Chair’s report – FOBL AGM May 2022

Good evening everyone, I would like to welcome you to the FOBL AGM for 2022. I am Fiona Mitchell, the Chair of FOBL. I’d like to welcome and thank Duncan MacAuslan, the President of the Balmain Association, for agreeing to speak to us tonight. We look forward to his talk.

To begin:

“I would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are meeting tonight, the Wangal and Cadigal people of the Eora nation. I thank their leaders past, present and emerging.

Here, at this FOBL gathering where we always celebrate books and writing, it is good to remember that Aboriginal people told and recorded stories for thousands of years.”

On my right, our treasurer Ron Brown who will report on the FOBL finances shortly. Normally our hard-working secretary, Shirley Allen, would be sitting on my right. Unfortunately, she is unable to attend tonight. Shirley writes meticulous minutes and keeps us on track during our meetings. I must tell you that even from her hospital bed, she corrected the agenda and the minutes that I prepared in her absence, particularly my phraseology. Instead, we have Viv Nicholl-Hatton, another member of our committee who will take the minutes this evening. I would like to say thank you to all my wonderful committee for the time, energy and enthusiasm that they bring to the committee meetings and to each event which we hold, Jan Aitkin, Bronwyn Monro, Vivienne Nicholl Hatton and Susan Sharpe. Please join me in thanking them for their good work. We are a small committee; we work well together to ensure the success of our events. In addition to coming along to our monthly committee meetings, they, together with former committee members, also provide the delicious light suppers that we all enjoy and for which FOBL is famous.

My report tonight will cover the FOBL initiatives and events from our last AGM. It has been a difficult time, with restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic but despite this we have managed to hold several fund-raising events. The funds have been used to buy books for the library and for the Open Book Group. We are also planning to contribute to the refurbishment of our library in a substantive manner. The refurbishment is on the cards, although there is not yet a definitive date as far as we are aware,

We are grateful to Hill of Content for their continuing support of FOBL. They put up posters and promote our events. They come along and sell books which adds much to our evenings, as well as generously donating book vouchers or beautiful coffee table books as our raffle prizes. In addition, they give a generous discount to FOBL members when we purchase books.

Many thanks are also due to Douglas Clark for all the work he puts into FOBL. Douglas continues to support us by producing posters for events and sending out emails to our members and maintaining the FOBL website. His time and commitment is much appreciated.

One last note of thanks to my Deputy Chair, Jan Aitkin, for her support and guidance and for covering my absences, of which there will be many in the coming months.

Now to report on what FOBL has done over the past year. As I said, we have managed to hold a number of events despite the restrictions of this last year. Starting with our AGM in 2021, our speaker was Beverley Malone, the archivist from the Balmain Rowing Club who shared the long and fascinating history of this iconic Balmain sporting club with great passion and enthusiasm.

In June, we were thrilled to host the launch of LA (Louisa) Larkin’s crime thriller, Widow’s Island. We were privy to a great insight into what sparks the imagination of such a novel and the depth of the research behind the writing. Louisa was very generous with her time with many questions asked by her enthusiastic audience but she, inevitably, left us in suspense as to the ending of her book!

Jonica Newby joined us, together with her partner, Robyn Williams, to discuss her book “Beyond Climate Grief”. Climate change is clearly a subject of great interest to our members, not only because of the audience size, but the number of questions and the numbers of books sold at the end of her talk. Jonica has combined a deeply personal memoir with scientific facts, giving us hope, suggesting ways in which we can each mitigate our own climate grief by creating positive change.

Our first event of 2022 had to wait until very recently, the next variant of Covid-19 postponing Debra Oswald’s talk from February to May. Debra is a much loved and lauded playwright, writer of tv series (such as Offspring) and a novelist. Her most recent novel was published in 2021, The Family Doctor. Debra asks the question what would you do, as a fundamentally good person, in this situation? Whist it is a novel exploring violence against women and domestic abuse, Debra writes about the power of female friendship as well as love. She also gave us a glimpse into her life as a writer and the power she wields in deciding to kill off, or not, a particular character!

In December 2021 we were not able to hold a morning tea for the library staff. Instead, we gave them some Christmas cakes– a small thank you from FOBL for their support.

The Open Book Group, which is run by FOBL continues to thrive, meeting every second Tuesday of the month.  This year has a been a mix of zoom and in person meetings as restrictions came into play once again. The books for OBG, many of which are purchased by FOBL, are held behind the desk in the library until OBG meets, after which they are sent for accessioning and go into the library catalogue. Many thanks to Gillian O’Mulloy and Jan Aitkin who continue to convene the Open Book Group meetings.

The writing competition is one of the main events in the FOBL calendar. Unfortunately, in 2021 it was once again put on hold. This year, due to staff changes within Balmain Secondary College we are unable to hold the Secondary Writing Competition, but we hope that next year it will be on our agenda. We were happy to note that in the 2021 HSC many of the students who had won or received highly commended awards in both the Primary and Secondary FOBL writing competitions had done very well in their HSC exams.

In conclusion I hope you will agree that despite another difficult year last year FOBL has continued as strongly as ever. This year we are working towards many events which we hope you will all support as we continue to support our beloved library.

An upcoming event is a Literary Tea and Trivia event and I’m thrilled to tell you that John Doyle has agreed to be our speaker at a FOBL author talk in September, talking about the book that he wrote as his way of coping with Covid isolation.

I’d like to say a big thank you once again to my marvelous committee, and also to all of you, our FOBL members, who support our endeavours by attending them. We look forward to seeing you all at FOBL events in the coming year.

Dr Fiona Mitchell

Chair, Friends of Balmain Library.


  1. Thank you for such an informative report. When I was living in Homebush and had a car, I attended and enjoyed many talks as well as AGMs. I now live in Abbotsford, sans my own transport, but when able will attend as many events as possible.
    Marlene Smith

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