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An exciting interview with Trish Kennett, Membership Secretary - Australian Mensa.

An exciting interview with Trish Kennett, Membership Secretary - Australian Mensa.

                         Αναφορά: Θ. Νάτσινας

Australian Mensa contacted us about confirming membership of a Hellenic Mensa’s member wanting to join Mensa Australia.

Australia! I thought… and wanted to learn more…

So I asked Trish for an Interview. No reply for many days, but since confirmation did not proceed, a second letter came about the same subject and a polite “thanx” for suggesting the interview, gave the necessary step to go on with the first question. (I was afraid a clarification “Thanx but no”) but I was greatly rewarded for my patience!!!

The answer about the interview to become an article was a “knockout”. Sincere and straightforward gave me a material to enjoy so much that I almost forgot to prepare the article…

My first question was a Triple, being afraid that one answer might be the one and only I could get.

Theodore: How did you first noticed Mensa, what were your first thoughts about Mensa, what was your first experience with Mensa?

Trish: Although I have been an Australian for many years now, I was born and raised in England. I first heard of Mensa as a child when I passed an IQ test at a high level and was told it was in the Mensa range. My school sent a letter to my parents suggesting they join me in Mensa but my father, who comes from a family of highly intelligent people, felt Mensa was a place for old gentlemen and definitely not for young girls - this was in the early 1960's. I took my father's advice and threw away the letter.

Many years later, when wondering why I felt as though I was always the odd one out, I recalled my youthful experiences and wondered if having a high IQ was the reason I could not maintain an interest in general conversations. At the time I was working in the defence industry with many other very intelligent people but outside of that environment I could not find anything to interest me for more than a short period. As you can imagine it was a limiting life and closing rapidly. I had noticed other colleagues reaching the point where they lived for their work because they could not find adequate stimulation outside, so I decided to make a radical change in my life. First I left the defence industry, then I took the Mensa test in Australia. My husband was immediately sent to Hawaii for 6 months so I accompanied him - this was sudden so I had no opportunity to join first.

On our return to Australia, Mensa contacted me so I decided to join. The local state secretary was very friendly, telephoning me regularly until I decided to attend a dinner. When I did meet the local Mensans (in Canberra) I finally felt I was among people who could think at the speed and with the variety that I tend to. I found that among Mensans I did not need to explain topics of conversation, that rapid thought processes were the norm instead of the exception, that people were able to maintain my interest for long periods. I believe it was the first time in my life that I felt really at home with anyone other than my close circle of friends and family.

My husband and I have both lived lives of frequent moves, nationally and internationally. When we married we continued the trend. We moved around a great deal until 1997 when we settled in Western Australia. At that point I became involved in the WA Mensa scene, I had not been to meetings in the intervening countries and cities so I was a little out of touch. The local state secretary was finding the task onerous so I was nominated for the position. This was a turning point in my life.

Once I became involved in the administration of Mensa I realised how little I knew about the organisation. Kate Nacard, our chairman, was extremely helpful, as was Therese Moodie-Bloom, a previous chairman. I was most impressed by Therese's deep knowledge of Mensa at the national and international levels. I had a very happy and (I believe) productive 2 years as the WA State Secretary.

In 2002 the position of Membership Secretary, on the Administrative Committee, became vacant and I was nominated. Once again I realised how little I understood about Mensa, this time at the international level. Again Kate and Therese were very helpful. I derive great enjoyment from my involvement with Mensa as an officer - I can recommend to any member that they consider getting involved instead of just enjoying the social side of Mensa.

Theodore: How many members are in Australian Mensa, and what is the way you are organized?

Trish: I am not sure how much you know about Australia so will describe the situation here in basic terms.

We are a country of approximately 20 million inhabitants, with a current Mensa population of 1130. Australia is a very large island, with the population mainly on the east coast, a strip down the west coast and a spattering in the central area.

The Mensa demographics are consistent with this distribution; here are the figures for the end of March 2004:

Australian Capital Territory 48 (within NSW)
New South Wales 397 (southern east coast)
Victoria 260 (south coast, eastern side)
Queensland 158 (northern east coast)
Tasmania 38 (an island to the south of Victoria)

Western Australia 134 (the west coast)
South Australia 73 (the eastern end of mid south coast)

Northern Territory 4 (the top end of Australia)

Overseas 12 (our travelers)

TOTAL 1,124

In general our members tend to travel around interstate, and internationally, fairly often. Of our current membership 149 (13%) have transferred in from other countries, mainly the UK and the USA.

The national Mensa group is run by the National Committee (NatCom) which is comprised of the Administrative Committee plus the Regional Chairmen and State Secretaries who represent the above areas, and the editor of our magazine TableAus. The Administrative Committee (AdCom) is comprised of:

Chairman of Australian Mensa
Membership Secretary
Recruiting Officer

The members of AdCom live in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth -different states and different time zones. We usually work long hours late into the night so the time differences do not present too much of a problem. Email is the favoured form of communication between officers but we also telephone each other regularly.

We are then organised into the areas outlined above, with most areas run by a Regional Chairman and Committee. So far WA, NSW and ACT are still on the old system of having a State Secretary who organises all events for the area. The committee system is more productive but it can be difficult to find volunteers for the committees.

Each State or region organises local events and meetings then reports regularly to the Administrative Committee. We hold an AdCom meeting approximately every 2 months (usually by phone conference), and a NatCom meeting twice a year at present. Most states or regions hold events every week or so, the types of events vary but they each hold eating meetings once a month. Every year, usually in November, we have a NatCom meeting and AGM, choosing a different state or region for each event. Last year it was held in Brisbane in Queensland, this year it will be held in Adelaide in South Australia.

We run on a volunteer workforce, involving as many members as possible as a way of bringing our members together. We have a journal which is released every second month. The states and regions create their own local newsletter as an insert to the national journal. As you can imagine some of our members live in very remote areas where they never get to see another Mensan so the journal plays an important part in their life as a Mensan.

Emails play an important role in the organisation of Mensa. We have 88% of our members on email so we utilise that fact to reduce the isolation so many members feel. We have a national chat line, and each state has its own local chat line. Then there are SIGs which cover a variety of interests, the most popular so far being bookclubs and chat lines.

Australian Mensa is very aware of the need to attract and retain young members. Our child membership level has grown incredibly over the last 2 years, and we are in the preparation phase of implementing a newsletter specific to the under 16 year olds, run by that group under the supervision of the Gifted Children's Coordinator. We have SIGs for the older teens and the young adults, and our committees are attempting to organise events that appeal to the younger members.

Theodore: (Trish is sending me issues of their Journal so I asked if I could publish some extracts)

Trish: That would depend on what you wanted to publish. If you give me a postal address I shall send you some copies then you can let me know which items you are interested in. We have a wonderful article by our Recruiting officer, complete with photo, of a family of 3 child Mensans. The edition bearing the story is not available now but I may be able to get an electronic copy for you.

In Australia we publish in hard copy only.

Theodore: What are the ages of the 3 child Mensans?
My son Stefanos age 11 wants to have a test with a psychologist in order to join us... :-)

Trish: Those 3 children are a 10 year old boy and 6 year old twins - a boy and a girl. Our youngest member joined at age 3 and is now 4 and a half.

Theodore Natsinas

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