Damian Mitsch Federal Chief Executive Officer, Australian Dental Association 
AuSAE member since: March 2014
What we do?
The ADA (Federal) is the national peak national body for dentists in Australia. The organisation has a set of strategic pillars; Influence, Quality, Engagement, Promotion, Service and Capability. Federally, there’s a focus on advocacy, health promotion, online CPD and the development of national services such as HR/IR support, practice accreditation and resources like the infection control or the new graduates manual.

Number of Members:  The ADA has approximately 16,000 members (dentists are members of both the federal body and a state branch).

Staff Size: 37

Years in Association Management:  17 years.

How I got into Association Management: I got home one night and there was an email from a recruiter who’d found my CV somewhere. He asked me to interview for the Australian Physiotherapy Association and given I’d been involved as a member of the aged care association and had a short stint as a member of the Australian Marketing Institute, I thought ‘why not’. I got the job and stayed with the APA in different roles for ten years.

What I like about my job:  Being an association CEO, you genuinely don’t know what any day will bring. I can go from a strategic planning session in the morning with General Managers to an infection control meeting with members to a phone call with the minister to a small business function in the evening, all in a day. It’s an incredibly diverse job and you’re working to develop a profession while also working to ensure a future for the young people coming into the profession. It means it has purpose and is rarely just about the money.

My Biggest Challenge: Getting congruence in our organisational culture is by far the biggest challenge. We have an incredible team of professional staff and a passionate set of office bearers. Getting those things to work really well together is challenging, particularly in an environment where management is rapidly professionalising and that can mean a sense of loss of control and ownership for some people as we go through that process. It also means our staff team needs to step up and do their analysis and provide well considered recommendations to the board. They also need to be accountable for decisions they make under delegation, good and less good. It’s all quite challenging but also exciting to be part of a tectonic shift in the professional management of associations that’s occurring in the face of global trends and increasing competition. 

What I am most proud of at our association: I’m most proud of the team we have and how they’ve responded to my call for a change in culture toward more genuine conversations and accountability and less bureaucracy. As the third CEO in 25 years coming into an old association, changing culture can be daunting. I’m proud that I’m on that journey with individuals that I respect and we’re doing it with integrity and openness.

Favourite AuSAE Event: I’ve always enjoyed the networking lunches and the chance to bounce things off fellow association executives, however the improvements to the conference in recent years means I now have the opportunity to challenge my thinking at least once a year. My vote is for the conference.

What I want to learn from other AuSAE members: There’s so much I hardly know where to start. How they’re dealing with a global youth, how they bring innovation into the organisation, how they’re approaching global challenges, how people deal with change and the highly conservative nature of many association boards? I could write a huge list as so many of my association colleagues are learning by doing and I’m always keen to learn from their examples. 

How AuSAE has helped me: AuSAE helped me build my network beyond the relatively small group of health associations that I was previously connected to. It helped me to realise that I run a business that operates in the ‘association industry’ and that there are a large number of similar businesses that I can tap into so I can improve what I do. It gave me my own professional space that isn’t that of our members and where I can do the networking, learning and exchanging ideas that we offer to our members in their space.

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(up to 5 members)

renewal date 1 January 2021 and Including GST 

The Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE)

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