Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of the National Trust of Australia (WA) was held on the 7th of November.

The Annual General Meeting of the National Trust of Australia (WA) was held on the 7th of November, at the Constitutional Center, West Perth.

The meeting was well attended with over 50 participants.

Max Kay, the Trust’s President, Tom Perrigo, CEO and John Palermo, Treasurer made presentation reflecting on the work of the Trust over the last twelve months.

Minutes and more information about the meeting will be availalbe shortly.

AGM Report – Chief Executive Officer

In this financial year, I am pleased to report the National Trust of Australia (WA) was recognised for its outstanding contributions to heritage by a public or private organisation at the 2012 Western Australian Heritage Awards.

The Trust was nominated by the Country Women’s Association which in the year of the Australian Farmer highlighted the Trust’s commitment to links between people and places through its programs and projects across Western Australia. In fact this was our first nomination ever. May I acknowledge the CWA’s representative on the Trust’s Council, Mrs Alice Adamson, not only for facilitating the nomination but also for her outstanding contribution as both a Tranby volunteer and a Councillor! Alice actually officially opened this year’s heritage festival in the Perth Town Hall.

Whilst not ever actively seeking nor participating in such programs, I felt great pride in the Trust firstly accepting the nomination and secondly knowing this organisation is a worthy recipient. I am not a big fan of awards, however, put simply, there is no other organisation whose vision, mission, objectives and performance are so focussed on cultural heritage (historic, natural and Aboriginal) in this State. The award belongs to the Council, to the staff and to the volunteers, not to the CEO.

Again, prior to delivering a very brief summary of the year’s achievements, I would like to remind visitors, supporters and members of some of the key principles that underpin the National Trust of Australia (WA). These are always listed in the Annual Report but they are the foundation of our operations.

These are: (in no priority order)

• The National Trust works with and for others – not itself;
• Whilst legally the many places the Trust manages are the responsibility of the National Trust, the Trust is a custodian of heritage places on behalf of the people in Western Australia;
• The Trust is managed with volunteers, but not by volunteers;
• The National Trust is an educational institution. All its programs and projects are designed to increase the knowledge, awareness, understanding and commitment to conserving and interpreting Western Australia’s heritage, (historic, natural and Aboriginal).

All of these key principles also underpin the vision and mission of this organisation.

Vision Statement
The National Trust of Australia (WA) will be the pre-eminent independent organisation promoting the conservation and interpretation of Western Australia’s unique heritage and educating the community about the use of cultural heritage (historic, natural and Aboriginal) for the long-term social, economic and environmental benefits of the community.

Mission Statement
The National Trust of Australia (WA) will conserve and interpret Western Australia’s heritage (historic, natural and Aboriginal) for present and future generations.

In 2010/11, the Trust developed and commenced the implementation of a new strategic plan. This plan has four key objectives. They are: (in no priority order)


To increase the knowledge, awareness, understanding and commitment of decision-makers in all aspects of heritage;
• Governance
To demonstrate best practice in the Trust’s culture, systems and skills enabling more efficient and effective operations as a Trust for government, the community and stakeholders, including members;
• Sustainability
To deliver standards and outcomes that are economically, socially and environmentally best practice
• Partnerships
To initiate and sustain the widest possible participation, support and engagement with heritage.

I draw your attention to the Executive Summary on page six of the Annual Report. I do not intend to repeat what is written, except to say the National Trust in Western Australia is “punching well above its weight” in terms of national and state outcomes.

I will, however, briefly highlight the “workings” of the National Trust’s Administration.

The National Trust in Western Australia is established under an Act of State Parliament. In this Act, the Trust’s Council was established.

Your Council is entirely composed of volunteers and words cannot adequately be expressed to record the dedication these individuals have to conserve and interpret Western Australia’s cultural heritage.

Led by the Chairman, the Honourable John Cowdell AM (who contributes at least 5 hours a week) and the Deputy Chairman Gregory Boyle, the Executive Committee, the Finance & Audit Committee and all the Councillors collectively, have and continue to strategically guide the Trust along a very challenging journey. I again emphasise their contribution is entirely voluntary and valued.

It is imperative for all here to understand the challenges of being a unique independent statutory body, a not for profit organisation, in a highly competitive environment, and an organisation whose vision includes both the present and future generations. Just because the Trust is a registered charity, does not mean these Directors can forgo their corporate responsibilities.

They are highly professional volunteers whose commitment to the State should not be underestimated. It is to their credit and to the Administrations the Public Sector Commissioner in September 2011 formed the opinion “that the overall operation of the Trust with regard to its current governance arrangements is generally good due to:

• An organisational commitment to providing good governance;
• General governance operation procedures being appropriated; and
• A focus on developing and improving governance procedures.

On behalf of the staff and the members, may I sincerely thank them. I would ask those Councillors present to stand so that we all can give our appreciation for their extraordinary voluntary contribution.

Secondly I would briefly like to acknowledge and thank my amazing team.

I wish to stress this acknowledgement and thanks are in no way a token gesture. On more than several occasions a month, I receive comments from colleagues and contractors and various government bureaucrats applauding both individuals and the Trust collectively on how professional and helpful the team is. They always tell me how lucky I am.

(I do tell my team occasionally of these comments but try to also continue to encourage them to commit to improvement). I am lucky – but luck does not yield results and my luck is backed up by a very hard working group.

Lead by three Directors, Enzo Sirna AM, Pasquo Cirillo and Sarah Murphy plus the Managers, Anne Brake, Karl Haynes and Joy Lefroy, the Trust’s team is what one refers to as par excellence! I work for them who in turn work for those under them and that is what makes this all work.

Without exception these people and indeed all the staff put in an enormous amount of volunteer time as without their commitment and energy, the Trust would not be where it is at. You would be surprised to know how many staff are nominated for volunteer awards.

Over the last few months, I have tried to ensure the Trust’s Council understands the extremely diverse, yet focussed work the Trust staff undertakes and the degree of professionalism they have. I would encourage you as members to interact with the team and follow their activities on the web, with social media or just come in and meet them.

May I ask those staff who are present to stand and be acknowledged in the appropriate way.

The Administration would also like to acknowledge and thank the hundreds of volunteers who continuously contribute to the work of the Trust. The gardens, the administration, the specialist work and many other tasks are looked after by these dedicated people. Special mention needs to be made for Wendy Folvig and Brian Anderson.

Many of these volunteers will be specifically acknowledged later tonight but overall the support and dedication is highly appreciated and valued.

There are (and will always be) a number of significant challenges for the National Trust. Some of these will be driven externally by others, including the political processes, and the increasing expectations of those who expect more results for less investment.

Others will be created internally, including the increasing workload and lack of resources. When you work for others, it is hard not to assist if possible, but unfortunately it appears the need for the Trust is rapidly increasing.

Noting the State Government has only increased the Trust’s overall grant by the cost of living (CPI), a goal will be to ensure its investment increases significantly in the coming years. This will improve our effectiveness and efficiency which means we can do more but also better.

We are always focussing on improvement and are shifting to an electronic record data management system and strategically re-examining our priorities.

There is a saying that someone is old if they keep looking back at the past. Consequently they don’t get too excited about the future.
In 2014, the Trust’s Act of State Parliament turns fifty. Fifty years and yet the Act is as relevant today as it was then.

This organisation has an amazing and exciting future and I, along with my team, who despite some of us being here for a long time, would stress we are all looking forward to meeting the many challenges both in the present and the future.

Some of the initiatives being undertaken include (in no priority order):

• Aboriginal engagement
Continuing to work with and for Aboriginal people. Not only will you see the growth and expansion of our Aboriginal foundations, you will see a much more visible acknowledgement of Aboriginal heritage in all our programs. From signage at Trust places to the active engagement with education and learning programs, members will, I think, be astounded at the diversity and warmth of Aboriginal engagement with core National Trust activities. People often ask me, why is the Trust taking this leadership role? My answer is it is simply good business. It makes us a better organisation and quite frankly it makes us better as individuals.

We were the first Trust in Australia to have an approved reconciliation action plan (RAP) and now are developing, with Aboriginal people, national guidelines for Aboriginal Interpretation at Trust properties. These are due in part by an outstanding effort by Sarah Holt-Foreman and Anne Brake.

• A few (out of many) significant heritage projects at properties
In 1964, the Trust acquired its first property – the Old Farm, Strawberry Hill. This place is undergoing a multimillion dollar transformation as the first farm in Western Australia – the first farm. We have set a goal for having such works completed by the end of 2014. Already we have transformed the place from an old museum to a community facility being utilized by many residents and in particular schools. We intend to transform it into one of Western Australia’s premier heritage properties.
This is one of the most fulfilling challenges that I have ever been involved with. Only through the National Trust can an underutilised and deteriorating government heritage asset be transformed into a sustainable major cancer wellness centre with over six different charities and an educational facility for the local school and community. The Trust has been successful in acquiring significant corporate and philanthropic support for the ongoing maintenance and development of the charities, but the initial and more substantial capital investment has come from our good friend Lotterywest.

I simply cannot say enough about Lotterywest.

57 Murray Street
This to me represents the future of the National Trust in working in partnership with Government.
Again, taking responsibility for another underutilised and deteriorating state heritage asset and converting it to commercial use, is both exciting and challenging.
State Treasury gave the National Trust an advance of 4.7 million dollars. This does have to be repaid within four years; however, it is interest free. The money will enable this building to be conserved, interpreted and sustainably managed.
Your Council has a range of strategies in place including the disposal of some non- core heritage assets to address the repayment of the advance.

However, Treasury has also confirmed the income from this facility can be utilised by the National Trust. This income can of course be utilised in part for works at other Trust places including some badly needed maintenance.

The fact is, this property within the CBD, is a very significant heritage place which would have most likely been lost without the involvement of the National Trust. This is a very proactive way forward and again demonstrates both innovation and leadership.

Whitby Falls
Like Wanslea, this very significant government asset was being destroyed by neglect and vandalism.
Under the direction and guidance of the National Trust, I am honoured to report the Trust and Murdoch University have joined forces to convert the “ruin” into an annex for the Murdoch University. Initially this will be a new home for the School of Veterinary Science and then disciplines like Aboriginal Studies and Environmental Sciences will be having major programmes there.

This is another example of how strategic partnerships can work.

Royal Perth Hospital Site
Before the end of the financial year, the National Trust will accept the Management Order for one of the largest heritage precincts and projects in Western Australia and indeed Australia. The support shown by the Premier and the Deputy Premier for the National Trust to take the leadership on this project reflects the growing confidence that we are a “can do” body. This will be a major challenge but we are confident of meeting this challenge over the next few years.

Time prevents me from continuing on our many property projects, but I strongly encourage you to follow the Trust’s activities on both the web and social media. In particular the team of Kelly Rippingale, Caroline Stokes, Eric Hancock, Andrew Brennan, Phil Palmer, Dan Klofverskjold, Kate Gregory, Matt Vince and Helena Mills work on these projects.

In Western Australia, we completely understand that as an educational organisation, we have to reach out to our audience. We have to go to the customer not wait until they come to us.

Karl Haynes has both coordinated and facilitated the national web page. Clare Nunan is coordination and developing social media on a national basis. Gina Pickering has and continues to be both the Editor and Development Manager for the Trust’s magazine. Julie Hutchens is being added to the team and will assist in projects like the Heritage Festival and marketing.

All from the Western Australian National Trust. Together they are largely responsible for Trust communications across Australia.

I want to acknowledge them for an outstanding effort.
As your CEO for over 20 years now, I do look back and many times ask myself questions like:
Could I have done things differently?
What lessons have I learned?

However, instead of focussing on the past I find myself far more often looking forward. I am both excited and challenged by the future but also proud of the role and outcomes of the National Trust.

There is simply too much work for the National Trust! We not only need more resources we need more partners – that is people and organisations to assist with the challenges we face. The need for balance is, without doubt, my biggest problem as CEO.

There is also a need to plan for succession – I am not a fan of successional planning as the future is too unpredictable, but there is a continuing need to plan for succession for many of the roles and responsibilities facing both the Trust’s Council and the Administration are becoming more complex.

This is why we place so much emphasis on refining and refocusing our strategic plan. This is why I am trying to spend more time with the staff and the volunteers and this is why we are proactively focussing on our objectives of leadership, governance, sustainability and partnership.

A very important program of conservation covenanting – a partnership between the National Trust and private land owners continues to be a quiet yet remarkable achiever.
For over 15 years, without any independent government support, the Trust has been arranging for land to be conserved in perpetuity.

Congratulations to Helena Mills, Steve Newby, Peter Murphy and Anne Lyall for a brilliant job.

Sometimes and in fact often, some wish to question the value of the National Trust – they either want to control it or merge it with another body. In many case they need to review the outcomes the Trust does or could deliver if more resources were available.

I believe the Trust’s independence; its commitment of volunteers and its flexibility and innovation for solving problems, is perhaps something many could learn from working with us not against us.

In conclusion, one of the most fulfilling and satisfying rewards for the staff is getting younger people proactively involved with heritage.

Despite the fact there is an overcrowded curriculum, an overworked and undervalued teacher sector and many other legal and political barriers towards participation, the education and learning programs of the National Trust are flourishing.
The National Trust runs a variety of quality education and learning programmes for school and community groups, as well as for the general public. Delivered at properties managed by the National Trust, programmes can be adapted as required and more than one property can be visited in any one day in the Metropolitan area.

The National Trust in Western Australia has embraced the Australian Curriculum and has taken the lead in the development of curriculum programmes which emphasise the valuing if heritage through history and other subject areas in both the national and state mainstream curricula. In fact, it is the lead National Trust agency in Australia coordinating the links to the Australian Curriculum for all National Trust education and learning programmes across Australia.
I would encourage you to visit our important education and learning website which outlines our programmes and resources.

Special mention should be given to Joy Lefroy, Diana Frylinck and Kim Hawkes.

We are delighted with the many school groups which have embraced our programmes and would now like to end my report and leave you with an example of the excellence of these programmes with some magnificent work provided by students from Orana Catholic Primary School working on a special programme at Samson House. These students are a credit to their school, as well as to their teachers, parents and families. You will see what I mean. I hope you will enjoy.
However just prior to this, it is highly appropriate to acknowledge the administration team, Gae See, Kimberley Rowley, Graeme Bridge, and Gail Thomas who behind the scenes are run ragged by me and others and do a magnificent job.

As well we have a very good finance and audit team headed by Pasquo Cirillo who with Michael Evans, Con Contos, Michael Nicoski and John Kirk keep us on the “right path”.