March 2008 - Outgoing AILA office bearers honoured
As AILA’s incoming national president I would like to begin my presidency by extending my gratitude to several key members of the national board who have just retired.
Peter Backe-Hansen is a past national president and David Berry was our long-serving treasurer.
Both have devoted many years of untiring, voluntary service to AILA. Their commitment and contribution has been outstanding. I will miss them for their assistance, professionalism, guidance and good humour. I also thank our immediate past president, Steve Knight. I have known Steve for many years; before the establishment of the Tasmanian branch.
I have fond memories of working with Steve and others, such as Geoff Masel and Phil Rowell, to oversee the establishment of the Tasmanian branch. Tasmania has hosted two extraordinarily successful national conferences, the success of which is in no small measure directly attributable to Steve’s dedication and hard work.
His commitment and good humour were at the forefront during his two-year presidency and he made a very substantial contribution to the combined Australia and New Zealand conference. I am delighted that Steve has agreed to remain an active national board member.
I also thank retiring Queensland board representative Damon Bennett. I know you will join me in thanking them all for the years of exceptional service to AILA.
On the day of the AGM, when I began my period in office, we convened a meeting to discuss issues and challenges for AILA. It was an opportunity to consider AILA’s future and opportunities available to us to expand and develop our membership and our areas of involvement in insurance law education.
A cornerstone of AILA is general insurance, but we are not the Australian General Insurance Law Association. AILA encompasses all forms of insurance – life, workers’ compensation, professional indemnity, marine and reinsurance.
The challenge for us is to expand our horizons to ensure relevance to all elements of the insurance industry and expanding our areas of expertise and involvement. It is critical to our development and to consolidation.
I was delighted at the joint conference in New Zealand that we were fortunate to have Barrie Woolacott, a lawyer with Slater & Gordon, Melbourne, speak on tort reform, bringing a plaintiff’s perspective to the discussion.
At an earlier seminar in Melbourne at which Barrie spoke, he addressed the largest audiences we had at a seminar in Victoria in 2007. It is through the exchange of alternate views that AILA can be seen as an organisation genuinely committed to insurance law education in all its facets. Themore diverse the views expressed through the educational programs, the better for AILA and its membership.
I am by background a lawyer with several years in private practice. For the last 18 years I have worked for an insurer and I have seen AILA membership largely dominated, in terms of numbers, by private practitioner lawyers. Please don’t construe that as a criticism. On the contrary, it is one of AILA’s strengths.
The skill, experience and expertise of private practitioners is one reason our organisation is so highly regarded and well received in the industry. However I would like to see AILA expand, by attracting an ever broader depth of membership within the industry.
I would like to see more adjusters, assessors, accountants, insurance actuaries, brokers, agents, members of the life insurance industry and plaintiff lawyers.
The greater the depth of membership, the greater the expertise within AILA.
The challenge for me and our board is to foster and develop expansion in an environment in which the general insurance industry has been contracting through mergers and acquisitions. With more foreign insurers active in the Australian market, we encourage their participation in AILA.
The 2008 conference, hosted by Queensland on Hamilton Island, will undoubtedly be successful, as have the three previous conferences held in Queensland. Hamilton Island is an idyllic venue but, more importantly, my initial observation of the planned program is that the content is stimulating and of direct relevance to all aspects of the industry.
While September is still many months away, I encourage you to book early to ensure availability of flights and accommodation to a venue that is always very popular at that time of the year.
I look forward to seeing you all in September and, in the interim, cheers.