One of the ways that the National Committee chose to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Australian Geomechanics Society, was exercising a previously unused provision in our constitution (Clause 9.2e) to recognise some of our outstanding AGS members, by bestowing the first ever round of Life Membership awards.
Identification of nominees
The selection of potential life members from 50 years of significant member contributions is a formidable task, and considerable thought and discussion went into how we should comprehensively and impartially identify the appropriate pool of nominees to consider.
We felt it was not appropriate to seek self-nominations and we decided against putting out an open call to the membership to make nominations. It was noted that those in the best position to identify the significant contributions of individuals were probably the same group of individuals that would be considered, so we chose to ask a selection of our most distinguished and senior members to nominate candidates from among their peers, with self-nominations strictly excluded. Around 20 senior members were invited to nominate up to 5 of their peers for life member consideration.
Initially, those consulted comprised the group of senior members who had been invited to write project contributions for the 50th Anniversary book, and this list was increased by adding other senior members to more broadly represent the wider AGS stakeholder interests of engineering geology and rock mechanics. At the end of this consultation process, 23 potential awardees had been identified. Two additional names were added to the list by the committee before the committee was satisfied that the list was appropriate to account fairly and comprehensively for the first 50 years of the AGS.
Before commencing our deliberations, the committee discussed how we should interpret and apply the criteria. It was recognised that each nominee considered would present a unique case for consideration so our approach would need to be flexible and adaptable. Rather than defining a set of strictly applied criteria, or a rigorous scoring matrix, we opted for a set of sound guiding principles. The following general principles were agreed upon and adopted.
- Recipients should still be living
- Since the constitution identifies the objectives of the AGS as a broad criterion, some measure of direct contribution to the AGS was deemed essential.
- Other factors were significant contributions to education, excellence in research and outstanding contributions to the wider profession, however whilst all these were deemed to be potentially significant considerations, it was considered that without some notable component of service to the AGS, these alone would be insufficient, regardless of how impressive they may be in their own right.
- It was deemed that a sustained and outstanding contribution to the AGS could potentially be sufficient without any other significant professional or technical contribution.
- We should not be bound by any particular quota or limit in the number of awards conferred, but given we are effectively catching up for a 50 year period of outstanding contributions by so many, we considered that somewhere between 5 and 20 would be a reasonable expectation.
15 inaugural life member recipients were identified in 2019. The committee were unanimous on the outcomes.
The inaugural AGS life members (in alphabetical order) are:
- Dr Bill Bamford
- Dr Fred Baynes
- Emeritus Professor Edwin (Ted) Brown
- Emeritus Professor John Carter
- Max Ervin
- Dr Chris Haberfield
- Professor Mark Jaksa
- Professor Ian Johnston
- Andrew Leventhal
- Patrick MacGregor
- Adjunct Professor Dr Peter Mitchell
- Adjunct Associate Professor Garry Mostyn
- Dr Philip Pells
- Professor Harry Poulos
- Professor Mark Randolph
Life memberships were conferred as part of the AGS 50th anniversary activities.
Future Life Members
Having now started the practice of conferring life memberships, there is no reason to wait another 50 years to select the next recipients, and indeed, it would be unreasonable to do so. However, whilst the process described above was appropriate and necessary to adequately recognise the outstanding achievements of 50 years of our members, it would not be suitable as an ongoing process. The committee discussed how future nominees for life membership should be assessed, and agreed on the following.
- Nominations for new life members can be put forward to the secretariat at any time.
- Nominations should include a citation. The length and style of the citation are at the discretion of the nominator, but conciseness and relevance should be a key aim. The committee reserves the right to verify the accuracy of the information provided.
- Self-nominations will be discouraged but not excluded, and only one self-nomination will ever be considered for any one member.
- An unsuccessful nominee may be re-nominated at a later time, if their situation changes subsequent to their previous nomination.
- Once every two years, the nominations will be considered.
- If one or more nominations have been received in the past 2 years, the immediate past chair will convene a committee of not less than four respected AGS members, to consider them. The committee will contain at least two existing life members.
- The assessment criteria and principles will be the same as those adopted for the inaugural consideration of nominees, as described above.
- New life members will be announced immediately after selection, and formally recognised at the next ANZ conference.