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Partner News: ‘Affiliation Agreements’ key to unlock ‘Flexible Federalism’

By Randall Pearce, Managing Director, THINK: Insight & Advice

Many national associations in Australia have a federated governance structure, modelled on the Australian Federation of States and Territories.  However, federal structures are brutal in their simplicity; they assume that all State and Territory Organisations (STOs) want the same rights and obligations from their national counterparts. 

In modern-day Australia, nothing could be further from the truth.  In my work with clients, I increasingly find that there is quite a lot of variability in the way branches would like to affiliate with their national bodies.  Unfortunately, traditional federated governance models offer little flexibility to meet the diverse needs of members.

Traditional memoranda of understanding set out a single set of rights and obligations that STO branches have to their national counterparts and vice-versa, regardless of their individual circumstances.  By contrast, ‘Affiliation Agreements’ can be structured to offer branches different ‘levels’ or ‘forms’ of affiliation.  For associations that wish to maintain their federated structures (or are unable to change them for political or other considerations), ‘Affiliation Agreements’ can help strengthen the federation. 

However, some associations are looking to replace their old federated structures with new single-entity national associations to boost efficiency and effectiveness.  In these cases, ‘Affiliation Agreements’ can be used to connect STOs to their national association when the STO ceases to be a ‘member’ of the federation. At their most basic, these agreements govern the use of the name and branding of a national association.  At their most complex, they can be used to retain trading operations at the State level while allowing the membership to migrate to a national governance model.  

Whether your association is happy with its federated structure, or if you have national aspirations, ‘Affiliation Agreements’ are a promising governance innovation to explore.  ‘Flexible Federalism’ can help associations make a national impact, regardless of their governance structures. 

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