UPDATE Feb 2020: Unfortunately the 2019 HEA committee somehow rejected the petition saying it required 38 member signatures (5% of the membership), even though 45 homeschoolers had declared on the petition they were current HEA members. In addition, the member who organised the petition has been threatened with disciplinary action by the committee.
Members' pleas for membership money to not be used to pursue this legal action were ignored. The NCAT hearing went ahead and the 2019 HEA committee lost the case.
This isn't surprising as the committee have been advertising benefits designed into the new virtual office system and website to prospective members - you can't say something wasn't delivered and then promote it as a benefit!
HEA members need to ask why their committee decided on this financially risky action... what made them so confident they could risk membership funds?
And for those of us that don't belong to an association, I think it's something we need to think about too. How is it possible that a handful of people can use an association in this way?
It costs $60 to join the HEA and $50 to renew each year. The Objects of the association are very specific regarding the use of membership funds. I don't think the founders of the association envisaged that membership funds would be used to sue home educating families. Especially when no cause to do so actually exists...
Until the HEA gets back on track and its current committee unreservedly apologise to the five home educators for the stress, damage and harm that has been done to them in the name of the HEA, I can't endorse, support or recommend that association. The litigious nature of the current committee is not something that I recognise as part of our Australian home educating community.
These two actions are contrary to the Objects of the Association.
Members are asking other members and concerned home educators to sign their petition: https://myhea.paperform.co/.
Information about the petition can be found here: https://mysayhea.home.blog/blog-feed/.
Tasmanian home educator and HEA member Emma Thomspon signed the petition because she said she did not feel her "homeschooling community is a safe place anymore."
She urges everyone to share this petition among all homeschooling families across Australia "to help protect them."
She said that most home educators are currently "unaware of the risks posed by being a member of HEA Inc," adding that most people would be thinking only of the benefit of insurance (for group activity organisers) and discounted subscriptions to resources, but would "have no idea about the emotional and financial toll of defending yourself in the Supreme Court of NSW", which is what four members endured, and others were threatened with during 2018.
"Most members have no idea that their membership fees fund legal action against other homeschoolers," said Ms Thomspon.
"I feel that the conflict of the past [legal action] is continuing to hurt and harm the homeschooling community. We need to move away from a conflict-driven committee and focus on building a future for all homeschoolers across Australia. This cannot happen while both the threat and reality of legal action hangs over every homeschoolers' head."
"My heart aches for the volunteers and office administrators who were first threatened with Supreme Court action, and then claimed against when that threat eventuated in 2018."
All four defendants were dismissed or discontinued from the action with no case to answer.
Ms Thompson said "The emotional and financial stress has continued to this day for those homeschooling families. I constantly think, "What if that was me?""
In early 2018 Ms Thompson volunteered on the HEA Constitution Subcommittee set up by the 2017 Committee. As the conflict within the association flared she said she was frequently attacked "as if I had nefarious reasons for wanting to help the association better its constitution."
She says she is unable to volunteer for the association as her life partner "is terrified that we will be taken to the Supreme Court and made bankrupt."
Ms Thompson insisted this stressful situation this must change. "Our community needs to become a safe and supporting harbour for all homeschoolers again."
With her membership due to expire in April 2020, Ms Thompson said she would only renew it if the following happens:
- "NCAT action is immediately withdrawn.
- An SGM is called that is run by an independent chair.
- The current committee vacate their positions and allow for fresh elections.
- An apology is given to the Volunteers and Office Administrators who were wrongly claimed against in the Supreme Court of NSW.
- An apology is issued to Stuart Chapman for being improperly removed from his elected position on Committee.
- The Office Administrators get paid their entitlements. Entitlements that were legally established by the 2017 Committee, ones that the members of the current committee changed, without legal authority as employers, when they sued HEA Inc. and its staff as ordinary members in a private action in the Supreme Court of NSW.
- All monies spent by the 2019 Committee to fund their legal cases is returned to the association."
One of the defendants claimed against last year, Myfanwy Dibben, a former committee member, also urges everyone to share and sign the petition to "stop the current misuse of the HEA Inc suing the fifth home educator in two years with no authority to do so."
A member for over 11 years, having paid a total of $660 in subscriptions, she believes members funds are being used in a way that is contrary to the Objects of Association.
Ms Dibben said she was appalled that in 2018 members of the current committee "joined the association, with no authority to do so, to sue 4 home educating mums ... in the NSW Supreme Court ... contrary to the objects of association," and that those members "misrepresented themselves as the HEA Inc, with no vote, no motion and no notice to the membership. They usurped control."
She pointed out that the association had "haemorrhaged over 600 members since last year's [court] actions losing $36,000 in revenue..."
The ongoing lack of transparency by the current committee was also cited as a major concern: "There was motion, no vote and no note in the minutes of the HEA Inc. to start this latest action in NCAT in Sydney. This Committee is out of control and they don't want you to know about it. The constitution rightly precludes just these kinds of misuse of member's funds." [#99 which states that 'the income and property of the association shall be used only for the promotion of the objects of the association'. The Objects precludes the current expenditure on legal action against homeschooling families.]
Ms Dibben questioned the continued financial viability of the association, asking: "Is the HEA Inc trading insolvent?" ... does the bottom line include the year's worth of unpaid wages... Does it include the financial liabilities that the association is currently exposed to for wrongfully suing another home educator now?"
Throughout 2018 many members of the association were threatened when they publicly voiced their concern about legal action being taken against homeschooling families. Members reported revoking their membership or said they chose not to renew, unhappy with what was being done to fellow homeschooling families in the name of the association.
The litigious behaviour infecting the leadership of the Home Education Assocation needs to stop - and stop now. Sign and share the petition: https://myhea.paperform.co/.
The originators of the petition sought to have the petition distributed to members using the HEA Membership Register but were refused access by the 2019 Committee. Because of this they are asking concerned home educators to share the petition as widely as possible so that other members can become aware of what has been happening.
They reported that after 24 hours of the petition being online over 50% of those signing had requested additional information. Half had indicated they are concerned homeschoolers and potential members of the association, with the other half saying they were past or current members.
Some background information on the disruption that has occured within the Home Education Association in recent years:
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Beverley Paine with her children, and their home educated children, relaxing at home.
Together with the support of my family, my aim is to help parents educate their children in stress-free, nurturing environments. In addition to building and maintaing this website, I continue to create and manage local and national home educating networks, help to organise conferences and camps, as well as write for, edit and produce newsletters, resource directories and magazines. I am an active supporter of national, state, regional and local home education groups.
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