Merger of WA Community Peak Bodies
31 October 2016 at 1:33 pm
Two community peak bodies in Western Australia have merged in what is seen as a first for the state.
The Association for Western Australian Community Resource Centres (AWACRC) voted unanimously at their recent AGM to merge with Linkwest, the peak body for Neighbourhood Centres (NCs) in WA.
The organisations said the idea of a merger was first considered more than two years ago, when Linkwest was approached by the board of the AWACRC, which operated as an unfunded peak body overseen by a volunteer board promoting community resource centres (CRCs).
“Staying in the same model was very early ruled out as an option, as delivery of services by an unfunded association is very limited,” chair of the AWACRC board Lee Steel said.
“It is dependent upon volunteers and the generosity of the CRCs they were employed by. Instead of being a reactive board, there was a clear need to be proactive. There is no doubt that merging with Linkwest would allow this to happen.”
Steel said, however, combining two memberships into one was not a decision taken lightly.
“It was the culmination of two years of board negotiations, member consultations and an extensive due diligence process undertaken by an external consultant who specialises in not-for-profit governance.”
Linkwest is a not-for-profit organisation largely funded by the WA Government’s local government department. It offers training and support workers in small community-managed, not-for-profit organisations. More than 70,000 Western Australians currently use these centres. Former premier of Western Australia Professor Carmen Lawrence is Linkwest’s official patron.
Linkwest CEO Jane Chilcott told Pro Bono Australia News: “While the synergies between the two memberships had been obvious from the start, both boards were well aware that the mention of a merger could raise concerns and uncertainty.
“We wanted to make absolutely sure that both neighbourhood centres and community resource centres would retain their identities and their voice, while taking advantage of all the benefits that come from combining.
“We are certain that this merger will achieve all that and more.”
Chilcott said each organisation, as a peak body, had forged strong reputations and networks in the communities in which they operate.
“What [AWACRC] brought was a very, very strong advocacy and lobbying voice throughout regional and remote Western Australia and a very strong identity,” she said.
“Our organisations are the local services that provide the stickiness and the relationships within communities and so really the advocacy we want is to raise the profile of our members… the importance of local solutions for local problems.
“There are a number of areas that we’re wanting to look at, such as the research that has come out recently on the Australia We Want. WA came out so badly in that, and as local services and local communities we feel that our members have a very important role to play in addressing those issues.
“What both boards were really passionate about, and what was why we chose each other, was because we wanted to make sure we represented those local services for the local communities rather than just merging with a larger organisation and becoming a small service within that.”
Chilcott said that another benefit for the merger was that by becoming part of Linkwest, their new members have access to a national body, the Australian Neighbourhood Houses and Centres Association (ANHCA) and therefore have a voice of a national policy level.
“Very few members have DGR or PBI status but through ANHCA they can have access to the ANHCA DGR fund, which means they can apply for philanthropic grants that they wouldn’t have been able to access otherwise.”
She said the merged organisation would remain known as Linkwest.
“We are staying as Linkwest as a peak organisation. We are well known in the WA NFP sector. We will do a little bit of rebranding but the name will stay the same. We have one board now and a number of their board members are now on the new Linkwest board.”