A Brief History of ANZSSA

Whilst we do not hold any archives describing the precise beginnings of the Australian and New Zealand Student Services Association, it is understood that ANZSSA formed in the early 1970s largely from health service practitioners and counsellors.  The initial goal was relatively modest in aiming to build a network of student support services professional staff as higher education began to expand from elite to mass education.  This period of time obviously pre-dated the various forms of electronic communication that we now take for granted.  As a consequence, the National Executive of ANZSSA was largely a group based in a single capital city, and its main task was to host what was then a triennial conference.

Over the 1980s, ANZSSA attracted a wider membership than health service practitioners and counsellors, particularly from staff engaged in the growing international student market.  The wider interests of the association led to a difficulty in accommodating the differing interests.  Under the presidency of Brian Burke in the early 1990s, an attempt was made to address these tensions by creating something similar to the current model of regional and professional focus groups.  Despite this, the large sub-group devoted to international students found the model did not entirely meet their needs – and in the mid-1990s, ISANA separated to form its own association.  Despite this loss, ANZSSA continued and has subsequently formed strong working links with ISANA as well as a number of other like-minded professional associations.  Over time, the basic organizational model of ANZSSA evolved to consist of:

  • The Executive (having dropped the descriptor “National” given that ANZSSA covers two national jurisdictions)
  • The Advisory Council – consisting of the convenors of the various regional and professional interest groups
  • A small number of appointed roles such as editor of the journal and communications officer

Meanwhile, electronic technology had moved along allowing the formation of a truly national executive in which the main office bearers did not have to reside in the same location.  The triennial conference model had also evolved by the 1990s to become biennial, with every third conference located in New Zealand.  This too has shown limitations in that the gap between conferences began to seem somewhat lengthy by the early years of the 21st century.  From 2013, ANZSSA has hosted its major conferences annually, again with every third conference scheduled in New Zealand.

ANZSSA had also developed further goals beyond establishing a professional network, although that remains a very important activity.  Over the past several decades, we have sought to enhance the professionalism of support services by such activities as:

  • Publishing a refereed journal (JANZSSA)
  • Developing international and local links with other professional associations
  • Creating approved standards for Counselling, Orientation, Mentor Programs, and Student Advisory functions
  • Acting as an advocate for support services in relevant settings
  • Disseminating a regular newsletter to members
  • Fostering professional development activities hosted by our regional and professional focus groups

In the end, any professional association survives and thrives only by meeting the needs of members, and inspiring them to contribute to the professional community.  ANZSSA has now been in existence for over 40 years.  The substantial body of knowledge shared via JANZSSA and a succession of major and local conferences over these decades is a testimony to the enthusiasm and skills of our members, along with the particular contributions of a large number of active members guiding the executive and regional and professional groups.

Jim Elliott

ANZSSA President 2009-2013