By Amanda Gordon MAPS
The Australian Psychological Society is involved in so many different things – from Branch activities to College competencies; from Interest Group workshops to international conferences; from a member referral service to negotiating Medicare fees with Government; from writing tip sheets to putting out media releases and position papers; from advising Government on best practice in Indigenous mental health to negotiating drug and alcohol placements; from convincing Government to increase cluster funding for psychology courses to accrediting psychology programs; from awarding prizes to students to acknowledging lifetime contributions to psychology; from putting out ethical guidelines to working together with the Council of Psychology Registration Boards and Government towards national registration; from headspace to KidsMatter; from providing professional development to putting on terrific conferences; from negotiating with Government to ensure that the psychology workforce is valued to contributing to the development of various national practice guidelines; from responding to members’ queries to promoting community wellbeing; from working together with other professional associations to investigating claims from charlatans; from developing international professional development opportunities to making relationships with psychology societies internationally; from making involvement with the Society rewarding for members and office-bearers to ensuring that governance structures maximise opportunities and ensure best practice and risk amelioration – and it is important to be clear on all of them.
Sometimes, though, there is benefit in reflecting on the ‘big picture’. We can become so caught up in the day-to-day of all that we attempt to achieve, that it is important to remember the Mission Statement of the Society – to represent, promote and advance psychology within the context of improving community wellbeing and scientific knowledge. I believe that without constant reference to that statement, we could lose the core while we take on project after project, and become bigger and bigger. In fact, that is the role of the Board of Directors – and we continually evaluate the balance of resources used in the various areas. We do this at every Board meeting, and in between we develop ideas that will promote the mission of the Society further.
My latest idea is to strengthen the ongoing leadership of the APS through nurturing our members’ leadership skills. Organisational psychologists are experts in developing people to become more competent leaders, so it is obviously of great value to the whole of the APS to garner their skills to ensure we use best practice to develop our people. My goal is to help members of the Society develop personally in a way that will ultimately contribute specifically to the enhancement of the APS and consequentially to the Australian community in general.
It is my belief that there are many APS members who would like to take a more active role in the leadership of the profession and need to develop the skills to do that. In addition, those committed to social change, many of whom work in cross-cultural environments, could, with expert training, lead communities in the sorts of change that would enhance lifestyle etc.
Psychologists know a great deal about the sorts of things that make a difference. They understand how people can better live together, how to overcome stereotypes, how to overcome addictions, how to respond to environmental crises etc. The skill for which they may not have been trained is leadership. It is in order to fill this gap and by taking these psychologists forward to produce a stronger leadership pool both within the APS and the broader society, that I propose this initiative. I know that the College of Organisational Psychologists will be true leaders for the whole of the Society in this project.
I have already sent out a call to members of the College of Organisational Psychologists who have expertise to contribute in developing such a program. I now call on APS Units to consider who amongst them would benefit most through this process, and invite individual members to put themselves forward if they are interested. The first group will necessarily be small, and participants will be selected to reflect the diversity of the APS membership (e.g., someone from rural or remote Australia, someone of non-English speaking background, someone of Indigenous background). Participants should expect to be involved for a six-month period in a series of workshops and lectures, and be involved in a project that will be presented at the National Conference in Hobart. Further details are on the APS website, or can be obtained by emailing Chris Simpson at the National Office on firstname.lastname@example.org. By developing strong leaders, we can ensure the APS works to fulfil its mission.
There are some psychologists who have made an outstanding contribution to Australian psychology – the President’s Award, for which nominations are called on page 27 of this issue, seeks to acknowledge that. I look forward to hearing from you of those whom you would like to honour.