By Dean Mighell

This will be my farewell editorial as National President of the SSAA. I have not renominated for the position for many reasons, not the least of which is that I have started the Australian Remembrance Foundation (ARF). The purpose of this foundation is to build an Australian Visitor Centre on a battlefield of significance on the old Western Front. It also aims to fund research for missing soldiers of the First World War and to assist in locating them and restoring their identity and dignity. This will take a huge amount of volunteer time and time is of the essence as the centenary of WWI fast approaches.

Like many membership-based organisations, the SSAA faces many challenges. Shooting-related activities, no matter how lawful, will always be in our politicians’ sights. With 160,000 members and a great record over the decades, there is much to celebrate about being a SSAA member. The great achievements of the SSAA are mostly done by volunteers who devote much of their lives protecting and advancing shooters’ interests.

The SSAA’s strength is in looking after shooters who shoot competitions of all types. As a hunter, I am amazed at the level of work devoted to protecting sports and the right to participate in lawful events of so many different types both in Australia and internationally.

In my time as President, I am proud to have brokered negotiations with professional event managers that will see the SSAA SHOT Expo be a top-class event in Melbourne and Sydney. We have also ensured that the SHOT Expo will hit the road and be held in Perth (later this year) and Brisbane.

In my view, the SSAA’s greatest challenge is in its communications. We have much improvement to make to both modernise and focus our communications and reach a broader audience than we do currently. I had hoped we would have our own TV show on the digital network, teaching more than 500,000 Australians, as do other sports. The power this would give shooters, if done well, could be extraordinary. We are also trying to get members’ email addresses so we can communicate quickly and begin electronic campaigning as soon as an important issue arises.

In my previous editorials, I have looked to the work of the NRA and the way it communicates with members, non-members, industry, the public and the government. It’s not a matter of agreeing or not on the group’s policies. The NRA is an enormously effective organisation for its members. We should and can be as effective if we improve the way in which we do things, build on the professionalism of our paid staff and engage highly skilled management with top-level skills and leadership. It’s an investment we must make.

Perhaps I am impatient for change and it’s fair to say the current SSAA Board is conservative and cautious. They have done some wonderful work over such a long period and they are all long-term SSAA volunteers. My life has been in ‘fighting and campaigning’ organisations, however, and the current Board comes from a different background and is more conservative in my opinion.

The current SSAA National Senior Vice President Geoff Jones is a good man and he is also the SSAA Qld President. He is a devoted and effective State President with many years of experience on the SSAA National Board and he will ensure that we have stability and good governance of members’ funds if elected as President. I can say to members that the work we get out of State Presidents and Boards is amazing. SSAA members could never know the extent of unpaid hours and efforts they put in day in, day out.

Yes, we can improve and we must. We also need to look at what we do and how we can do it better, rather than being satisfied at where we are at. Good organisations look to improve, engage their members and show leadership.

I wish all members of the SSAA the very best. Please continue your support for the SSAA, have a say and demand to be heard.

Shoot straight.

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