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Incorporated Societies Law Reform


The Incorporated Societies Act 1885 was enacted to cater to the footballers of the colony, to help structure Antipodean rugby clubs. The 1908 Act was drafted by s Sir John Salmond, who drafted the Bill in reasonably stark form. As noted in Alex Frame's biography of Sir John Salmond, "The Southern Jurist", Sir John led an exceptional life. He was heavily involved in the formation of the League of Nations and he served as a High Court judge for many distinguished years.

As society has changed, slightly different emphases are needed and the Incorporated Societies Bill 2021 has patiently waited for enactment, while parliament has focused on addressing the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic health and social welfare ramifications.

In a nutshell, following a thorough assessment of mooted reforms by the Law Commission and after a further round of public submissions, the changes might be characterized as incorporated some aspects of Australian Associations law and other aspects of the Companies Act 1993 regime (with strengthened powers for members - such as utilising a process akin to that of prejudiced shareholders: s 174 of the Companies Act, as well as the derivative shareholder regime). The Bill outlines a more prescriptive framework (but does not provide a default constitution) and has strengthened accountability processes such as overtly adopting natural justice precepts, which are emphasised in Australian States' Association legislation.

Rewriting constitutions might be a task usefully done by club and society committees during lockdown - with the rules to helpfully permit meetings by Zoom!