What’s wrong with the Australian Freediving Association (AFA)?
My personal opinion is that until the following areas are addressed, the growth of the sport of freediving in Australia will be severely limited and we will never be a major player on the world scene (unlike the other water sports of swimming and surfing where Australia excels).
- The present membership categories of the AFA are illegal (according to lawyer John Mullins https://www.mullinslawyers.com.au/our-experts/john-mullins).
- We do not know the base rate to be a member of the AFA. What is the minimum fee to be a member of the AFA? Why is this not transparent on the AFA website or in its membership categories? Any club fees above and beyond this base membership fee should clearly be delineated on the AFA website.
- Why do members who are not members of a Club (“Non-Club Affiliated”) pay more than the members of some Affiliated Clubs (e.g., Goldy Freediving Club). This is clearly unfair and inequitable disadvantaging members who do not belong to any clubs and especially those who live in regional areas of Australia where there are no AFA Affiliated Clubs. The AFA Non-Club Affiliated membership fee should never be higher than the base AFA membership fee as they get the fewest services.
- The AFA does not allow private and for-profit clubs to be member clubs of the AFA as is regular practice in the very successful Australian water sports of swimming and surfing. This excludes all schools and clubs around Australia who educate, train, certify and maintain freediving safety standards. Therefore, the AFA, as the national body, does not represent a large part of the sport of freediving throughout Australia and the interests of the larger Australian freediving community.
- As a result this means the AFA does not have a grassroots program for the development of freediving in Australia and a model for encouraging people to enter the sport of freediving.
- Safety in freediving is paramount but the AFA relies on its six Affiliated Clubs to provide a limited safety induction. This alone is no longer satisfactory when well established international freediving education and certification standards now exist. Failure by the AFA to adopt minimum education or certification requirements based on international best practice means it is not fulfilling its own constitutional objectives of “To promote freediving safety to the public, its members, affiliated clubs and certification agencies.“
- Members of private freediving clubs cannot join the AFA through their private club. They have to join one of the limited six AFA clubs or pay the Non-Club Affiliated membership fee. This is nonsense as clearly these members are part of a club – it’s just that the AFA refuses to recognise such clubs in any capacity or allow them the opportunity to join the AFA. In fact, the AFA has intentionally excluded private and for-profit clubs to date – a significant part of the Australian freediving community.
- The AFA does not promote or advertise private/for-profit clubs or their competitions on its website or social media. This disadvantages AFA members and others in the freediving community who may not know about the existence of such clubs or associated events.
- The AFA is unable to provide a Calendar of Events for ALL competitions in Australia and just as importantly, well in advance to enable competitors to plan their training year accordingly.
- The AFA Public Liability Insurance policy does not cover AFA members. It only protects the AFA as a company. If you injure yourself in any way the AFA insurance policy does not provide any medical coverage whatsoever. It is a fallacy that you must have AFA membership to have insurance to cover yourself. There is nothing to stop small groups of freedivers getting together and training in a public pool. Obviously, you do not need to be an AFA member to undertake such activities.
- There is no transparency of financial records based on the fact the AFA will not provide them to the author or even acknowledge by simple email whether they have been audited or not by an independent accountancy firm.
- The AFA no longer provides a yearly national depth competition. Even our closest neighbour New Zealand continues to run depth competitions. Half the sport of freediving is not being promoted and developed by the AFA, our national body. It is possible to train up to 50 metres depth in Australia which is a great starting point and preparation for deeper competitions overseas. Failure to provide depth training and competitions has serious implications for the development of depth divers in Australia.
- As a result there is no elite athlete development program in either pool or ocean. It is up to talented individuals to seek and create their own opportunities to enhance their own freediving performance.
- There are no professions or career paths for Instructors, Judges or Safety Divers within the AFA. For that matter, there are not even casual jobs for people who wish to join the AFA to make a modest income and reward those who contribute to the sport as is typical in many other top sports in Australia. There are no financial incentives whatsoever to join the AFA, stay with the AFA and contribute to the sport in any way.
- Therefore, the AFA does not have programs in place for the recognition, development and expansion of these critical areas for the continued growth of freediving in Australia.
I believe these are serious concerns for the promotion and development of the sport of freediving in Australia which is the supposed objective of the AFA according to its own constitution. The exclusion of freediving schools and clubs based on whether they are private or for-profit means that the Australian Freediving Association is not the representative body of the larger Australian freediving community and nor has a major role in the education, certification and safety of freedivers. The only benefit it seems to joining the AFA is that it is the representative body in Australia for approving or sanctioning international pool competitions on behalf of the world body, AIDA International. Whether the AFA deserves to maintain this right is entirely up to the present AFA Committee, its members, the larger Australian freediving community and ultimately AIDA International.
The content of this post is entirely the views of its author, Clinton Laurence. The purpose of this post is to challenge thinking and generate ideas for improving the national body of freediving in Australia, the AFA, and to further grow and develop the sport of freediving in Australia. If you have an opinion on this post, wish to add to it or improve its accuracy in any way please contact Clinton via email firstname.lastname@example.org.