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Incorporated Associations access to information about members

Business Law: 22 March 2019

The Associations Incorporation Act 1981 (Vic) governs the incorporation of not-for-profit clubs and societies. Every association incorporated under that Act must have Rules, and the Act provides a list of matters for which rules must cover.  The Act also provides that an association or club may simply adopt the Model Rules prescribed in the regulations.

If you are forming an association or club, you should not adopt the Model Rules without reading them carefully and critically and considering whether you wish the procedures in them to be the procedures that your association or club follows. For example, the procedures for election of the committee or the discipline of members may seem too complex or cumbersome and you may prefer procedures that are more streamlined.

The Model Rules also provide for the access of members to the register of members.  Generally, a register of members contains the names and contact details of members, and the Model Rules allow members to make copies. You should consider whether the members of your club or association would want any other member to know their contact details by inspecting and copying the register. For example, if your association is a small, local club that meets for the purpose of a common activity, in which members all become acquainted with each other in the course of club activities, it might be appropriate to allow members to access the addresses and contact details of other members. If your association is larger, and activities at meetings are not its sole or main purpose, it is possible that many members will be and will remain strangers to other members, and may not wish membership to be a basis on which other members can obtain their contact details.

Unsolicited communications to membership mailing lists by disaffected members occur and have, in the past, caused considerable damage to associations. Every incorporated association should review its Rules and give consideration to its members' expectation of privacy and the use to which contact details kept in the register of members may be put. Indeed, every incorporated association should review all its Rules every five years to see whether it is complying with its Rules, and whether the Rules suit the way it wishes to continue to be run.

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