excited about the next part of the Reconciliation SA journey.