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On 7-9th October 2016, the Swiss Club of Victoria was the proud host of the Oceania Swiss Club President’s Conference 2016. Following a successful meeting two years ago in Canberra, the Australian and New Zealand members of the Council of the Swiss Abroad (CSA), Roland Isler VIC (chairperson), Carmen Trochsler SA, Beat Knoblauch NSW and Peter Ehrler NZ, combined their efforts in organising a forum for leaders of all the Swiss community groups and associations from across Oceania. The response was very pleasing – every Swiss club in Australia, four from New Zealand, as well as many other associations followed the invitation. There were a total of 44 conference participants, including the presenters and organisers.
The distinguished panel of presenters included two visitors that came all the way from Switzerland – Ambassador Jürg Burri, Director of the Consular Directorate of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA); and Remo Gysin, President of Organisation of the Swiss Abroad (OSA).
Official Switzerland was very well represented. On the panel was the newly appointed Ambassador of Switzerland to Australia, Pedro Zwahlen and Consul General of Switzerland (AUS), Ernst Steinmann. Among the participants was Manuela Erb, Honorary Consul of Switzerland for Victoria; and Jürg Bono, Counsellor, Deputy Head of Mission & Head of Consular Affairs, Embassy of New Zealand.
Further presenters were Ryan Cooper, Secretary & Oceania Representative of the Youth Parliament of the Swiss Abroad, Dominique Beck, who expertly conducted the workshop on the topic of 'The future of Swiss Clubs in Oceania'; as well as all four CSA delegates.
Before getting down to business, an informal dinner was held on Friday evening at the Swiss Club restaurant. This was an opportunity for members of the host club to meet and mingle with the visitors and compatriots from all over Australia and New Zealand. Members of the 'Guggemusik Auckland', here to participate at the Swiss Festival on Sunday, were also attending the dinner. To the tunes of the 'Kapelle Grüezi Mitenand' the evening soon turned very lively and lots of fun was had by everyone.
Then it was time to get to work. At 8:00 am on Saturday morning everyone gathered for the conference on the Second Floor of the Swiss Club where they were greeted by Birgit Livesey, who was in charge of the Registration Desk and throughout the day volunteered for the important job of Minute-Taker.
The main items on the busy agenda were:
Aim of the meeting – Beat Knoblauch
Switzerland today: Current topics – Pedro Zwahlen
Switzerland and the Swiss Abroad in light of new legislation – Jürg Burri
Aims and Achievements of the OSA – Remo Gysin
The OSA Centenary 2016 – Remo Gysin & Roland Isler
Matters of concern to the Swiss Abroad – Peter Ehrler & Ernst Steinmann
Official launch of the 'CSA Oceania' branding and website – Roland Isler & Carmen Trochsler
Introduction to the topic 'The future of Swiss Clubs in Oceania' & results of survey – Carmen Trochsler
Workshop: 'The future of Swiss Clubs in Oceania' – Dominique Beck
The Australian and New Zealand members of the Council of the Swiss Abroad have decided on a closer cooperation and, wherever possible, act regionally – hence the term and branding 'CSA Oceania' was created. The benefits are:
To better communicate with Swiss over a very fast area geographically, the CSA Oceania has created its own website www.csa-oceania.org – just in time to be launched at the conference. This new CSA website is for the community in our region to use as a resource and source of news. Website Coordinator is Carmen Trochsler. Any feedback is most welcome.
The topic 'The future of Swiss Clubs in Oceania' took aim at challenges the clubs are facing today and whether repositioning is needed. Carmen Trochsler summarised the results of a survey conducted by the CSA among all Swiss clubs and associations earlier this year. An ageing membership and difficulties in renewing committees were identified as the main problems. Ryan Cooper presented his views on 'Swiss clubs from a young persons perspective'. It highlighted many reasons why youth is not attracted to traditional clubs. Following this presentation, a workshop was conducted by Dominique Beck to find ways to address these issues. Participants split into six groups to brainstorm possible solutions. A summary of the results was compiled and a pathway given to implement them. Besides using these tools, the leaders were encouraged to reach out to each other for support and collaboration and start a dialogue among themselves and within their own committee. The conversation to address 'The future of Swiss Clubs in Oceania' has started and hopefully will lead to a good outcome.
In light of the election of the CSA next year, OSA is proposing Australia as a pilot to trial a new election modus that includes e-voting. In order to increase legitimacy as representatives of all Swiss the CSA is looking for ways to have future elections conducted in a more democratic manner that involves all registered Swiss residing in our region. A possible scenario was discussed.
The presenters on the panel provided a multitude of valuable and interesting information. Anyone wanting to find out more should contact the CSA Oceania for a copy of the minutes.
The conference and the social events provided an excellent opportunity for networking. On Sunday morning a guided tour at the Immigration Museum was organised for participants and their partners. This gave visitors and locals alike an interesting insight into the history of immigration to Melbourne and Victoria. After this, only a short stroll away in Queens bridge Square, the Swiss Festival awaited, providing plenty of entertainment and culinary enjoyment for all.
The CSA delegates sincerely thank all presenters, helpers and facilitators, the Swiss Club of Victoria and the Consulate General for their great generosity, the Swiss Club Restaurant for the hospitality and last but not least, all the participants and partners for attending this conference. It was decided that it should be repeated in two years in Sydney.