The Way Forward

For those who haven’t yet read David Johnston’s article in the latest issue of the Holstein Journal, we’ve reproduced it here. It is long, but well worth a read. David, with support from Graeme Gillan, wrote the article to respond to the most commonly asked questions that he and the Association have received over the last few months concerning the proposed Governance changes.


With our 2016 AGM just around the corner, and State Branch and Sub-branch AGMs having taken place, Graeme Gillan and I have spent some time on the road talking with members about Holstein Australia’s proposed Governance changes.

It’s been a rewarding experience. What has made the biggest impression on us both is the passion our members have for the breed and for the Association. This coupled with the acknowledgement that there is a real need for change to make Holstein Australia more efficient and to provide more opportunities for members within the association.

We’ve also been listening, and whether it’s been at the Victorian Winter Fair in Bendigo, at one of the State AGMs or in one of the many communications you will have received, including the wonderful response to the Member Survey last year, we have also been able to address any concerns and engage with all our members in a consultative process that stretches all the way back to 2013.

This process will continue right up to September’s AGM and National Awards night in Albury. And as we have said at every meeting we’ve attended, members of the Board and executive are always available on the phone to answer any questions, or you can email us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

At the AGM, and via proxy in advance of the meeting, every member will have the opportunity to vote on whether to adopt the new structure or not.

Please keep an eye out for the voting information. This is your opportunity to have your say on the kind of Association you want us to be.

How will the new structure affect me?

While there is a very good understanding amongst members of the benefits that a flatter, leaner organisation with more focus on breed promotion and on their needs and interests will bring, most of the questions around the proposed changes have focused on ‘how will the changes look’, ‘what will be different’ and ‘how will I be affected’.

The key benefits to members will be:

  • Less administration with members able to put more energy into the breed and their own business.
  • Better access to information and direct access to Holstein Australia representatives via the new regional co-ordinators.
  • More opportunity for members to have their say, whether at a local level or at board level.
  • A skills based board geared towards member needs.
  • A simple and direct pathway from ‘grass roots’ level to board representation.
  • A more proactive Association delivering the services its members need more efficiently.

Detailed information about the proposed structure and governance is available on the Holstein Australia website, and also in the June-July 2016 edition of the Holstein Journal.  If you can’t access either of these, please get in touch with either Graeme or me.

What will the changes look like?

One of the key concerns expressed by members has been around the role and format of our Sub-branches. The simple answer is that there will be no change.

Sub-branches are very much the heart and soul of the Association, and where our community representation comes from. The changes will bring the sub-branches closer to the Board, and more able to take part in the Association’s decision-making processes.

Under the current structure the communication channel from Sub-branch to the Board involves going through State Branches, National Delegates and the National Advisory Council, which at its best can be a slow and cumbersome process.

Under the proposed structure, Sub-branches will be able to access the Board in one step, through regional representation on the new Strategic Directions Committee.  At the same time the new Regional Co-ordinators will support the work of the Sub-branches, promote the breed, and provide a direct link to the Chief Executive Officer.

To me this is one of the most important aspects of the proposed changes – a flatter, leaner structure which will enable the Association to focus more on its members, with increased opportunities for every member to have a real say in how we operate and the services we deliver.

The other important changes for members are:

The Strategic Directions Committee, with every region having an elected representative. The structure of this committee will ensure that issues that affect our members can be directly addressed by the Board in the shortest possible timeframe.

Its purpose is to assist the Board in strategy formulation, planning policy and the direction of the Association.

In addition to the regional representatives, up to five directly elected representatives from the membership and two Board members will sit on this committee.

There will also be changes to the Board; with an increased focus on ensuring it has access to the skills required by the Association and its members.

The number of Directors will be a minimum of five with a maximum of nine, with up to seven of these directly elected by members. A skills matrix to determine the best composition of the Board, plus the facility to appoint two Directors with special skills on an annual basis if required, will be the other big changes. The Board will be more representative of our membership, and more in touch with member needs at every level.

The move to Regions rather than State Branches is also an important one. To better represent member interests, a structure was required that better reflected the concentration of where our members live and work. At its most basic level, the new regional model should ensure that every member, wherever they are based, has the opportunity to have an equal say in how the Association is run, and on the member services it provides.

A thank you from me

On behalf of the Board and executive team, I would like to thank the many members who have taken an active role in this process, who have asked questions, and who have helped us work towards delivering what we firmly believe will be the Holstein Australia of the future.

It is worth remembering that this process began with a simple question direct to members at the 2013 National Delegates meeting in Busselton, WA – what kind of organisation do you want Holstein Australia to be?

I don’t think any of us realised the journey we were embarking on at the time. It has certainly been an interesting journey, with one of the biggest positives for me being that everyone had an opinion, and everyone has been given an opportunity to have their say. You have shown that Holstein Australia is an organisation that really matters to its members.

As an organisation we have listened, consulted and developed the structure that you have told us you want, and one that will deliver a better and more proactive organisation now and into the future.

Remember to take a look at the website and keep an eye on your email inbox over the next few weeks. As more member feedback filters back from the State AGMs and further governance questions come into Holstein Australia, we plan to feed this back directly to members so everyone can make an informed decision by the time of next month’s AGM.

David Johnston

Federal President