About Your Constitution

by Allan Haggerty

Following changes to Associations Incorporation legislation and Regulations last year, many U3As are updating their current Constitutions to comply with the changes. The changes generally provide more flexibility for smaller incorporated associations, enabling such matters as postal voting, simplifying accounting procedures, and clarifying committee roles and responsibilities. A new Model Constitution has been prepared, which can be adapted to any organisation’s needs. This does not automatically mean that U3As must update their Constitutions – the law provides that some of the legislative changes will be automatically be deemed to be incorporated, while other changes can be adopted or ignored. However, as many older groups have made amendments to their Constitutions over the years, it is a good opportunity to review their current Constitutions and update them so that all relevant information and any other desirable changes can be readily ascertained from a single document.

For further information, go to www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au and click onto Associations.

The Network committee recently learned that one of our longtime members, while it has a Constitution, was not incorporated. While this is now being rectified, Allan Haggarty of Griffith U3A, has prepared the following articles:

The Importance of Incorporation

There are several reasons why incorporating as an association under the NSW Associations Incorporation Act 2009 is important. The main one is protecting the assets of individual members. If incorporated, only the association’s assets are at risk. In the event someone is injured or their property damaged as a result of the association’s
negligence, they can only make a claim against the association, not its individual members. This was the principal reason the NSW government first introduced such legislation in 1984. At a time when more and more people are making claims such protection of individual members’ assets is vital.

Other benefits include, firstly, that the association, being a separate legal entity, can own or lease property in its own name without the complications that can otherwise arise when, for example, there’s a change in the executive and, secondly, that, in applying for a government grant, it’s unlikely an application from an unincorporated association will be accepted.

To become incorporated an association must have a constitution. However, if starting up, to avoid having to spend time on agreeing on what the constitution should contain at a time when members’ enthusiasm may be directed to such matters as courses, the association can opt to adopt the Model Constitution under the Act. This will provide a framework that complies with the legislation and give the association’s members time to consider a tailor-made document at a later date when they may have a better idea of what they want.

Age Discrimination

U3A Network NSW, in keeping with government policies, prefers not to specify a lower age limit for members, so as not to discriminate against any potential, or present, members. At the 2010 Annual General Meeting of the Network, the following resolution was unanimously adopted:

That it is recommended that all U3As remove age discrimination from their Constitutions by substituting “mature age’ for any specific age.

The Network prefers to encourage affiliated U3A groups to open up membership to people who are retired or semi-retired from the paid workforce. While most of those will be at least approaching the age of eligibility for a Seniors Card the Network would not like to see persons younger than that denied membership through a minimum age limit contained in a constitution, especially if early retirement has been forced upon them, or if they cannot work because of disability.

Besides they may bring new skills and enthusiasm to the organisation. Of course it’s unwise to impose an upper age limit either as there are groups with members well into their 90s still making a valuable contribution.