Boundary Reviews – working together for change

by Melanie Allen

Great progress has been made by the BV appointed Boundary Review sub-committee who are tasked with reviewing and proposing alterations to existing Region boundaries and the future of the Divisions within Regions.

The committee commenced the project in 2019, and earlier this year a travelling roadshow was able to present to most Regions before COVID-19 took hold. The primary goal of the review is to dissolve Divisions and finish with 16 Regions, a lot less than the 41 different bodies operating throughout Victoria currently.

“We need to create more effective Regions, with less duplication of Board roles and Divisional expenses,” said the Chair Ian Guymer.

“The ever- increasing demand on volunteer time combined with the decreasing number of administrative volunteers, not only at club level, but at Divisional and Region levels also, is the driving force behind this decision and how BV plans to ‘future-proof our sport’,” said Guymer.

For most bowlers, you will see no change in who you bowl with or against, with existing Divisions becoming playing areas governed by a Region Board. All forms of Pennant will be maintained, with current playing formats in current areas not changing, ie; you will not be expected to travel from one end of the Region to the other.

With most changes being purely administrative, the message to bowlers, Divisions and Regions is to take advantage of the proposed changes. They will create improved governance systems, allow for new sponsorship opportunities, and importantly lessen the need for so many volunteers across the State.

Peninsula Casey Region has led the charge in change already. In 2017 they had three divisions in the Region – Flinders, Peninsula and Casey. Flinders Bowls Division and Peninsula Bowls Division joined together by dissolving both divisions, however they remained in playing areas. Casey Division clubs have now moved into metropolitan Regions and the Division dissolved leaving the one Region.

According to James Whitehead, BA/BV Regional Bowls Manager, “the review has enabled Regions to take a step back and assess how their pennant is played and look at ways to modernise and attract new players in their pennant formats. I’ve seen some good discussions within the Regions and Divisions that I work with, and it’s been great to see them all relish the opportunity to streamline their committees, and work on sharing ideas with clubs outside their traditional playing areas, at a Regional level.

The move to a singular Region Board enables better communication to clubs. This is a huge plus for everyone associated with bowls in Victoria.”

With meetings being held around the State, the general view from those taking part has been that the review is well overdue. There has been no change to the governance structure that was implemented when the RVBA and VLBA unified to become Bowls Victoria a decade ago.

Newly elected Chair of the Gippsland Region, Jan Morton, stated “It’s been more than 10 years since our Region has had a full Board. We now have a committed and positive team and we are looking forward to bringing East & North together as Gippsland. Bring on 2021/22!”

Central Highlands Bowls Division President, Ian Ball, stated “the Central Victorian Region is positive in the synergies that will occur with the new Region model, and have established a working party that will meet regularly to discuss proposed timelines to achieve various requirements by the July 1st 2021 deadline”.

Ballarat Division’s President, Marilyn Blake, commented that “the BDBD is very buoyant on the future changes, as the Ballarat Division have sought the introduction of one Region for a number of years.”

Committee members’ Michael Kinnane and Gabrielle Sheppard, from the aforementioned Region on the Mornington Peninsula, both had positive feedback to share. Of Bowls Victoria support Kinnane said, “the documents and templates provided by BV have been an excellent resource during the formation of the new MPBR. They have made the preparation of mandatory, legal and optional documentation easier and quicker than expected, and have also provided valuable points for discussion by the members of the sub-committee delegated with the responsibility of forming the new Region.”

In addition, Sheppard stated, “the support from BV has been invaluable to enable the Board to transition from Division to Region. The excellent verbal and written support from BA/BV Regional Manager Jimmy Whitehead has been outstanding and certainly helped us to dot the ‘I’s and cross the ‘t’s. Without Jimmy’s assistance and manner this task certainly would have taken longer to complete”.

BV Boundary Review Committee members Barbara Gilbert (BV President) and Pat Schram (Director), along with Tony Sherwill (CEO), attended Murray Mallee Bowls Region’s (MMBR) first Boundary Review meeting in March of this year.

According to Region Chairman, Ron Boyd, “there seemed to be a lack of understanding and many questions not asked.” Later in 2020 (June), Ian Guymer, Chair of the Boundary Review committee, attended a second MMBR Region meeting to further discuss the task at hand. This meeting was well-represented by delegates from the four Divisions as well as observers from the Region. Together with Barbara Gilbert, Ian explained what BV are going to achieve and alleviated most of the concerns raised by those in attendance.

“Moving forward, we will be working on the new Region Constitution, sourcing information from the Divisions, to enable us to make sound decisions on how things will work within the new structure of the Region” said Boyd.

There are successful Regions who demonstrate how Regions without Divisions work, such as Geelong Region and Ovens and Murray Region. They have successfully governed bowls in their Regions despite the range of clubs and the distance covered within their Region.

The Ovens and Murray Region extends north to include Yarrawonga/Mulwala and Corowa, as far east as Corryong, and down south to Mansfield. Playing areas work well in this Region, as they will in all the other Regions that currently have Divisions, providing solid evidence for the rationale.

“With twelve months’ planning time remaining to finalise and implement the new structure, the Boundary Review committee is determined to reach a positive outcome and ensure we have a governance system to take us into the future.”

“Regions with Divisions should take the opportunity to discuss any concerns they have with the BV Boundary Review Committee” said Guymer.

An updated ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ document is available for all bowlers, clubs and divisions to read, with further information and additional Region resources also found here.