Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform
committed to preventing tragedy that arises from illicit drug use
|Establishing an FFDLR Group|
These brief suggestions and tips are provided as a guide to help those who wish to establish a Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform group or a group with similar aims but not necessarily the same name. The experience gained in setting up the first group may be helpful to others. The notes are not comprehensive or all encompassing and any suggestions to improve them would be appreciated.
A Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform group provides a focus for this activist movement. It makes a clear statement that our present drug laws are not protecting our young people, our family members and friends from the consequences of prohibited drugs. It says clearly that our laws need to be reformed.
The name Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform was decided after considerable debate. Some people believed that "Drug Law Reform" in the title could be perceived to have negative connotations and could possibly turn potential members away. However the possible negative connotations were far outweighed by the following key deciding points in favour of inclusion of this component in the title:
- facilitate support from these groups
- provide links with influential people
- give access to strong media links
- give access to potential funding and
- provide a stronger voice when combined with these groups.
Since the formation of the first group in Canberra in April 1995 there has not been any negative feedback or negative comments regarding the title. In fact the name is now well known and well regarded by media, parliamentarians, community leaders and many ordinary citizens.
While FFDLR is not deliberately a support group, support naturally occurs because there is a common purpose and a focus for energy. Furthermore achievement of the goals of the group can have a significant benefit for other families.
Read our charter carefully. This spells out the understanding or the perspective of the group and what its goals and objectives are.
The charter identifies the corporate views of the group. It does not prevent members from having personal views that vary from the charter (not too much we would hope) but it identifies the parameters within which a member can speak as an official representative of the group.
How to organise the first meeting
A clear goal
Make sure you have a clear goal for the first meeting before proceeding. Do you wish to gauge interest in starting a group or do you wish to actually start a group? If you do not know what you are aiming for, you are unlikely to know when you have reached your target.
Venue and time
Now that you have decided the purpose of the meeting, choose a time and a venue. Choose these wisely so that you can have the maximum possible number of people attending.
A phone call to or personal contact with people who you think would be interested and would contribute positively is an effective way to set up a first meeting. Publicity via newspapers or radio interviews is also very helpful.
Subsequent meetings and meetings with guest speakers
Publicise meetings extensively and well in advance but also issue additional publicity closer to the day. Most newspapers have a free community announcement column. Give the newspaper plenty of advance warning (usually 2 weeks) so that you can be sure the item will be included.
Try local radio, they sometimes have community announcements or will allow you to announce it on air.
After you have established the group a phone call to members who have been absent for a meeting or two is also a very effective way to maintain involvement and interest.
Invitations to special meetings
When organising meetings with guest speakers or a special event send invitations to key people (eg politicians, church and community leaders) and ask them to RSVP. People are more likely to take notice of an invitation which includes an RSVP. Remember to give them plenty of time because they are likely to be busy people and have their diary booked up well in advance.
When organising a special event where you are asking for a donation to cover costs, consider including a complementary entry pass or two with the invitation to key people.
Agenda for the first meeting
Here is a suggested agenda for the first meeting:
Keep a record (ie minutes) of the meeting. This is important because it makes quite clear what was agreed at the meeting and who is responsible for undertaking any tasks.
Allowing sufficient time for discussion after the meeting is important. This gives those who do not feel comfortable speaking at a meeting an opportunity to express their views. Provision of tea and coffee is a way of helping that discussion to occur.
To incorporate or not
Incorporation provides a level of legal protection for members of the group. In one way it is an insurance policy. A body that is incorporated can only be sued for the assets of the body. If the body was not incorporated then members of the group may become liable.
Incorporation also increases the credibility of the group and makes it more official.
How to incorporate
Contact your state or local Registrar Generals Office for details.
Our incorporation papers
We can provide a copy on request.
Image and presentation of the group
The image and presentation of the group is very important. The office bearers must reflect this image. The most effective image is the one that reflects the family and shows how traditional families are affected by illegal drugs. This presentation gives optimal effectiveness when lobbying politicians, speaking to other families and the general community through the media or speaking at public forums.
Many people will step forward for office bearer positions. It is however useful to find out what particular skills members have and encourage them to step forward for jobs for which they are suited.
An easy way to identify a persons skills is to simply ask them, or ask them what task they would feel most comfortable doing. Remember that people do best what they enjoy and are most comfortable doing.
The following is a list of possible office bearers and duties but note that some tasks can be shared or even split further.
Chairs the meetings and acts as head of the organisation. Nominated as spokesperson of the group. Maintains a focus for the group.
Collects and banks the money. Keeps the accounts. Reports on financial matters to the group and to the government body responsible for supervising incorporated groups (if incorporated).
Minutes the meetings and circulates to members. Deals with incoming and outgoing correspondence. Advises of meeting dates and venues.
Organise events and functions, eg public meetings, ceremonies and special events.
Liaise with the media. Prepares press releases, alerts media to upcoming events of interest. Never underestimate the power of the media.
Keeps the membership list.
Organisations work best if the members are interested and motivated. There are many books written on motivation but here are some tips from our experience:
Time is the most important resource. Time to do things, time to write letters, time to meet with people. Do not underestimate this important resource and use it well and wisely. For example do not waste time at meetings on matters that can be dealt with outside the meeting.
Money is important but only for what can be done with it. Exercise caution and do not spend time fund raising when time would be better spent pursuing the goals of the group.
Funds can be raised through membership dues and donations. Public meetings that raise awareness on drug issues can be organised and an entry fee charged or donation asked for. The latter extends two objectives funds are being raised at the same time as the aims of the group are being pursued. However be careful not to turn people away who consider the entry fee too high or cannot afford to pay.
Some members may be willing to personally fund some activities or provide equipment, facilities or services. However this cannot always be assumed and the treasurer will need to have a good idea of costs so that he can budget accordingly. As well as the ongoing costs of stationery, stamps, phone calls there will be some substantial start up costs if members of the group do not already have the facilities. See below.
You will need to have an official telephone contact point. Consider also having the number listed under Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform in the phone book.
An answering machine is valuable for those times when you are out or cannot take the call. It is important to respond to all calls promptly.
Often you will want to send information at short notice or someone will want to fax information to you. Some computers and modems provide the facility for fax services.
Post Office box
Using a Post Office box provides a constant address even though the secretary might change. It also separates the personal street address.
Computers are valuable for letter writing etc perhaps almost a necessity for the maintenance of the membership list. Access to a wider range of information also becomes possible.
Necessary for maintenance of membership lists, contact lists (eg media, important people) etc.
Makes communication much easier and cheaper.
Gives access to a greater range of information. It is vital to the effective functioning of the group.
FFDLR has a website at www.ffdlr.org.au.
Essential for preparing and issuing publicity material, minutes and other mail outs. Some related organisations may be willing to share the use of a copier.
At some point you will discuss the question of group membership. Matters like what would define a member, should there be a membership fee will arise.
This is a matter we considered and decided that the most important consideration was to grow our membership and not our bank account. With larger numbers the total time and resources available improve. Every new member extends the work of the group.
We settled on a nominal $5 fee for membership which was low enough not to prohibit anyone (but if they could not afford it we would waive the fee) and it would cover most of the postage for normal mail outs. The fee is also a means of distinguishing formal membership from those who may wish to be informed about special events such as the remembrance tree ceremony or public meetings. We have now raised this fee to $10 or $5 for unemployed or pensioners.
Keeping in touch is important
It is important to keep in touch with other related groups. There may often be events that can be conducted jointly. There are often ideas that can be shared. There are often times when resources can be shared. Other groups are valuable with publicity.
Governments and politicians are particularly important in this regard. Laws will only change with the help of politicians and Governments.
Working together with other groups means that you increase the total effort and you can reach a wider audience. It is important to concentrate on the areas that you have in common rather than any differences.
Other groups in Australia
What to do now
If you have decided to take this course of action and you are up and running you need to start somewhere. The most important thing we found was to inform ourselves. But there is little point being an activist group if no one knows about you. So you need to make some announcements or do something that will bring attention and understanding to your cause.
Here is a list of things to consider:
See our brochure "What Can I Do To Help" for some further ideas.
Keeping up to date
Keeping yourself informed is most important. You need to know the facts and to be able to distinguish between facts and opinions or myths. If you are asked questions on issues you will need to be able to respond and it would be best to respond with full knowledge of the facts of the matter. You need to keep well informed on current happenings so that you can have meaningful input when necessary.
Here are some sources of information:
Being informed also means that you will not fall into the trap of many prohibitionists of using propaganda or half-truths. You can be rational and keep your cool. You can avoid using vocabulary that can be derogatory or can lead to misunderstandings. For example it is best not to use the word legalisation because it has a different meaning for different people. Some people even use it as a form of insult you would preferably use "controlled availability" or say that it would be better that democratically elected Governments control drugs rather than organised crime. When undermining the stereotype drug user, which is part of popular thinking, it is preferable, for example, to use the term "dependent user" rather than addict.
It is hoped that the above is helpful and that you will decide to join the movement Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform. By joining forces across Australia and perhaps the world we can make a difference. Families and Friends for Drug Law Reform is committed to preventing the tragedy that arises from illicit drug use.