It’s no surprise that the system doesn’t want to fund us to organise and then come and tell them what they’re doing wrong.
If we want a strong, equitable, independent association for all mental health consumers, then we just have to do it ourselves.
There is a lot of work to do. Luckily, many consumers have worked over many years to get this project going (read more here) – and we are indebted to their hard work and vision. Let’s not waste it.
This page outlines the work that we think needs to be done so we can actually create an official, national consumer association. Tell us what you think in the forums: this space, and eventually the association, belongs to all of us.
Quick links to sections on this page:
1. We need to promote & grow
2. We need to decide our purpose and scope
3. Who can be a member?
4. Governance & legal matters
5. Money, money, money … how will we get it?
6. How will we make decisions?
7. We need volunteers to help out
- More diverse perspectives & better decisions
- More influence (we will be able to say things like “[INSERT NUMBER HERE] consumers want…’
- More people to chip in and help with ideas, volunteering or money – depending on what each person is able and willing to give
- We’ll start to make a difference for consumers who are feeling isolated and cut off – because right here, on every part of this website, will be a community of welcome for every single Australian consumer
How you can help promote us right now
So, this means that we all need to share and share and share links to this page. In every email, facebook group, twitter post and website that we possibly can.
Use these icons to promote us.
Download and use these icons, along with a link to us (http://consumersaustralia.org/), to promote the website. Feel free to use these images wherever you like. If you have ideas for more images or media that we can use, let us know in the volunteering and contributions forum.
We need to talk about it and encourage people to join.
Numbers will give us power.
2. Agree on our purpose
We need to agree on our purpose (what we want) and scope (what we do and what we don’t do). This all needs to be included in our association constitution. Join the Constitution Discussion Forum.
3. Agree on membership
Who can be a member, who can’t? What types of membership do we want? What is fair for different types of membership fees?
Join or start a conversation in the Membership Forum.
4. Agree on governance and legal matters
We need to agree on the ‘governance structures’ for the association, and the type of legal entity we will be. All of this will be covered in the constitution.
The previous project drafted a constitution that was widely agreed – but we will probably want to review and agree it with the subscribers to this site.
Join the Governance Forum if you have some ideas.
5. How will we pay for it?
Even if all of us volunteer our time, it will cost money to run a national association.
This website alone has already cost several hundred dollars to build. We’ll need several thousand dollars for insurance and legal fees and other start-up costs. Eventually, we’ll want to pay for consumer staff to work in this new organisation. We’ll start to need office space, and furniture and equipment.
Do we want to only be funded by consumer members, or what about other types of paying members (eg, associate, non-voting allies), or consumer organisations?
How independent do we want to be? Who will we accept donations or grants from? Who will we rule out (eg, we’re guessing that pharmaceutical companies would be a ‘no go zone’). Will we be transparent about who we take money from? How?
What about crowd funding? Or merchandising? Or making money from training, conferences or even consumer association accredited training (for a fee)?
How will we manage money until we are officially established? Who will do this? And should we start trying to raise it now?
Join the Financial Matters Forum to discuss.
6. We need to agree on how we will make decisions
We assume that as consumers we will want a democratic process. This would mean time for discussion and debate, followed by a vote. Or do we want to aim to reach consensus rather than go with a majority decision? Or do we want to nominate and vote for consumer representatives to make decisions on behalf of the larger group? Is it acceptable to vote on decisions on this website?
7. We need volunteers to chip in.
Creating our association will be a lot of work. We already know that no-one else will do it for us – nor should they. This website has been built with consumer volunteer time. For now, everything else will need to be done with volunteer time as well.
We will need people to volunteer for loads of things:
- To join online committees to review forums and propose decisions, or to get stuff done in the real (not online) world
- To moderate forums (we will need this ASAP)
- To write content for different parts of this site (we already need this)
- To promote the site and association with consumers – getting out to services everywhere with flyers
- To share any relevant specialist skills: graphic design, marketing, writing, proof reading, legal/corporate knowledge, financial skills, grant applications, corporate governance skills, web site skills, organisational management skills, consciousness raising and political action skills, advocacy skills … plus loads more
- To gather info from across Australia about consumer perspectives, initiatives, campaigns, local knowledge and info
There are forums on this site where we can discuss each of this areas, and voting polls for when we’re ready to make a decision together.
For now, if you can volunteer or contribute anything to help, please let us know in the Volunteering Forum.
The initial proposal is that, until we find a better way to make decisions, that the general principle on this site will be to raise issues in forums on this site so everyone has a chance to discuss them. Then we will create a poll in this part of the site so everyone can vote.
Our first poll should probably be to check that this process is OK with people, and to decide on what sort of democratic process we agree with for the votes.
By mid-November some sample polls will be loaded on this page for us to try out and discuss.
Where we’ve been: Past consumer work to establish a national consumer organisation. Let’s learn from what’s already been done.
Sick of reading and want to share your own views? Visit the Discussion Forums to join a conversation with other consumers, or start your own.
Please note you will need to register to be able to comment in forums.