Home Education Association members reported chaos and unruly behaviour at the 22 June special general meeting, held in person and online, to discuss and debate a controversial special resolution put forward by the current committee.
“On so many levels I struggled through this meeting. it was appalling. nasty display,” said a life member and past committee member, “a ridiculous waste of my time, it just makes the HEA look even more incompetent, not how a meeting is supposed to be run.”
Disruption emerged shortly after the meeting opened when requests by a past president and a current committee member were denied the opportunity to voice separate points of order relating to a serious conflict of interest regarding the Chair.
A 90minute presentation by the President, detailing why three people took the association to court, was described by one disgruntled member as “puerile and emotive”, “condescending and self-righteous” and “unrelated to the purpose of the meeting”.
Other members complained that no time was allowed for the addressing the defense put forward by the association, with one saying that the presentation was “unbalanced”, “a biased, one-sided interpretation of disputed past events which contained factual errors”.
At one point the President threatened to call the police to remove a member who interjected with an objection.
Members reported feeling intimidated by a “stand-over guy” at the back, alleging that he had threatened to physically remove one member, and was videoing members as they spoke. They cited concern that the Chair had not informed members attending in person that the meeting would be videoed.
People became vocal as frustration built as several members were “denied the basic right to speak against the motion”, with the Chair allowing questions only, limited to two per member. “Questions regarding the need for the special resolution were brushed over, not adequately covered” reported one member.
Several members attending by Zoom complained of being ignored or ‘muted’, with one stating that he had his hand up for over half an hour.
In April 2019 a court-ordered special general meeting was held to elect a committee to get the association back on track after legal issues had left it in limbo, listed as ‘in dispute’ by the NSW Office of Fair Trading, for almost a year.
During that year a group of members appointed and promoted themselves through social media as an ‘interim committee’. The group supported three people initiating and continuing legal action in the NSW Supreme Court against the association seeking a determination that a members’ meeting held without notice to all members on 5 May 2018 be declared an annual general meeting, thus validating the group as the association’s management committee. One of the three plaintiffs is the current President of the association.
Court-ordered mediation did not determine that the members’ meeting on 5 May 2018 was a legitimate meeting and provided an opportunity for the association to elect a new committee. The new committee, comprised mainly of members who supported taking the association to court, decided to let the membership determine the matter.
On Saturday 22 June members were controversially asked to consider setting aside one of the association rules so that the committee could retrospectively validate the actions of the group.
According to one member, “counting was shambolic” when the opportunity to vote, by a raise of hands, finally arrived. Despite confusion regarding the nature of the motion, a ‘no’ vote on the special resolution was carried.
Members expressed surprise and disappointment that this was interpreted by the current committee to mean that the decision conferred 2018 presidency to a past president of the association.
“Many members audibly sighed, snorted in disbelief and said things like ‘Unbelievable!’ and ‘You’ve got to be kidding!'”
As a result of this manipulation, the meeting did not achieve one of the outcomes the President was cited as stating early in the meeting, that of “putting the whole thing to bed”.
The NSW Office of Fair Trading, NSW Supreme Court and now the HEA membership have all dismissed the claim that the group purporting to be an ‘interim committee’ between May 2018 to April 2019 was a legitimate committee of the association.
Anonymity was requested due to the current litigious climate within the association.
Stuart Chapman, experiended home educator and long standing advocate for homeschooling both in Australia and overseas, was elected at the May 2019 special general meeting but was controversially ‘sacked’ from the committee soon after. This left Western Australian home educators without a local representative on the national association management committee. It is a shame that someone with extensive knowledge and expertise has been excluded.
Mr Chapman sought to redress the unfortunate situation regarding the twelve months of outstanding wages owed to the HEA’s two admin officers at meetings. This resulted in formal mediation between him and the committee, which failed to reach a resolution. Ultimately the committee ‘sacked’ him, citing non-attendance of meetings as per the constitution as the cause. However, concerned members said that meeting times had been changed to make it difficult for Mr Chapman to attend meetings (during working hours in Western Australia) and that he sent the required apologies for meetings he was unable to attend.
Given that the association does not have a full committee, which given the serious nature of the business currently discussed on behalf of members (taking legal action against home educators’ family businesses), on top of the usually full agenda at each meeting, dismissing a current committee member seems to be counter-intuitive and not in the best interests of the membership.
It also sends a clear message to other members and potential members that the HEA committee is intolerant of dissenting voices and diverse opinions.
There are still vacancies on the HEA committee: called ‘casual vacancies’, members can nominate themselves by sending an email to the association for consideration. Historically the HEA committee usually elects members that volunteer to fill casual vacancies without hesitation.
This is a series of articles originally written by Beverley Paine at The Educating Parent, on the troubles of the Home Education Association (HEA). These form a historical roadmap as the counterbalance to the HEA’s lack of transparency. The actions of the HEA effects all of us in the homeschooling community. Permission to repost these articles has been granted.
The Original article can be read on Beverley’s site here: HEA in Disarray: Chaotic 22 June SGM