Ah, the colour is developing in the leaves and autumn, that most wondrous of seasons, is developing nicely as we enjoy an Indian Summer here in the West. I often think it is appropriate that the ASM is held at this time of year. Like Autumn, it provides the full stop to the previous year and develops the springboard from which even greater achievements can arise during the next year.
The ASM is an opportunity to escape the rigours of the workaday world and provides an opportunity to put the problems of home into context. For me, the ASM is a safety valve. An opportunity to step out of the pressure cooker and look at issues from the outside. A time to challenge and to be challenged.
I am looking forward to enjoying some calm in Canberra. Yes I will likely be busy but, like retirement, it will be busy by choice and on my terms. The meeting provides a safe environment to discuss issues with colleagues from across Australia and New Zealand, although the all-night talkfests of old may have to be reined in a little - maturity is a bugger! This free - ranging discussion of ideas, often out of left field, is what makes the ASM so special.
New members, and those looking to get involved in research, need to use the opportunities presented at the meeting to develop networks and pick the brains of those more experienced in the field. A large number of new members indicate on their application forms that they have an interest in collaborative research - the ASM is the opportunity to develop that collaboration. Research doesn't have to be earth-shattering. Indeed, research skills are best learned through completing small clearly defined projects. Furthermore, collaboration doesn't have to be within a city. We at Royal Perth have had successful collaborations with colleagues in Perth, Brisbane, Adelaide and New Zealand.
A large number of new members also indicate they are interested in having a mentor. Unfortunately, the progress towards establishing a mentoring program within the Society cannot be said to have been rapid. There is, however, an opportunity for people to form alliances with others to develop a mentoring process themselves. I feel strongly that the future of the Society, and our profession, depends on support for and the development of, our junior members so am a firm believer in the value of mentoring. Those who would like to explore mentoring further, need to seize the opportunity and talk to others about the possibilities of establishing a mentoring relationship. Again there is really no need for the mentor and mentoree to be within the same city.
The ASM is an incredibly fertile place to be. The opportunities are limitless and we all benefit from dipping into them. What you get out of the meeting is up to you. All you have to do is take the step of overcoming reticence and believing you are in a safe and supportive environment. Every idea and opinion is valuable, so long as it is voiced. I, for one, would love to meet and talk with anybody who approaches me.
My dictionary defines Autumn as "A time of maturity" (OK, we'll discard the incipient decay bit for now!). So too the ASM is a time to celebrate professional maturity in all its forms and to help our junior members along their own road to professional maturity.
See you in Canberra, and make sure you come say "Hi!" (or if you insist, "Gidday!").