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‘Reflections’ casts a shadow on old AIPP admin

The AIPP Board has initiated an audit into the Reflections Project, after questions were raised by members during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) regarding finances.

The AIPP issued a statement to members covering a number of issues raised at the AGM, which re-emerged following the unexpected leadership shake up and unexpected resignation of three AIPP board members and joint company secretary.

The AIPP has additionally acknowledged that questions asked regarding the Honours Committee, an apparently autonomous group of the AIPP elite who determine which members receive honours, warrant a response.

The statement, posted to the private AIPP Community Facebook page, was shared with Inside Imaging.

‘A number of questions were raised by members at the AGM and these have again been represented in our social media [a private AIPP members FB group]. Some questions were answered on the day of the AGM while others will require more time. The Board acknowledges the questions that have been raised regarding the Reflections Project and Honours procedures. These will be addressed and the Board will keep you up-to-date and well informed.

‘Since the AGM the Board have started an audit of the Reflections project including executive Board decisions. This will also include a deeper analysis of the project finances. We will be talking with the honours committee regarding the question raised concerning awards.’

(Full statement at the end of article)

The audit into the Reflections Project, which resulted in a significant financial loss, suggests there may be concern regarding the project’s financial mismanagement.

The Reflections Project was a massive nationwide endeavour undertaken by volunteer AIPP members to capture all remaining WWII veterans’ portraits. Reflections began in late 2014 and finished in August 2017, after over 6500 veterans’ portraits were handed over to the Australian War Memorial.

The project was a success, demonstrating the willingness of AIPP members to volunteer for a great cause. However the Reflections Project Final Report, compiled by Reflections project manager John de Rooy in 2019, shows the AIPP had taken on a challenge much larger than anticipated.

To put matters into perspective: In 2015 when Inside Imaging spoke with then-AIPP executive officer, Peter Myers, the goal was for Reflections to be complete in six months – from April until August 2015. Although predicting the project could run into 2016, Peter anticipated the bulk of photography would be done in one month.

In hindsight this was not only ambitious, but ridiculously unrealistic. Had it been reached, the AIPP’s expenditure would have been minimal, but this wasn’t the case.

The financial loss
According to the report, the AIPP’s expenditure amounted to $123,520.

The biggest expense, totalling 71 percent, was for three staff members – project manager John de Rooy ($35,700), national coordinator Louise Bagger ($23,000), and an unnamed sponsorship consultant ($28,000). After expenditure on staff, the next largest cost was PR at around $13,000, and postage at $8450.

The sponsorship consultant didn’t deliver, and the $28K fee was an unfortunately wasted expense for the AIPP. According to the report, he or she was hired by Peter Myers with an agreement that $500,000 in sponsorship dollars could be secured. Not a single sponsor was secured. Zero! According to Peter, the consultant’s failure was attributed to insufficient time before the launch of the project.

‘The consultant also had an “A” list of contacts in companies that would be particularly suited to sponsor Reflections,’ the AIPP Reflections report explained. ‘There was believed to be an agreement attached to the consultant’s fee that $500k of sponsorship would be guaranteed or the fee would not be payable. The EO received the training which did not include training for Board members. The effort that the consultant and EO put into the sponsorship search was poor, producing a zero result. The consultant was still paid his fee.’

Despite a lack of essential sponsorship money, the AIPP marched on with the project. Again, had the project been done with in six months, or even a year, the expenditure on staff would be significantly lower. It’s worth highlighting in-kind support from the Australian photo industry: Kodak Alaris, Atkins Lab, Momento Pro, Starleaton, Fotomerchant, Kayell, Spicers Paper, and Jorgensens. Each provided goods or services either for free or at a reduced cost.

RELATED: On Reflections…

John de Rooy held the project manager position for the duration of the project. He set up a management system, reached veterans across the country (a harder task than it sounds without cooperation from Veterans Affairs or the RSL), post-processed and archived portraits, and performed other duties.

The Reflections project appointed volunteers as state co-ordinators, who were responsible for pairing AIPP photographers with a list of veterans. Louise Bagger was the South Australian Reflections co-ordinator, and almost all SA veterans were photographed in the six month time frame. By September 2015, SA photographers had captured around 930 veterans’ portraits, with just 50 remaining.

But other states required assistance, so Louise was employed as Reflections national coordinator.

‘Due the efficient coordination of the South Australian effort of the project, SA State Coordinator Louise Bagger was employed to assist in the coordination of other areas that were struggling. The Board entered into an agreement with Louise for her to undertake the role of National Coordinator to assist other states where required.’

Louise photographed 203 veterans, and was awarded the Claude McCarthy Award for her work on the AIPP’s Reflections Project at the 2019 APPAs dinner in Sydney in August. (Claude McCarthy was the founding father of what’s now known as the AIPP)

At the AGM, an AIPP member asked a question to the effect of whether it was ethical for a Reflections paid staff member to be awarded an honour. The question went unanswered, with the National Board committed to providing an answer at a later date. Since the AGM, a faction of disaffected members have taken issue with the Honours Committee, but we’ll save that story for another day. (Stay tuned!)

From the outset of Reflections the AIPP committed to donating all proceeds from additional print sales to RSL and Legacy. This amounted to $56,418. But this intention was made back when folk were talking up $500K sponsorship deals and a completion date of August 2015, and the AIPP withdrew from that commitment.

‘The initial intention was that any sponsorship funds received would have paid for the project expenses,’ the final report says. ‘In October/November 2017 the AIPP Board passed a resolve to offset the additional print sales against any losses the project had incurred. This resolve was not officially communicated at that time to either Legacy or the RSL. Following the receipt of the Summary Report from John de Rooy in 2019, after due consideration and despite the overall loss incurred, the AIPP Board resolved to honour the original commitment and to make a donation to Legacy and the RSL as a gesture of good will for the total sum of $20,000 ($10,000 to each). Both Legacy and the RSL have been advised of this outcome.’

So Reflections generated $56K income while expenditure amounted to $123K + $20K in donations to Legacy and RSL, resulting in a total loss of $87,102.

The Report lists just eight links to media generated by Reflections, with Media/PR costing $13,000. While this may not account for all media (Inside Imaging’s extensive editorial support, for instance, was not included), one could expect a project of this stature and scale to generate more ‘column inches’.

The financial burden of the Reflections Project came at a time when the AIPP was financially vulnerable, after running consecutive deficits. In early 2018 the AIPP reached an alarming financial situation that forced the closure of National Office to reduce operating costs. While Reflections was not a significant contributing factor to these events, it appears the financial mismanagement of the project was illustrative of a greater problem at AIPP head office: In  short, spending more money than it had.

Update from the AIPP Board – 3rd December 2019
With the 2019 AGM just passed, we’re reaching out to keep you in the loop of discussions and events surrounding the meetings with Councils, the Board and our members which was well attended in-person and online.

As an institute, we are always learning, evolving and adapting to change. All of this comes with its challenges. Our vision to build a thriving, inclusive and connected community is at the heart of what we do. We believe being transparent and maintaining lines of communication is integral to that vision.

Melissa Neumann, Sara McKenna and Dan O’Day have resigned from the Board and it is with gratitude that we acknowledge their work in creating a more progressive and secure culture within the AIPP. Through their efforts, we now have strong foundations to continue the momentum of adding value for our members and broadening the AIPP’s reach to new audiences. These are two of our core focuses moving forward.

A number of questions were raised by members at the AGM and these have again been represented in our social media. Some questions were answered on the day of the AGM while others will require more time. The Board acknowledges the questions that have been raised regarding the Reflections Project and Honours procedures. These will be addressed and the Board will keep you up-to-date and well informed.

Since the AGM the Board have started an audit of the Reflections project including executive Board decisions. This will also include a deeper analysis of the project finances. We will be talking with the honours committee regarding the question raised concerning awards.

We thank you for your patience, and remind you that the Board and all Committees and Councils are volunteers and have their own businesses to run and families to care for. The Board responses need to be carefully considered in light of Directors responsibilities under The Corporations Act.

With Louise Bagger as President, Bruce Pottinger as Vice President and Geoff Comfort as Board Convenor, together with David Simmonds, Felisha Mendoza Mina and Ben Kopilow, the AIPP Board will work to strengthen the institute’s ability to meet its’ strategic objectives starting with a scheduled Strategy Planning meeting in January to kick start the year.

To wrap up, if you have any questions, feel free to get in touch on admin@aipp.com.au and we’ll respond as swiftly as we can. We sincerely value all our members and look forward to rolling out some of our key major projects in early 2020.

(Inside Imaging has chosen not to provide a link to the AIPP Reflections Report, which was sent to all AIPP members.)

3 Comments

  1. DW DW December 6, 2019

    So many questions.
    Such little transparency.
    For the long term health of the AIPP this sorry state of affairs deserves an open inquiry, conducted by an independent committee, live-streamed for all interested members, not least for the countless photographers who gave their time to the project to be able to ask how it was so catastrophically mismanaged at the national level. Anything less has the potential to be called a whitewash that could stain the reputation of the Association for many years.

  2. Matt Palmer Matt Palmer December 6, 2019

    This has not the slightest bit to do with any current AIPP Admin team member. I feel like you should evaluate your headline a little more.

  3. Anthony McKee Anthony McKee December 6, 2019

    This project began when two NZ photographers suggested to the NZIPP board in 2013 that members of the institute should photograph 100 or so returned services personnel, with the work to be gifted to the RSA as a promotional exercise. Those two individuals did not want to manage the project and so I was asked if I would be project manager… that was in December 2013. There were a couple of problems with the idea though…for one, I am Melbourne based and for another, there are over 17,000 Returned Services personnel in NZ; to photograph just 100 or so might not bode well with members of the RSA. That’s when I suggested we should photograph the last of the WWII veterans.

    At the same time I floated the idea of focusing on WWII veterans to the NZIPP (December 2013) I also contacted the then president of the AIPP to inform them NZ was doing, and suggested the AIPP may want to be part of the project as well… a real ANZAC project. That individual was busy at the time and the idea was largely forgotten.

    NZ managed to organise a team of photographers who, starting on ANZAC Day 2014, photographed over 2000 WWII veterans. A solid media plan also meant that those photographers along with the NZIPP had some exceptional media exposure from the project. On the whole it was a volunteer effort… I was not paid for my time, nor were any of the people who managed the project in NZ paid.

    At the AIPP awards dinner in 2014, as the NZIPP was winding down its veterans project, Peter Myers asked if I would like to project manage the Australian effort. I said I would, but only if I was given some reimbursement for my time… I could not afford to run a second project without some payment of sorts. That’s where the conversation ended.

    There is no doubt that the Australian project was a lot bigger than the New Zealand effort… but at the same time, Australia also had the same heads-up as the New Zealand project, and considerable more time to plan (and learn) from the New Zealand experience. It is sad to see that the AIPP is in this mess but you have to wonder who was making some of these decisions… and why.

    AM

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