AGM and President’s Report 2020

AGM 10 November 2020


The AGM of the Alumni Association was held via Zoom on 10 November at 12.00 noon.

The meeting was chaired by Ms Ruth Wraith OAM, the President.

There were 32 members present and apologies were received from 10 members.

The President’s report for the year was presented by Ruth Wraith.

The financial report was presented by the Treasurer, Prof James (Jim) Wilkinson AM.

Both reports were accepted, having been moved and seconded.

The treasurer then proposed an increase in the subscription rate from $30 to $40  per year to allow for increased costs which related to the intended addition of further Alum-inars with the costs of running Zoom meetings of an hour or more in length with up to 100 (or possibly more) participants. These would be in addition to face to face meetings (3 – 4 per year). The improved Newsletters (now called “Aluminations” were also expected to incur increased costs for production of possibly four editions per year. He moved a motion to approve the proposed increase in subscriptions, which was seconded by Mr Barry Novy and passed unanimously.

Ruth Wraith then noted that this was the last occasion at which Garry Warne would still be acting as Honorary Secretary of the Alumni Association after 7 years in that role.

On behalf of all members, past and present, she thanked him for his dedication, vision and constant attention to the intricacies of the role. Garry had made a significant and generous contribution to the Association so underpinning the vibrant and energised organisation of 2020.

Garry has also nurtured the Newsletter, now called Aluminations and managed the Membership process.

In 2021 Garry will continue as Aluminations editor and with Membership administration.

Election of office bearers followed with a single candidate having been proposed and seconded for each of the four positions – President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer.

Ms Ruth Wraith OAM was re-elected as the President for 2021. Prof James Wilkinson AM was elected as Vice President, Dr Caroline Clarke was elected as Honorary Secretary and Prof James Wilkinson AM was re-elected to continue as Treasurer (in addition to being Vice President).

Garry spoke about his period as secretary of the Alumni.


“For seven years, from 2013-2020, it was my privilege to serve as Honorary Secretary of the RCH Alumni. An American friend of mine, Dr Jean D Wilson, in his autobiography The memoire of a fortunate man, said, referring to his five years as secretary of the American Academy of Physicians, “I think I have the soul of a secretary because I actually enjoyed this position”.

Well, I thoroughly enjoyed being secretary of the Alumni, and I hope it showed through. I thank everyone for re-electing me to the position year after year and for being willing to embrace the transformation of the Alumni that through gracious cooperation we have achieved together. A very good feature of the Alumni is the complete absence of workplace politics and hierarchical relationships. We are all equal and cooperation comes easily.

Mary Dwyer was President when I was co-opted onto the Executive as Assistant Treasurer in 2013 and as secretary I had the honour of serving four other presidents: Andrew Kemp, Kevin Collins, Hugo Gold and Ruth Wraith. Each one has left a distinctive stamp on our organisation. I thank them and I thank all of my colleagues who have served on the Executive committees over the past 7 years.

When I took on the role, I asked myself what could be done to make the Alumni better. I made some notes in June 2013 and spoke to them at a General Meeting. I thought that we needed to know more about members’ interests outside medicine so that we could provide some cultural nourishment and benefit from members’ hidden talents. I wondered what we could do for members who were shut-in or otherwise prevented from attending meetings. It occurred to me that electronic communication would be a better way of reaching these shut-in members, as well as those now living far from Melbourne, even overseas, than printed notices mailed out through the hospital Executive Offices. I questioned why we should restrict ourselves to just two meetings a year in addition to the Vernon Collins Oration and why they always had to be on medical topics? And I dared to think the unthinkable, that we should broaden our membership and create a community more like the multidisciplinary teams we had enjoyed being part of in our working lives. At the time, some members were fearful that the latter proposal might be too radical a change.

Successive Presidents and Executive committee members made progressive changes. Sumitra Wickramasinghe pushed for us to have our own website and with wonderful assistance from Jim Wilkinson and the Educational Resource Centre at RCH, this became a reality in 2015 during Andrew Kemp’s term as President. Jim now maintains the website and it is always completely up to date. We were able to use email to communicate with many members and gradually the number of members who were unable to use email was reduced to a handful (now none). This meant that we could communicate with members directly, whenever we liked, at no cost and without imposing on the hospital Executive staff. Andrew Kemp and I carried out a comprehensive review of the electronic membership data base and made sure everything was correct.

The broadening of our membership base became possible in 2016 during Kevin Collins’ term as President, when Constitutional changes were approved at the Annual General Meeting. These changes granted campus-wide membership eligibility to all former professional employees of the hospital, the MCRI and the University Department of Paediatrics. We have been proactively inclusive and have received more and more applications, not only from former medical and dental staff, but also from Allied Health professionals, scientists, former Executives and Board members, and senior nurses. It was very exciting when Ruth Wraith OAM, the former Head of Psychotherapy at RCH, was elected as our first non-medical President. We were also excited when a departing Fellow in paediatric surgery aged in his thirties applied for membership. We have members in the U.K., Israel, Indonesia, Vietnam, India and New Zealand.

Ruth mentioned the way our newsletter has developed. In 2013, the Alumni newsletter was a single page written by members of the Executive and mailed out to members from the hospital Executive office. In 2014, we began inviting contributions from members. Since 2016 the newsletter has been designed to be sent out electronically, which means that length is not a limiting factor and we can include high resolution digital photography without compromising image quality. We can also post it on our website and past issues can remain there for as long as we want them to. They are an archive in themselves and reflect the vibrancy of our organisation. Mention has been made by Ruth about the Reflections theme and it has added further value to our publication.

The secretary is the communications hub for the Alumni and for me, communication is everything. I have made great use of email and have tried to use it to keep everyone informed about new members, upcoming events, celebrations and deaths. Writing letters of welcome, congratulation and condolence, as well as tributes for publication in the death notices of the daily newspaper is not a chore, it is a privilege. In addition, the communication between members of the Executive is almost exclusively by email. Important documents are stored on Google Drive which is shared by all members of the Executive. One of my functions has been to enable members to contact one another and us, particularly alerting us to celebrations and the passing of members known to them. I think that good communication is essential for the maintenance of a healthy and vibrant community.”


The meeting closed at 12.55 PM and was followed by a talk by Emeritus Prof Lou Landau with the title “The influence of what one sais or does”. The talk was greeted with applause from the audience and the meeting finished at 1.20 pm.

View Lou Landau’s talk here
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