By Amanda Gordon FAPS
As the Unit Review Committee of the Board of Directors launches into the formal governance review of the APS Unit structure, I am drawn to think of the reasons why people get involved in the APS. I have no doubt as to the value of membership - the fact that we are a vibrant professional society, using our skills to make a difference to community wellbeing would be enough for some. In addition, we provide professional identity, and an opportunity to network with our peers. We set and maintain the highest standards for the discipline and the profession of psychology, use world best practice in determining ethical conduct, advise government on the findings from psychological science, and speak up through the media to the Australian community as a whole when psychological evidence is available on a range of issues.
In addition, the APS provides information to government about the way psychologists develop their skills and the costs associated with a world-class education that allows psychologists to be scientist practitioners, rather than doing what ‘feels right'. We inform all levels of government on issues of concern to psychologists, including registration and complaints, working conditions and supervision, professional development and workplace support, and our place within the educational, health, business and community sectors.
So these are some of the reasons why it behoves all psychologists in Australia to join their peak professional and scientific body - because the more members there are, the more powerful is our voice and the greater the impact we are likely to be able to make in the community at large.
But why would ordinary members - busy with their own lives and families, work and personal responsibilities - then put in literally hours of their own time, giving freely to organise activities, contribute to and even write submissions, sit on advisory committees and working groups, and become part of reference groups? Why would they even put themselves in the firing line, working towards meeting the needs of other members who do nothing themselves yet want so much from their professional body?
Much research has been done on the phenomenon of volunteering, but I will allude to none of it here. Instead, I will reflect on some of the anecdotes of our own members.
Some APS members (myself included) find it very difficult to just be a spectator. If there is something to be done, they will always be the ones doing it, in whatever context. If they think the job is worth doing, and worth doing well, they trust themselves to get it done. Many of these people are team players who love bringing others in and completing the task together. Others just enjoy achieving an outcome.
Many of our volunteers are so aware of the value of the work of the APS that they want to contribute. That is certainly so for people who are involved in a variety of ways in the APS work in the public interest domain, who see that by uniting under the APS banner they can potentially be more effective than working on an issue more anonymously. It's also great to connect with others who have a passion for social justice, which is what much of this work boils down to. The other work in the public interest area is to convey the psychological evidence to policy makers - who are more likely to read a submission from the peak body of the discipline than from individuals or a small group.
The great thing about the APS is that there is a place for everyone to contribute. Peer support networks have become extremely popular (especially in Victoria) and they provide every participant with a sense of involvement. Committees of the various APS Units allow people to be involved with their particular interests, or to connect through doing with other like-minded people.
The best thing about volunteering in the APS is that we are an organisation that is actually achieving outcomes - whether it is at the grassroots level where psychologists develop their skills, or in the political arena where we can influence government policy.
Not only does the APS and indeed the Australian community benefit by members volunteering, the individuals themselves gain great benefits. Whether it's learning about running a committee or a newsletter, immersing yourself in public policy, learning to apply your knowledge in a way that makes a practical difference, becoming more skilled in public speaking or presenting your own work, the volunteer work you do for the APS will grow you as well.
Thank you so much to all the members who take on public roles, contribute their professional and scientific expertise, or help out at functions. The APS is, after all, a membership organisation - and there is no doubt that the members are at the core of all the work that is done.
This is the last President's note that I will be writing to you. I have really enjoyed the opportunity to muse with you on issues that have arisen during my term, and have really appreciated your feedback - which has in turn, informed discussions at Board level. During the last four years I have worked hard to open as many communication channels as possible with members, and our flagship InPsych has continued to allow that to happen. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of our members for the efforts you put in to make this Society a worthwhile peak body - and invite you to continue to reap the benefits.