The Vision for the Growth & Development of the Australian Freediving Association
We have five specific overarching goals for the vision of the growth and development of the Australian Freediving Association to be world competitive in both pool and depth disciplines. In the next two years we will:
- Increase the number of AFA Members from 160 to over the 300 members.
- Increase the number of clubs within the AFA from 6 to over 12 clubs.
- Increase the number of Australian athletes in the top 10 and top 50 rankings in both the pool and depth events. For example, we have no athletes in the top 50 international rankings for statics.
- Increase the professionalism of Judges, safety divers and instructors by developing career paths and appropriate remuneration.
- Increase the number of freediving competitions in Australia from the present 8 in 2019 to over 14 in all states of Australia including at least one regional area (e.g., Cairns) and two depth competitions.
We will do this by:
- Developing closer connections and inclusivity between private clubs/schools and the present AFA Affiliated Clubs.
There are over 30 private schools in Australia who are developing and educating freedivers (by the way we are education neutral in this regard). We need to utilise this valuable resource. For example, we (Freediving Gold Coast) have been referring our freedivers who live in Brisbane to the Bullsharks and Brisbane Freedivers. We have just been developing closer connections on the competition front. Some of our freedivers played a significant part as safety divers in a Bullsharks comp. Let’s further develop these connections between all freediving schools and not exclude them.
- Maintain and grow the present AFA Affiliated Club system. We believe guidelines are needed to ensure the present AFA Affiliated Club system works and continues to grow. However, the sport is too young and clubs too few to develop rigid constitutional rules as the present AFA Committee have proposed that actually discourages the formation of such clubs. The present AFA Committee have proposed a new Constitution for clubs that if ratified will substantially retard the growth of freediving clubs in Australia over the next 10 years, if not much longer.
- Allow private clubs and schools to join the AFA.
Why is the present AFA Committee intentionally excluding the some 30 private schools and clubs around Australia who are involved in educating freedivers throughout Australia and who are in the best position to find the next generation of freedivers? As long as these private schools and clubs have their own insurance we believe that these bodies should be an integral part of the Australian Freediving Association by allowing these clubs to be listed on the AFA website and social media and their members being able to join the AFA through their own clubs. Excluding private schools and clubs is excluding a substantial part of the Australian freediving community. The Australian Freediving Association will never be the representative body of freediving in Australia with the exclusion of these clubs.
- Increase the income of the Australian Freediving Association.
The sport will always be limited if income is solely reliant on membership fees. For example, allow businesses, for a fee, to advertise on the AFA website and social media. Other income streams need to be explored and developed as a priority.
- Develop a “Club/School finder” function on the AFA website.
Of course the AFA Affiliated clubs are advertised for free but for a fee all private clubs are allowed to advertise contact details, website etc. Now all people in Australia doing freediving are represented on the AFA website. Wow, the AFA is truly inclusive and the representative body of freediving in Australia. Such a school/club finder function is present in Surfing Australia and other major water sports.
- Use the income from these revenue sources to promote more competitions and pay for judges/safety divers at these competitions.
Presently, there are no professions or careers within the Australian Freediving Association or even casual jobs for that matter. While there is no path to develop careers within the sport of freediving, the sport will always have to rely totally only volunteers. Why has the Sydney Freedivers AFA Affiliated club disappeared and there is no AFA Affiliated Club in the biggest city in Australia? Because it relied on the exemplary efforts of a few individuals who no longer keep the club going.
- Review and ideally simplify membership categories for a fairer and more equitable membership system.
We think a “General Membership” fee of say $70 (we need to see the financial books to determine this) is the base AFA membership fee for any person to join any club in Australia (and certainly some AFA Freediving Clubs already charge this fee). Clubs may charge whatever they like after this (e.g., for pool entry fees or coaching) but it must be clearly transparent on the AFA website. This will allow total reciprocity between all clubs for training and competition. There may need to be other membership categories. For example, we like the term Supporter Membership to better encourage non-training/non-competing members to be part of the AFA even though there are only three members presently in this membership category. Irrespective of whether a person belongs to an AFA Affiliated club, a private club or trains with a group of friends, they are all best described as General Members. Distinguishing between memberships based on “Affiliated” or “Non-Affiliated” implies that members in the latter category are lesser in some way. The present situation where some members to AFA Affilaited Clubs pay $70 while “Non-Club Affiliated” members pay $90 is not appropriate, let alone fair. We want fairer, more equitable and inclusive membership categories. For a further critique see our previous post on Unfair and Inequitable AFA Membership Categories.
- Private Clubs/Schools are also our talent ID program.
These are the people on the ground floor educating freedivers and are regularly seeing gifted athletes. For example, as soon as we saw what Jack Michael, Jono Maher, Javier Gutierrez, and even Kerry Whitworth (the 70 year old who is now ranked 7thfor Statics) did on our Freediving Gold Coast courses we knew these guys had potential. We need to encourage and nurture these athletes, and encourage them to compete. These are our elite athletes of the future. Now imagine if all some 30 private freediving schools in Australia were on board with this approach and funnelling these talented athletes into competitions? What could Australia achieve in the international rankings? What could Australia achieve on the international stage? We believe Australia has the potential to be a world leading freediving nation in both depth and the pool disciplines but until systems are put in place for this to happen, then Australia will have to rely on the performance of a gifted few who take the time and effort into developing their own skills.
- A national depth competition is a priority.
We also think it is possible to organise some mini-depth competitions in Australia. Even a comp around 45 to 50m in Australia would be a great stepping stone to deeper depth events overseas and help athletes get some valuable depth competition experience. The present Australian Freediving Association was unable to organise a National Depth Competition in 2019 whilst our closest neighbours (such as New Zealand) were able to do so. Why? If the current AFA Committee couldn’t do it for 2019 what makes you think they have the capacity for 2020? We also notice with concern that the current AFA Insurance Certificate of Cover does not include depth competitions for 2019/2020.
- We need to develop a national calendar of events for all competitions in Australia at least 6 months in advance. Eventually when everyone is on board with this forward planning then 12 months in advance. But let’s go further. We believe that major events like the national pool championships should be on the same weekend every year, such as the second weekend in May every year. This is the only way for clubs and athletes to plan their training cycles and develop long term. We are the first to not only propose this but to practice this. For example, Freediving Gold Coast is the only club in Australia advertising their competitions on the AIDA website for the next 8 months. Most of the freediving competitions in Australia are held in south-east QLD with five being held in 2019 (three comps by Freediving Gold Coast, one by the Bullsharks and one by Goldy Freedivers). One was held in Melbourne and two in Adelaide. We believe that a reasonable goal is to develop freediving pool competitions throughout Australia with a particular focus on Sydney, Perth and a regional area like Cairns in 2020. It would be nice to bring Hobart and Darwin on board in 2021. A national calendar of events for all these locations would truly make freediving an inclusive sport for people in both capital cities and regional areas of Australia.
- A summary financial report needs to be made available to all members via the Member’s Portal well before any Annual General Meeting. The Australian Freediving Association needs to provide at least a summary report of all financials well before any Annual General Meeting. Failure to do so is very inappropriate for a national sporting body purporting to represent and be transparent for all its members. We have asked repeatedly for the current AFA Committee to provide such financials including a full copy sent to all AFA position nominees well before the AGM of the 24th November 2019. This latter email has been ignored by the current AFA Committee.
- A list of benefits for being part of the Australian Freediving Association needs to be developed. At this stage there is no major reason for anyone to join the Australian Freediving Association unless they want to enter competitions and want their performance to be internationally ranked by the world body, AIDA. Simply, there are no perceived benefits and it is a very hard sell. How will we get a freediver excited about joining the AFA after completing their first freediving course?
- A major review of the insurance of the Australian Freediving Association is a priority. The Australian Freediving Association presents as one of its benefits for joining is that it covers an individual’s insurance. This is incorrect. The Australian Freediving Association Insurance Certificate of Cover is for Public Liability (this can be verified and downloaded from their website). What does this mean? To the best of our knowledge public liability insurance only protects the AFA club or organisers of a competition/training. It only covers individuals to the extent that they can make a claim of negligence against the Club for personal injuries/damage to receive compensation. This is hardly a selling point for joining the AFA! The only clubs covered by this insurance are those listed on the AFA Certificate of Cover. As can clearly be seen this is not really a benefit for an individual to join the AFA. It is cheaper and easier to go and train at the local pool with a few of your mates. We should also add there are a number of other insurances such as Personal Injury insurance (coverage provided for members if they are injured), and Management Liability Insurance (to protect the Committee Members of a Club) that need to be thoroughly reviewed. These insurances are presently lacking but the present AFA Committee dogmatically continues to incorrectly state that it’s insurance cover all members albeit it is a very limited and restrictive insurance.
- We need to fight against the trend in Australia for the banning of freediving in public pools or the management of these pools simply being uncooperative when approached by freediving schools and clubs. This is not helped by sporting organisations like Swimming Australia releasing a Position Statement on Hypoxic Training (see https://www.swimming.org.au/sites/default/files/assets/documents/Hypoxic-Training-Policy-Position.pdf). We believe it is time for a position statement by the Australian Freediving Association on Breath-hold Activities and Training. This should be a strongly worded one to two page document including the safety of freediving training and competitions, the education and certification of freedivers, and the current world record records being achieved with appropriate training. We believe this position statement should be part of an information package made available to all clubs and groups of freedivers attempting to introduce freediving in their local pools. The Australia Freediving Association should be doing more to support its members in getting freediving accepted into local pools and countering the popular media stereotypes of “extreme” freediving and “shallow water blackout” (which cannot actually occur in public pools of up to 2m depth).
- Finally, the present AFA Committee have proposed a new Constitution which they hope to ratify at the AGM on the 24th November 2019. We believe this constitution should be voted against at all cost. We believe this document is restrictive and will slow the development of freediving in Australia for years to come. They propose to include a further 6 pages under Clause 12 and 13 from the document titled AFA Member Requirements (which can be accessed by any members through the Members’ Portal). Firstly, it will prohibit all private/for-profit freediving clubs from ever being a member of the AFA in their own right. Therefore, the five points of this Vision involving the 30 or so schools around Australia will never be able to be developed. These schools will be excluded. Secondly, the development of AFA Affiliated Clubs will seriously be affected to the extent we see at best only one to two further AFA Clubs being developed over the next two years. Under the proposed Constitution new AFA Clubs must have at least three Committee members; one person must have completed an online Member Protection Information Officer training; the AFA strongly encourages incorporation; the AFA will consider whether it is appropriate for there to be multiple Affiliated clubs within close geographic proximity; it is mandatory for Affiliated Clubs to follow the processes in the AFA’s Club Operations Handbook; and the AFA’s decision is final for the approval of Clubs or withdrawal of AFA Affiliated status etc etc. The present AFA Committee have partly borrowed these guidelines from Swimming Australia with over 100,000 members and 1100 clubs. Our sport is too young, with too few members and too few clubs to adopt such onerous processes. Why would any group of freedivers bother? We should be making easier to develop a club and not more difficult. We will be voting “no” against the proposed Constitution.
This is part of our vision to develop and grow freediving in Australia. If we get the right people on board working together, then we are confident that we can further refine this vision and put systems in place, perhaps for the next 5 to 10 years. We sincerely believe that Australia can be a world force in freediving as in swimming and surfing (we recommend looking at the latter website to give you an idea of where we are coming from). We can’t turn this vision into reality by doing it alone. The freedivers in Australia need to unite behind this plan. We think it is time for a change, new ideas and a new direction. We believe the best chances for this new direction is by voting for the following people in the upcoming Australian Freediving Association Annual General Meeting on the 24th November 2019:
President: Clinton Laurence
Secretary: Michael Hansen
Clubs Officer: Damian Papworth
Public Relations Officer: Amber Bourke or Dave Mullins
Technical Officer: Grant Faber
Sponsorships: Adam Stern
All these people represent a new culture, new ideas, and a a new direction to make Australia a great freediving nation and to compete with the best in the world. We can’t do it alone. We need the support of all freedivers throughout Australia. It’s not too late to join as an AFA Non-competing/Non-training member for $20 to make your voice heard and your vote count. This vision for Australian freediving is transparent, equitable and inclusive for all freedivers in the Australian freedving community. We need the support of all Australian freedivers to make this vision reality.