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.
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.”
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.