Aaron Heary steps down from WABA
At next week’s WABA Annual General Meeting, Aaron Heary will step down as Vice President.
Increasing work commitments with ever-expanding Gage Roads and a growing family have meant Heary doesn’t have the time to put the necessary focus on the WABA Committee.
He has been an outstanding member of the WABA executive, strategising many of the developments that have lifted the association’s professional standards.
In an outgoing letter to all members, Heary discusses the successes of WABA and why it needs to continue with its role of representing the WA brewing industry.
Western Australia has become a difficult manufacturing environment, its isolation means that the local industry has specific challenges that are not well understood by national bodies. WA breweries are best represented by a State body and WABA is an important organisation that is well positioned to advocate on behalf of the WA industry. WABA has however suffered from a lack of effectiveness in the past, primarily due to a lack of resources required to execute its strategy.
It is an inconvenient truth that WA brewed beer now only represents about 7% of the market share of all the beer consumed in this State, with the majority being imported from interstate and overseas. This is down from numbers that approached 100% 30 years ago, and is in stark contrast to all the other States in Australia in which the local industry still dominates the majority of the market share. The subtext to this is the collapse of support industries, thereby making it even harder for local breweries to get effective service, and competitive cost of goods. A major challenge exists for WABA to improve the awareness of WA brewed beer, and encourage all West Australians to drink locally again. If we were able to improve market share to even 20%, the existing member breweries would enjoy tremendous success over the coming decade.
Throughout the past 3 years, WABA has made numerous achievements that I am extremely proud of, including rebranding the organisation with a new Masterbrand, creating a modern new website, and launching social media assets to help tell the WA Beer story. The committee also oversaw the in- boarding of WA Beer Week, a massive task, again creating new Master Brand Logos, redeveloping the WA Beer Week website and ticketing platform, and created new WA Beer Week social media assets. I look forward to the continued evolution of WA Beer Week and am excited about the future direction put forward by the WA Beer Week Committee to run a smaller more heavily curated event.
We have also continued to strengthen our relationship with BEST Events, helping to coordinate the Fremantle Beerfest which has grown to become the state’s #1 showcases of WA Brewed Beer, and now an important contributor to WABA’s financial accounts. There is major opportunity in the future for WABA to create another event, again providing another revenue stream and a platform to promote WA breweries to the public. Although this suggestion has received a mixed reception in the past, all the most effective brewing associations around the world raise most of their revenue from events and sponsorship, thereby subsidising member’s fees greatly.
More recently WABA has also increased its political advocacy, beginning the long journey for financial relief for the WA industry under the proposed Container Deposit Scheme Legislation. I am also excited by the recent development for a planned WABA event at Parliament House in October, where we will have an opportunity to address all sitting members of both houses. This will be hosted by the President of the upper house, the Honourable Kate Doust MLC, and we hope the event will improve our political presence and recognition in the WA Parliament.
However the achievements of the current committee, and those that came before us have been undertaken solely on a volunteer basis. Being time poor in a volunteer organisation is just a fact of life. Communication to member breweries has generally been poor since committees past and present have been busy doing, and have not necessarily had the time to put together newsletters or
other communications. Indeed one of the biggest criticisms WABA has faced since inception is that members do not know what WABA does for them, and it is clear in any case that there is only so much an organisation can achieve under the volunteer model. Members are asking more of the organisation, and this can only be provided with proper resourcing.
It has been self-evident for some time that WABA has needed a step-change to be a truly effective organisation and achieve its goals. This needs to begin in the form of full-time paid staff. Throughout the past 3 years we have improved WABA’s financial position through sponsorships and events (and without increasing member’s fees), to be able to fund a part-time paid Executive Officers Position. I congratulate Ross Lewis on his recent appointment to this role. The appointment of this position brings WABA into a new era of effectiveness and professionalism and is an important step in providing effective advocacy for the WA industry.
WABA’s biggest challenge, however, is to find the revenue to fund the role in a full-time capacity, and the organisation requires funds to support activities that increase the market share of the WA industry. A logical next step is to review membership fees as a source of revenue before moving onto future sponsorship or events based revenue streams. The membership fee structure is long overdue for an overhaul, and it is clear that a flat $300 fee is outdated and inadequate. I encourage all members to support the Committee in implementing a new membership fee structure to be put forward at the upcoming AGM.
If membership drops, WABA loses its only strength. A unified WABA can achieve anything. It is viewed as an important organisation by external parties because it has more than 90% membership of all the brewers of Western Australia. It is only as a united group that WABA is able to be effective, especially in political circles where politicians jump to action when they hear of our high membership rate. If WABA becomes fractured along geographical lines, or if membership drops away because the new fee structure is not supported fully, WABA risks losing its only strength.
WABA is at an exciting point in its evolution and I personally look forward to seeing it develop into a fully effective organisation that helps pave the way for the continued development of the WA brewing industry.
Outgoing Vice President
Western Australian Brewers Association