FOBL AGM 2023 – Chair’s Report

Good evening everyone, I would like to welcome you to the FOBL AGM in which I shall report on our work in the last year. I am Fiona Mitchell, the Chair of FOBL. I’d like to welcome and thank our speaker,Derek Mortimer whose book, Conditions Apply and other stories, will be launched after the AGM tonight.

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.”

Our treasurer Ron Brown will report on the FOBL finances shortly. Also, our hard-working secretary, Shirley Allen, takes meticulous minutes and keeps us in order. Thank you to you both. I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to all my wonderful committee for the time, energy and enthusiasm that you 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 well known.

I would particularly like to acknowledge Vivienne Nicoll-Hatton who has decided it is time to move on from the FOBL committee. Viv has given a great deal to the committee and particularly to the FOBL Writing Competition for which she has worked tirelessly, organising and judging the many entries and enthusing the young winners by sharing their work at the Award Nights over many years. Those were very special evenings for which we thank you, Viv. We would like to honour Viv’s work by giving her Life Membership to FOBL and a small token of our thanks. Please join me in thanking Viv.

My report tonight will cover the FOBL initiatives and events from our last AGM until now. We have held a number of 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 being funded in the Council’s 2023-24 budget and planning is underway. The FOBL committee contributed to the Council’s Town Hall Precinct survey in July with some suggestions for changes to the library’s use of the limited space available. The Group Manager for Inner West Libraries, Caroline McCleod met with the FOBL committee on 26th July to share some ideas being explored by the Council architect including use of outside areas.  She said the State government allocation of $400,00 would be used for new shelving, furniture, signage and relocation of the Information desk.  Issues with painting, drainage and carpeting have already been identified

We are grateful to Hill of Content for their continuing support of FOBL. They 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. His time and commitment are much appreciated.

I would like to say a special thank you to Kathy Kalaizis from Balmain Library, she has given us much support. Not only has she helped us with our events and organised a bus trip to Marrickville and Haberfield libraries, but she also nominated FOBL for the Amy Large Teams volunteer award.

Now to report on what FOBL has done over the past year. Starting with our AGM in 2022, we were lucky enough to have Duncan MacAuslan, President of the Balmain Society, as our speaker. His talk “A Bridge Too Far” was a fascinating insight into what Balmain may have been had different planning decisions been made over the years. It certainly wouldn’t have been Balmain as we know it.

In July we held our second FOBL Tea and Trivia event, where our literary knowledge was tested whilst enjoying tea and scones. It was a highly entertaining afternoon, the worthy winners taking home books on the history of Balmain and Leichhardt kindly donated by Balmain library.

In September we had an enthusiastic response to our speaker, John Doyle. He spoke on many subjects, his audience particularly relating to his observations about the gentrification of Balmain. He finished with a reading from his book, Blessed, which he wrote as a means of coping with Covid isolation. John was very generous with his time and stayed on talking with members of the audience long after he had planned to leave to prepare his radio show for the following day.

In July the FOBL committee was awarded an Amy Large Team Volunteers Award by the Inner West Council. We decided to hold a lunch for the committee and a group of Life Members and long-time supporters with the $400 prize. This very enjoyable indulgence took place on 19th September with catering by Bertoni’s.

The committee held a slightly belated lunch on 10th November to celebrate the 105th birthday of Life Member, Nola Harris.

In late November, Kathy Kalaizis from Balmain Library organised a community bus trip for a group from FOBL to visit the refurbished libraries of Marrickville and Haberfield. Caroline McCleod showed us around Marrickville and explained the work done and how it was paid for.  A very interesting and fun outing that made us very envious.

We finished the year with a very different talk – it’s a little embarrassing for me to talk about this since it was a talk that I gave, the title of which was “Life on the Ocean Wave. It was a glimpse into my adventure on the Clipper Round the World Yacht race, the only such race in which amateur sailors can participate. I enjoyed speaking to a very receptive audience who asked many questions and wondered where the fun was in our daily life of eat, sleep, sail, repeat.

Our first event of this year was sold out. Meredith Burgmann entertained us with her talk “The Ernie Awards – recording and publicising thirty years of misogyny”. Whilst there was much hilarity, and sometimes incredulity, at the shocking remarks which Meredith has collected over the years, Meredith also reflected upon our society as to how and why misogyny has continued to flourish. From a small beginning, a dinner with a few colleagues in Parliament House, of every political persuasion, to a much bigger event, a dinner with over 400 attendees, they were legendary nights. We were thrilled to have had an insight into this now much missed event.

In late April we held another Tea and Trivia afternoon aptly named Books and Bunnies, given that is the Year of the Rabbit in the Chinese Calendar. We enjoyed the challenge of literary trivia including questions about rabbits in literature. It was an afternoon of fun, washed down by copious amounts of tea and coffee, accompanied by delicious scones and jam, provided by Bronwyn Monro. Thank you, Bronwyn!

The Open Book Group, which is run by FOBL continues to thrive, meeting every second Tuesday of the month.  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 has been one of the main events in the FOBL calendar for many years. Unfortunately we have had to make the decision to retire both the Primary and Secondary Writing Competitions, We are considering some other initiatives, so watch this space!

In conclusion I hope you will agree FOBL continues 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.

We are organising another bus tour to Marrickville and Ashfield libraries on Tuesday June 20th. Please let us know if you would like to join us.

Our next author talk will be on Friday July 21st, by Pamela Freeman, author and teacher of creative writing at the Australian Writer’s Centre. Her talk is entitled “Corsets and Coaches: getting historical details right”. I hope that you will be able to join us.

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.



  1. I’d like to thank FOBL, and particularly Shirley, for hosting the launching of my latest book, Conditions Apply and Other Storis. I hope everyone enjoyed the evening as much as I did. It was a delight reading to a receptive audience, signing the book, and mingling with people over drinks and nibbles after.

Leave a Comment