This year at the EFA AGM I will be stepping down from the Board after 5 fabulous years. I want to take this moment to thank EFA members for all of your support and encouragement. It’s quite incredible to step into an organisation and community that you’re new to and to receive instant support because of a shared belief in the movement and the work.
Robodebt got me into this
It was the clusterf*ck that was (and really still is) Robodebt is what initiated me into the digital rights space, and ultimately EFA. The deployment of technology to surveil, monitor, and punish is still a defining characteristic of what was then the Department of Human Services (now Services Australia). The botched rollout of the needlessly punitive new Workforce Australia points system is just the most recent intrusion into the lives of people already pushed well below the poverty line and offered little recourse — something we all need to continue to fight. The Albanese government made a Royal Commission into Robodebt an election promise — now it’s on the community to ensure that the terms are broad enough to fully capture the policy setting that allowed it to occur, and the culture that made it seem reasonable.
New colleagues made me stay
I remember the Slack chat between myself, the late Peter Tonoli, Lachlan Simpson, and Liam Pomfret where I realised they were going to propose I become Chair. It was with shock, honour, and a feeling of disbelief that I realised I had built up enough trust and respect with this group that they were going to back me. Once Justin Warren was co-opted to the board and then confirmed by vote at the AGM, it cemented a core group committed to putting in the work needed for change, and over the last five years we have all chipped away at it, slowly but surely making the organisation stronger.
Members and the board sustain EFA
EFA only exists because of its members. The right to privacy, freedom from surveillance, and for those rights to not depend on wealth or connections: those rights protect society, and they protect the most vulnerable. As EFA members, you help to set a vital standard for our society, upholding the expectations that were firmly established when the tech that became the Internet was established.
I am so proud that over the past five years I have had the opportunity to work with an amazing team of people to turn EFA around, and to get it back onto its track of inclusion, visability, and collective purpose. EFA is one of those rare organisations that has seen its relevance grow in the public eye over the last quarter of a century from pretty specialised technical roots to an issue that is by necessity in the consciousness of most Australians. The values that EFA members have always sought to preserve, protect, and promote are now at the forefront of Australian political and social life; EFA being an organisation with continuity of purpose matters, and people are listening.
Keep up your membership, renew, and suggest colleagues join. The community we have built and the collective support we are gathering matters.
Board diversity matters
In my five years with the Board it has changed and evolved significantly. I’ve cared a lot about diversity and inclusion, and hope this will remain a priority — diversity on boards requires intentionality, as does inclusion.
My favourite action has been to tap someone on the shoulder and ask them to join the board, not least because it has resulted in the opportunity to work with some amazing people who otherwise may not have put themselves forward! People can’t always say yes, but it’s nice to be asked, and it’s nice to think of others thinking about you for your leadership qualities and unique perspective.
Inclusion has required many conversations to be more flexible, adaptive, and able to hold and maintain space. It’s always worth it.
Join the board!
We need more board members at the next AGM (and all the ones after that), and so I want you to think about outstanding people in your organisation beyond the pale, male, and stale usual suspects.
Do they do great work? Are they the emerging leader the digital rights community needs to have? Do you want to support their career? Tell them about EFA and tell them you think they’d be great for the board. It’s a nice gesture and they will appreciate you for thinking of them and showing you recognise their talents.
Feel free to tell them to reach out to me, or connect with us via socials. And you can always email our Chair or member team.
A final thank you
The list of board members that I have had the pleasure to work with, collaborators from other organisations such as Digital Rights Watch, and those that have done paid and unpaid work with us is exceptional. A special shout out to the wonderful Laura Woods who reshaped our communications and keeps you better informed across our platforms. I appreciate and thank you all.
And our Policy Team, led by the wonderful Angus Murray for many years, thank you for your unwavering expertise, kindness, and time.
And a special thank you to Justin Warren, for being unwavering in support and commitment to EFA, as well as a colleague, confidante, and friend to me — I thank him very much.
My next steps
I’ll always keep an interest in EFA and digital rights. My one regret is that I never had enough capacity to help volunteers and increase membership, so I’ll keep dabbling with that within EFA. I hope to find a way to be involved in the Robodebt Royal Commission. And in my startup life I help farmers work towards better data use in the agriculture sector.
And of course, I will never stop shitposting on Twitter about digital rights.
If you have ideas about reaching out to new members, or want to be more involved, get in touch!
Stay active. Digital rights depend on us all.