response: letter to A4 Convenor - 24/5/2009

Following is the response provided to Ms Evans' letter (see ...



Dear Ms Evans

Thank you for your input (24/5). I am sorry that I have taken so long to reply in detail.

If you choose to describe the A4 Steering Committee breakdown as a “lock out”, that is your choice. I disagree with your description.

As you say, A4 is not a “statutory entity”. This follows advice from Ms Judy Brewer Fisher and the deliberate decision of the Steering Committee. The basic reasons are given on the A4 website at I regard this as an issue for the membership ... and the membership up to this point has not been concerned over the issue.

A4 is never likely to be a 'peak body' in the sense that it is based on smaller ASD organisations. That is not its structure or purpose.

However, A4 is a lobby group that is recognised at the federal level by politicians and government agencies.

A4 is distinct from AABASD (formerly ACA). A4 does not comment on the functioning of AABASD. A4 had/has a relationship with the AABASD. A4's founders felt there was a need for an organisation like A4 as well as ACA/AABASD. Just as other feel there is a need for other national ASD organisations (see some of them on the A4 links page).

You ask “is A4 associated with the Advisory Board and was it acknowledged as such?” The Parliamentary Breakfast in 2008 involved the collaboration of A4 and the AABASD. Both organisations contributed funds and participated in the event. Mostly, AABASD has little to do with A4. 

The A4 Steering Committee kept its functioning confidential. This may have contributed to its difficulties. The members of the A4 Steering Committee were listed in each A4 Update. Many organisation have confidential operations ... including Federal Cabinet. I believe A4 is much more open about its decisions and actions than most organisations: significant effort has gone into keeping members informed.

A4 members have been informed of all developments beyond the confidential activities within the now defunct Steering Committee. Of course, A4 members are free to comment via letter to the Convenor (as you did), the newsletter or on the website.

You are entitled to your judgements about my conduct as Convenor ... and your various assumptions. Your comments show me that you do not know the issues and events that led to the breakdown of the A4 Steering Committee. I respect the confidentiality of the former Steering Committee ... and I see no value in detailing publicly the events that led to its demise. I believe the Steering Committee did a lot of good work and there is little to be gained and far too much to lose through making its less creditable moments public.

In its operation, the A4 Steering Committee tried to address challenges that made it different from most formal committees. Like A4 generally, the A4 Steering Committee ran over the internet ... A4 does not have the resources needed to conduct face-to-face meetings. It sought to accommodate people who said they had difficulty with formal meetings and face-to-face meetings. The A4 Steering Committee was not “located to be close to Canberra and the Government sources” (as you suggest): the record shows its members were distributed right around the country. And the conduct of the A4 Steering Committee was the business of its members ... not a concern of the A4 membership generally. 

So far A4 has been different to most organisations in how it addresses the range of views of its members. A4 represented multiple view of its membership to government, rather than the view of a membership or committee majority (though the member vote in June appears to reject such an approach ... and challenges this key principle of its founders).

I regard individual A4 members as capable of making their own decisions about the value to them of being a member .. and the value of A4 as an organisation. The choice is entirely yours.

As Convenor, and the parent of an older teenager with ASD, I am very aware that services for older teens and adults with an ASD are seriously deficient. I would prefer to be lobbying and advocating for and with our vulnerable citizen ... rather than tied up in the very difficult administration of an extremely challenging organisation.

A4 is interested in suggestions on how to achieve its goals. Its is keen to encourage member contribution. It seems to me that there is little value in criticism: A4 (like any volunteer organisation) needs members to get involved and make it function better. A4 needs volunteers who will take effective actions and lead others.

Bob Buckley,
A4 Convenor