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Concerns over AIPP liquidation

Former AIPP presidents have expressed concern to the Institute’s administrator that the Institute’s intellectual property will not be preserved, and the remaining cash assets will fall into inappropriate hands.

The former AIPP presidents hope the liquidation process closely observes the Constitution.

A letter was sent to the AIPP administrator, Matthew Gallant (CJG Advisory), in July 2022 and signed by 14 past presidents, who represent decades of Institute leadership. The letter highlights the AIPP’s core purposes as outlined in the AIPP Constitution, which includes the promotion of professional photography, advocating for the rights of professional photographers, educating members, and enacting a Code of Ethics.

The letter was sent shortly after Inside Imaging speculated that a newly-formed, invite-only group designed to participate in an international photo contest, WPC Team Australia, may be the benefactor of the AIPP’s remaining funds.

The AIPP had $164K cash in the bank when it went into voluntary administration in late 2021. This came as a surprise to many members, as the sudden and abrupt liquidation suggested the financial outlook was far more dire.

After the liquidators are paid – with an amount of $30K estimated in official documents –  the AIPP’s leftover funds will be allocated to a ‘a not-for-profit entity’ with purposes similar to the AIPP.

According to the AIPP Constitution, distributing the surplus assets is determined in one of two ways. Ideally, there would be a ‘special resolution of members at or before the time of winding up’. This didn’t happen as the Institute wrapped up with unseemly haste, within hours of the announcement. So the alternate option, ‘if the members do not make this decision’, is an application to the Supreme Court.

Daniel Sizer, manager of CJG Advisory, informed Inside Imaging that the Supreme Court application for the remaining funds is ‘progressing’. Expect it to be issued in ‘the near future’.

It’s speculated that WPC Team Australia may be a front-runner for the AIPP money and other assets partly due to the timing of it being registered as an ‘unincorporated entity’ in February 2022, just over a month after the AIPP’s demise.

Several AIPP board members and admin who served when the Institute went into voluntary administration are members of the invitation-only WPC Team Australia. This includes Les Morrison, who was in the leadership Chair role. Morrison emerged as a key player in the last year or so of the AIPP’s existence. He is largely unknown to most people in the professional photography community.

The past presidents feel it would not honour the AIPP’s legacy if WPC Team Australia is the benefactor, given the AIPP’s lifelong purpose goes far beyond participating in a photo contest.

The World Photographic Cup is essentially a light-hearted get-together for photo industry association representatives. It’s has a low profile outside of photo association circles. While the AIPP was an active WPC member, participating wasn’t integral for the Institute.

After sending the letter (re-published below) to the administrator, former AIPP president, Eric Victor, had discussions with Morrison about potentially setting up a foundation. The next step, Morrison told Victor, was to schedule a meeting with various AIPP stakeholders to establish how a foundation could preserve the AIPP’s intellectual property.

No meeting has yet taken place, and it’s unclear if it will go ahead given the Supreme Court application is ‘progressing’. Although Victor came away from the discussions with Les Morrison with an understanding that WPC Team Australia may not qualify for the leftover funds. But who knows? Stay tuned.

Here is the letter. None of the salient issues and specific questions contained in the letter were addressed in the reply from CGJ Advisory, adding to the past presidents’ concerns.

Dear Matthew.
The AIPP had a long history of fulfilling its mission and serving its members. The organisation’s demise came as a surprise and caused consternation and shock.

Members found it impossible to understand that the Board did not address the membership in advance before throwing in the towel and placing the organisation into administration. The articles of the Constitution have provision for such consultation. Members and past office holders felt that such a drastic action was premature.

We, the AIPP’s past Presidents, who have signed this letter, adamantly believe that the Constitution should have been respected. Since matters have progressed beyond saving the AIPP, it is now our sincere concern that the Constitution be observed closely from now on, and that the AIPP’s financial and intellectual legacy, for example, digital records including digital databases, social media pages, and AIPP website backend access, should be directed toward an association which has similar aims and not to an organisation with limited similarities.

To reiterate the core purposes of the organisation, established in 1963, it was constituted to promote professional photography. It had a history of nearly 60 years and was Australia’s leading membership body for the professional photographic community.

The AIPP was instrumental in improving the efficient and proper operation of photographic copyright in Australia by contributing to legislative amendments. The organisation’s aims included educating members at all stages of their careers. It had a Code of Ethics and an Ethics Committee to self-regulate general, market, member-related, and educational matters. These are the core aims that we, as Presidents, have worked for since the beginning.

There are two issues that we wish to highlight. One is the AIPP’s intellectual property, which has been contributed to, and paid for, by members, many of whom have strived to attain peer recognition through entry in the Masters, and other Awards. These are important and we intend to preserve their integrity.

The other matter is the residual assets including money that must go to a properly constituted organisation with similar aims, as outlined above, and not limited to one or two aims such as running a photographic competition and awards.

At this point in time, we would like to know how you will proceed with the liquidation:
Are you intending to call a plebiscite of the members?
Will you apply to the Victorian Supreme Court?
Would you agree not to oppose any application brought on the behalf of the AIPP membership?

We would like to make quite clear that our approach is not confrontational and that our aim is to work with you to ensure a fair and positive outcome to the process. The spirit of the AIPP Constitution is as important as its wording, and we trust that these issues will be approached with diligence.

This letter has been endorsed by the following past Presidents of the AIPP.
David McCarthy
Will Street
Robert Gray
Kevin O’Daly
Malcolm Matthieson
Richard Bennett
Mark Fitzgerald
Greg Hocking
Eric Victor
Ian Van der Wolde
Philip Kuruvita
Jacquie Dean
Alice Bennett
Robert Edwards


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