As I write my President’s report for the final issue of ASSBI’s Newsletter for the year, I am sure that you will agree with me that we look forward to putting 2020 behind us. Who would have thought that, just 12 months ago, we would experience the worst wildfires in Australia's history burning more than 12.6 million hectares, which would be eclipsed by the COVID-19 pandemic with, at current count, 60.7 million confirmed cases worldwide and 1.4 million deaths. Australia and New Zealand have continued to be model countries in dealing with the pandemic and, at year’s end, we welcome the reopening of our inter-state and territory borders, and look forward to soon being able to travel within the “Australia-New Zealand bubble”. Particular mention is made of our Melburnian colleagues, who have recently emerged victorious from a crippling second wave of the virus. Tough lockdown measures were enforced for more than 110 days, with good community adherence, and a supportive and highly visible Premier who gave lengthy and candid press conferences for 120 consecutive days. We hope that the sky-rocketing rates of infections and deaths in other countries will be contained soon, particularly as the northern hemisphere enters its winter season.
Like many other businesses, the pandemic has had adverse consequences upon ASSBI’s financial position. The annual conference, scheduled for Perth in May, had to be cancelled. This was a severe financial blow to the Society, given that the conference is our main source of revenue. But it could have been a lot worse. Thanks to our remarkable Executive Officer, Margaret Eagers, our Continuing Education Officer, Barbara Zupan, and ASSBI Resources Manager, Skye McDonald, an excellent series of diverse and well-attended webinars was scheduled throughout the remainder of the year. This was marketed as ASSBI Conference Bite Size, thus allowing ASSBI to continue offering its (always highly acclaimed) professional development programme. Particular thanks are also due to the webinar speakers, not only for the high standard of their presentations, but also for foregoing payment for the webinars.
The ASSBI Committee has been extra busy this year planning for a review of the Society. An important first step in the process was a survey of the membership (see the September 2020 Newsletter for a summary of the survey results). We have had various working parties to advance this process, and I thank Jacinta Douglas, Olivier Piguet and Dana Wong for working with me to develop the survey items; and also Olivier, Jacinta, Dana, Nicci Grace and Clare Ramsden for their subsequent input into synthesising the results into a detailed report. This report has been discussed at length by the entire Committee. The next step has been the formation of another Working Party, with Jacinta, Olivier, Jennie Ponsford, Tamara Ownsworth, Janet Wagland, Margaret Eagers and myself, which will take the report and Committee discussions and develop goals for a review for consideration by the Committee. These activities will carry over into next year and I will keep you updated via the Newsletter.
Other activities have included instating a new social media team specifically formed to promote our journal, Brain Impairment (see this Newsletter for details), and student activity, coordinated by Jonathan Reyes. ASSBI’s encouragement and support of students and early career clinicians and researchers were identified in our membership survey as being worthwhile areas to expand, as is ASSBI’s role in greater inclusion of people with lived experience with brain impairment. So you can expect to see further development of ASSBI’s role in these areas.
As I mentioned in the September Newsletter, one of the most encouraging outcomes of the review was the positive endorsement of ASSBI being a welcoming community that is friendly, approachable, generous, inclusive, supportive, and collegiate; a society where members feel a sense of belonging. This sets ASSBI aside from many other professional organisations and makes us especially proud of our Society. I thank both the Committee and the wider membership who make ASSBI what it is. On that note, I take this opportunity to send you season’s greetings and let us all welcome in 2021 in a big way.
My very best wishes to you all,