Roles and Responsibilities of Office Bearers

The Role of the Chairperson
The Chairperson is a part of a team made up of a Chairperson (or, at times, another discussion leader), the Secretary, the Treasurer, all the committee members. The Chairperson's aim should be to utilise the interests, release the potential energies of all the members, and to see that the committee develops a common view of its purposes and shared responsibility for leadership. They should play the role of a stimulator, not a dictator.

Points in Selecting a Chairperson
It might prove helpful in selecting a chairperson to ask this question: What do we expect of a Chairperson?

 Other people, bearing in mind the definition of the chairperson's job, find It more useful to look at qualifications for the position in this way:

These lists of qualifications point to one way of helping committees improve their performance by selecting the right kind of chairperson. They suggest that committees can work better if they operate democratically, with democratic leadership and with members really sharing in making decisions and carrying them out.

The Ideal Chairperson - one who can:

How can a Chairperson fill these expectations?

By putting everyone at ease and making sure that all members have a say.

 By being sensitive to members, encouraging quieter people to express an opinion, and by controlling the over-talkative or aggressive personalities in a friendly and firm way.

By making sure that a speaker has a chance to complete what they want to say without being talked down by other members. Overlong speeches need to be closed in a way that respects the speaker's feelings.

By discouraging over-emotional language, personal abuse or accusation, while trying to maintain a reasonable, calm and friendly atmosphere.

By using formal Committee procedure, allow the business of a meeting to be completed, for example, calling for motions to wind up long discussions.

By making sure that everyone has a chance to share in the achievements of the group, and actively participate in tasks and projects.

General Duties of a Chairperson 
The Chairperson is the public representative of the Committee to the community. The Chairperson should be aware of and sign all documents that set out policy or have financial implications for the group.

Before a Committee or General Meeting:

  • consult beforehand with the Secretary on all the business to be discussed at meetings
  • supervise and to prepare, together with the Secretary, the agenda for the meeting
  • check that all reports etc which should accompany the agenda and minutes are sent out to members in sufficient time before the meeting
  • check the minutes of the previous meeting and sign for accuracy
  • be acquainted with any reports, correspondence, business etc, which is to be presented the meeting
  • work with the Secretary to ensure that tasks which were to be completed between meetings are completed. 

During the meeting   

  • open the meeting,
  • check for quorum,
  • conduct the business of the meeting and according to the order of the agenda paper unless it is altered with the consent of the meeting
  • confine discussion to the item actually before the meeting and to see that it is dealt with and settled before passing on to the next,
  • allow free and, if necessary, formal debate,
  • give all those wishing to speak an opportunity to do so, to see that their remarks are addressed to the Chair and to allow no private discussion or personal matter to be introduced in a negative way,
  • say who is to speak, if two people should speak at the same time - The Chairperson's decision on such points is final,
  • make every effort to let any meeting over:which she/he presides understand the reasons for and purpose of his/her rulings,
  • close the meeting when all matters are attended to.

The Ethics of a Chairperson:
Chairpersons should not force their own point of view on the Committee but should help it be expressed, discussed and agreed upon or not.  

It is better for a Chairperson to make a wrong decision firmly than either to waver for some minutes before making up their mind or to keep changing their rulings.

If the Chairperson desires to place some factual information before the organisation in his official capacity, she/he should do so before calling on the mover to initiate the debate.

A Chairperson's reputation for impartiality can be speedily undermined if he or she does from the Chair any of the things that should be done from the floor, such as speaking to motions in a general meeting, or nominating members to some office. If they feel sufficiently strongly about a matter they should vacate the Chair temporarily.

Ethics - Leaving the Chair:

It is not ethical to leave the Chair to participate in a debate which has been progressing for some time. The moment to leave the Chair is before the debate starts, immediately after the mover has spoken. This privilege should not often be availed of, as a Chairperson's too-frequent participation in detailed debate endangers your reputation for impartiality - justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done.

The Chairperson must also leave the Chair whenever they are effected, for example during an election they are contesting, or during discussion of motions either censuring or congratulating them, or dealing with dissent from their rulings. Again, this ensures that justice is done and is seen to be done. It is fairer to the Chairperson's critics and also to the Chairperson as they can then put their side of the story from the floor of the meeting.

If a Guest Speaker is expected to arrive during the meeting, the Chairperson should not, because of this, leave the Chair to await and escort him; one of the Vice Presidents or some other office-bearer should be deputed to do this task. Similarly, a Chairperson should not leave the Chair to see off a Guest Speaker leaving before the conclusion of the meeting.

Four of the most important qualities of a good Chairperson are impartiality, firmness, tact and common sense. Other useful qualities are courtesy, patience and tolerance.

The Role of the Secretary

A Secretary needs to be a practical person who will pay attention to detail and likes to get things done. The Secretary will need to work closely with the Chairperson, and also with a group's co-ordinator or paid staff, if there are any. The Secretary is an official member of the Committee and has the right to vote.

The Secretary usually has a number of responsibilities:

Some groups have a Secretary for these tasks and a Minute Secretary, who has no voting rights, but takes the minutes of the meetings. This usually depends on how many willing helpers you can find in your group. While the Minute Secretary takes the Minutes, it is the Secretary's job to make sure that they are accurate, copied and circulated to members.

Duties of the Secretary

Before the meeting:

  • make sure a place is available for the meeting,
  • make sure that the Minutes of the previous meeting are written up and a copy circulated to all Committee members with notice of the next meeting (date, place, time) and a draft Agenda for the coming meeting,
  • settle the items of the agenda with the Chairperson and prepare copies for all members,
  • keep all the papers that may be needed at the meeting in a folder - they should be arranged in the order that will be needed,
  • have any reports or information ready which may have been asked for at the previous meeting.

At the meeting:

  • you should be at the meeting ahead of time with the books, correspondence and other necessary papers, including the Constitution, a membership list and the Minute book, to check past decisions,
  • make a note of those present and also of all apologies,
  • see that a quorum is present before any committee business is done,
  • read the minutes of the previous meeting and obtain the Chair's signature
  • take notes of the business of the meeting for the minutes, unless there is a Minute Secretary available,
  • assist the Chair with any information required, including giving advice on the consequences of the Correspondence items or other documents.

After the meeting:

  • draft or check the Minutes as soon as possible and submit them to the Chair for approval,
  • write any letters, secure any information or take any action on matters decided by the committee,
  • write up the Minutes for circulation
  • have the Minutes typed, copied and sent out to all the members of the Committee,
  • if action is to be taken by anyone else, check that they know they are meant to do that job, and when the Committee needs to have a result.

 Hints for Minutes Takers:

The Role of the Treasurer

The Treasurer has the responsibility of reporting the state of financial affairs to the members. This is usually done by way of recommendations to a Committee Meeting, based on the written reports and financial statements presented to the Committee. Some Treasurers are able to delegate the carrying out of some of the following tasks. But the responsibility remains with the Treasurer.

The Treasurer is responsible for:

The Role of the Public Officer


Section of the Act

1.      Notify the Registrar (Incorporated Association) within fourteen days of appointment (except as a result of incorporation, or an unincorporated association, or a migration, or amalgamating associations).

      Section 28(1)

2.      Notify the Registrar of a change of Public Officer or a change of address within fourteen days of the change.   

Section 28(1)(2)

3.      Lodge with the Registrar a notice of special resolution to change the statement of purposes or rules within one month of the general meeting.   

Section 22(2)

4.      Make application to the Registrar for approval of a change of name within one month after passing a special resolution to change the association's name.        

Section 13(2)(3)(a)(c)(d)

5.      Lodge with the Registrar the documents required by section 30(4) in respect of the Annual General Meeting within one month or such further period as the Registrar allows.      

Section 30(4)

6.      Lodge with the Registrar within fourteen days after the association becomes trustee of a trust, particulars of the trust and a copy of any relevant document.   

Section 16(4)

7.      Lodge with the Registrar notice of special resolution relating to the winding up of the association within one month of passing the resolution. 

Section 35(1A)

8.      Produce any book required by the Registrar or an authorised officer.    

Section 47(5)

9.      Tell the Registrar or an authorised officer where, to the best of the Public Officer's knowledge or belief, a book is at the time of the request.       

Section 47(6)

10.     Not hinder or obstruct the Registrar or an authorised officer in the exercise of their powers of inspection.    

Section 47(7)

11.     Immediately bring to the attention of the committee of management any document served on the association at the Public Officer's address.       

Section 48

 Correspondence and enquiries to:

The Registrar - Incorporations & Associations
Consumer & Business Affairs Victoria
452 Flinders Street
Melbourne   3000

Business Hours: 9 am - 4 pm Monday to Friday. Phone:     03 9627 6000
Fax:          03 9627 6007
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