Seeking external assistance

Most grievances and disputes can be resolved using internal procedures. Occasionally, these processes fail and a dispute can only be resolved using a process outside the association, usually by the Courts or an external mediator.

Professional dispute resolution services

An association can make use of professional mediation and dispute resolution services that are available.  These services provide intervention in the form of negotiation, mediation and arbitration.  This may avoid court action and the services are generally less time consuming and costly.

State Administrative Tribunal

Where a dispute between individual members or members and the association relating to the rules cannot be resolved through the dispute resolution process as set out in the rules, an application may be made for the dispute to be heard by the State Administrative Tribunal (the SAT).

The SAT has powers to:

  • refer the dispute for mediation;
  • give orders:
    • directing for the rules to be followed.
    • declaring and enforcing the rights and obligations between members.
    • declaring and enforcing the rights and obligations between the association and member.

There are fees associated with applications to the SAT and more information about the application and hearing processes can be found at www.sat.justice.wa.gov.au or by calling 1300 306 017.

You can also find more information in fact sheets Going to the State Administrative Tribunal and Mediation in the State Administrative Tribunal.

Courts

An application can be made to a court to settle certain disputes, for example, where a committee member has mismanaged association funds.  Resolving disputes through court action is likely to be costly and may not have the desired outcome.  Courts are generally reluctant to interfere with the internal management of associations, particularly where the members have the power to resolve matters themselves. You should seek your own independent legal advice about the avenues available.

Other government regulators

Depending on the nature of the concerns, some government departments may be able to provide assistance or advice. For example if the problem relates to:

If the association receives funding and your concerns relate to matters within the funding agreement you may wish to discuss the matter with the funding body. 

Consumer Protection

Consumer Protection’s role is to ensure associations comply with the Associations Incorporation Act 2015.  If there has been a breach of the Act, a formal complaint can be made to Consumer Protection.  For example, if the association fails to present annual accounts at its Annual General Meeting.

It is highly recommended that members and committees make all reasonable attempts to resolve any complaints themselves, whether informally or through the dispute resolution process in the rules, prior to lodging a formal complaint.

Lodging a complaint

Consumer Protection will only investigate where it appears a possible breach of the Act or the Regulations has occurred and information about what the Department will investigate is also included at the end of this chapter. Anyone thinking of lodging a complaint against an association should read this information carefully before submitting their complaint.

Consumer Protection will not:

  • Investigate a breach of the association’s rules. 

It is not Consumer Protection’s role to resolve internal membership disputes concerning the application of the rules of association that are outside the requirements of the Act.  The Association must deal with such matters using its internal dispute resolution processes.

  • Provide interpretation of the association’s rules

Consumer Protection cannot adjudicate on what an association’s rules mean.  This should be dealt with as provided under the rules or otherwise is for members to determine.

  • Investigate disputes between individual members of the association or an individual and the association. 

Consumer Protection cannot adjudicate on disputes concerning individual grievances.  If an association is unable to resolve the dispute using its own internal processes some matters may be considered by the State Administrative Tribunal.

If your concerns relate to a potential breach of the Act a Complaint Form for Incorporated Associations may be submitted along with copies of any supporting documents.  

What to expect

Consumer Protection assesses all complaints against the requirements of the Act and considers whether there is sufficient information and documentation provided to investigate the complaint further.  Priority is given to dealing with complaints according to the seriousness of the conduct identified.  Consumer Protection will send acknowledgment of the complaint and may request further information and documentation from the person raising the concerns.

An association will always be given an opportunity to comment on any allegations made in a complaint.

Please note, even in cases where it appears after investigation there has been a breach of the Act, if the breach does not appear to be deliberate or fraudulent and the association agrees to comply with its obligations in the future, Consumer Protection may form the view that formal action is not in the public interest.

Key provisions of the Associations Incorporation Act 2015

If your concerns do not relate to any of the matters listed below Consumer Protection is not able to consider your complaint. Please refer to the other sections of this chapter for information about the avenues available to resolve such concerns.

Meetings

 

Annual General Meeting to be held within 6 months after the end of the association’s financial year.

s50

Decisions of the committee  

Committee members are required to disclose any material personal interests they have in matters being considered at meetings of the Association’s committee.

s42

Disclosed material personal interests to be recorded in the minutes.

s43

Committee member to leave the meeting while the matter is discussed and voted on.

s43

Committee member to disclose their material personal interest to the members at the next general meeting occurring after the relevant committee meeting where the matter was considered.

s42

Committee members and officers have duties to act with care and diligence and in good faith and for a proper purpose. Committee members and officers must not improperly use their position or information to gain an advantage or cause detriment to the association.

s44 - 47

Rules of association

 

The association keeps an up to date copy of its rules.

s35

Each new member of the association is provided with their own copy of the rules when they join the association.

s36

The rules are made available to members to inspect and copy if requested.

s35

A copy of the rules or any particular part is given to a member, free of charge, if requested.

s36

Changing the rules  

Written notice specifying the proposed special resolution(s) to alter the rules and detailing the time and place of the general meeting given to all members in accordance with the rules.

s51

Proposed special resolution(s) passed by 75% majority of members who are eligible to vote at general meeting

s51

Amendments to the rules lodged with Consumer Protection within one month of passing the special resolution

s30

Register of members  

The association to keep an up to date register of members

s53

The Register of Members is updated to include any changes in membership within 28 days of the change occurring.

s53

The Register of Members is made available to members to inspect  and copy if requested

s54

A copy of the Register of Members is provided to a member if requested in writing (subject to any requirements to pay a reasonable fee or provide of a statutory declaration).

s56

Accounting records and reporting  

Accurate accounting records kept that record and explain the financial transactions

s66

Annual accounts prepared in accordance with the requirements of association’s Tier

s68,71,74

Annual accounts presented to the members at the AGM

s70,73,76

For Tier 2s – The annual accounts are to be reviewed

s72

For Tier 3s – The annual accounts are to be audited

s75

All financial records are to be kept for at least 7 years.

s67

Other record keeping requirements  

The association keeps an up to date Record of Office Holders.

s58

The Record of Office Holders is made available to members to inspect and copy if requested.

s58

All records belonging to the association in the possession of an outgoing committee member are returned to the association as soon as practicable after their appointment ceases.

s41