Ulysses Club elects first female president

Ulysses Club logo

The Ulysses Club for mature-aged motorcycle riders has elected its first female president at the annual general meeting in Alice Springs. It comes after years of inner turmoil, a 30% loss in membership, the first expulsion of members and a blowout in the budget.

Ulysses Club president Helena Gritton
Ulysses Club president Helena Gritton

Mt Gambier member Helena Gritton, a former vice president, secured 778 votes to replace Denis Paulin (270) in one of the biggest attendances at an AGM. Apparently about 700 showed up for the vote out of the 2600 registered members at the central Australian rally.  Several members of the national committee, including secretary John Evans, were also replaced.

Helena says she is very proud of her historic victory. “But to me it’s not about gender but the right person for the job at the time,” she says. “We’ve had quite a membership of females all along and we can only hope (my election) will create a few more coming in, but it’s just one of those things we need to consider into the future. We have lost a few women because they are no longer riding but their husbands are still members and they don’t see the need to keep their membership.”

Former long-time Riding On editor and lifetime member John Miller says he is “delighted” with the result. “Hopefully they are on the right track now,” he says. “Helena has the club at heart and she’s a battler. She went off her bike about a year ago and broke her leg in four places, but she got off her bum and ran for office when she should have been resting, so she obviously has the good of the club at heart,” says John who quit the club over recent turmoils.

Helena says she is still recovering from her “big off”. “I had numerous breaks; it was pretty well smashed and they were considering amputation. I’m luckily I’ve been able to recover. I used to ride a Yamaha V Star 1100 and I have a Yamaha SX750 in the garage that I might restore to ride,” she says.

As for the future of the club and issues such as annual fees, Helena says it’s “too soon to speculate”. “We’ll have to wait for our first meeting. I’ve been out of it for one year so it’s difficult to know where we are at at this stage. I’ve had a short discussion with the treasurer at this stage about the finances. I’ve only been elected for 10 months so there is a lot of work to do in that time. I’d like to see some fun introduced back into the club again and repair a few little bridges that have occurred.”

Commenting on the 30% drop in membership from a record high in 2010 of almost 30,000, Helena says a membership drive is “always” on the agenda. “We are particularly trying to attract the 40-45 age group into our club.”

Ulysses Club logo
Ulysses Club logo

Former club magazine editor and expelled member Ian Parks labelled the election a “vote for common sense”. “It’s an indicator of change and if I was allowed to rejoin I probably would,” says Ian. He had complained that the independence of the club’s Riding On magazine had been usurped by the national committee and was one of three members expelled earlier this year.

UPDATE SEPTEMBER 7: Ian has now been reinstated. He writes: 

“There were some, who chose to believe the rubbish that Denis Paulin & John Evans were peddling about me (that I resigned voluntarily). To those who didn’t believe them and supported me, my deepest thanks. I’m pleased to say that the Ulysses Club has a future once again, thanks largely to the members of the current NatCom who are working hard to repair the damage that has been done to Stephen Dearnley’s baby, during the 4 years of mismanagement and ones man’s unfathomable agenda. I urge you all to support the Club and bring it back to its founding ideals.”

Helena says magazine independence is another issue she will be considering. “It was on a trial basis for two months being run in-house and that has just been extended for two more months, but we will discuss the situation,” she says.

MotorbikeWriter has previously questioned the direction of the Ulysses Club which seemed more interested in the commercial aspects of the club than representing mature-aged riders. It was also blatantly absent from the recent debate over the draconian Queensland VLAD Act and anti-bikie sentiment. Despite members being mistakenly harassed by police who thought they were “declared criminal bikies”, the club refused to comment and were only interested in preventing MotorbikeWriter from using their club logo in a story.

Let’s hope the new national committee represents a new direction for the once grand club. It certainly needs it with membership down to little more than 20,000 from a record high of almost 30,000 in 2010.

(MotorbikeWriter is lapsed member #23,306)


  1. Malpri, sorry to take so long to reply, but, I’ve kept a low profile seeing as I was treated so abysmally. In February this year John Evans put a life ban on me, wouldn’t you say that equated to an expulsion? I greatly appreciate the current Committee overturning that ban. As a member of 28 years, that would put you in the same joining period as John Miller #248 wouldn’t it? Haven’t you asked why a Life Member would resign from the Club if there were no serious problems? For the record, I was sacked as editor 12 hours AFTER I agreed to retract my editorial and Branch Listings update. Likewise I did not resign from the Club voluntarily, I was silenced. I was never allowed to defend myself. Denis wanted control of ALL the information to the membership, and it seems he convinced you. I believe all members have the right to ask questions if they feel the Club is at risk. Don’t believe me? Send me your email address and I’ll prove it. Cheers, Ian Parks – ianparks1956@gmail.com

  2. Congratulations Helena,
    After Denis Paulin rang me up and abused me for wanting a second opinion about why i was banned from the forum until the year 2065 from John Evan’s sterilization measures about removing everyone from the club that had an opinion au contraire`
    When the website and forum was a total failure he praised Melin FX droolingly, what a hypocrite!! ,but has now shown his true colours and absconded like the coward he is. Good riddance to bad rubbish.
    Both gone i am happy!!

  3. I’m not a member. I just love riding my motorcycle. Huge respect to any leader that has the influence to better my riding experience. (I ride mostly in the Adelaide Hills and other road user attitudes have been putting my safety at risk. Its just getting worse every weekend)

  4. As a member of Ulysses now for 28 years , I have to pull you up on at least one point in your article, Ian Parks was not one of the three that was expelled this year, (one of whom was re-instated) It is my belief that he resigned last year because he would not take a direction from NATCOM, over what he was putting in the magazine.

  5. some years ago i was a MRAA member and now a proud ULYSSES member as in all clubs we have good and not so good times ..so lets just move on and support all motor bike riders and clubs [ NOT THE OUT LAW ONES] .. So ride and enjoy each other thats what we need to do

  6. I like too like “Motorcycle Writer” have seen the writing in the wall!
    I was asked to join Ulysses by a Natcom member to lend some weight to the clubs push into the pollitical landscape.
    I also was aware of its beginnings & it’s primary aims as my parent are both Ulysses life members & Stephen Dearnley medalist
    I was conned thinking the aims of the members was the primary goal
    No way it was the ego of certain members at the helm of Natcom
    The same members who brought about the disasemblement of the MRA in Victoria !
    Underhanded egotistical gents
    A female president may by the fresh air that the club.
    The club needs to get back to basics stop meddling in pollitical realms to suit the ego of a few members & Get Social IMO
    Or face imploding & lossing more branches & members

  7. Aaron – have a look at the membership numbers over the last few years. Membership is not growing, it is declining and has been for several years. Even if we accept your figure of 23,000, it is a long way down from the nearly 30,000 of a few years ago.
    My wife and I are victims of the previous regime’s “no dissent will be tolerated” attitude and I am glad to see the offenders removed from office.
    We may now consider re-joining the club we used to be proud of saying we were members of.

  8. UC elections are a farce. How does a “not for profit” club have over $1,000,000 in the bank? So many questions & zero answers Glad I’m out …..DUNGBEETLES FOREVER!

  9. Ian and John did not get defeated, they both resigned during the elections and the numbers of the club have been on the up with over 23,000 active members. Alice Springs was a great success and the club will continue to grow.

  10. I too am thrilled at this news and hope that new blood and fresh ideas flush out the old guard thinking. I would love to see the expelled members be allowed to chose to rejoin as I felt that termination for life was a harsh punishment for a petty transgression.

    Perhaps now we can all look the the future instead of continually playing the same old scratched record from the past.

  11. Too true, I for one wrote to NATCOM as they like to be referred to, asking that they represent us to the QLD Government and a stern silence was their reply. I am still a member but I doubt I’ll ever attend another meeting, when members are not allowed to even comment on branch let alone club policy, there is something seriously wrong. I hope they do redefine their direction but the damage is done as far as I’m concerned.

  12. I find it difficult to believe this has happened after all the crap that has been going on within the club for so many years. I lost faith big time in the UC committee after it threatened to sue a couple of friends of mine a few years ago over the fictional story that was printed [I believe] on a branch newsletter. I let my membership lapse and felt sorry about leaving good friendship behind me but it was on principle that I acted.

    If the club has changed the committee from the previous self centred ruling party it was, than I may just look at renewing my membership if allowed to do so.


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