Outgoing ACS President Dr Ian Oppermann emotionally signed off the end of his term at the organisation’s annual general meeting on Tuesday evening, describing his presidency as a fight “for the heart and soul of the ACS”.

In March 2020 – as COVID-19 was beginning to spread around the world – ACS Congress elected Dr Oppermann to his two-year term as President.

“Last year was the hardest year of my professional life, it was the worst year of my professional life,” Dr Oppermann said.

“Now admittedly COVID had something to do with that, and my day job really, really did put me through the washing machine for a while. But ACS was also pretty tough.”

COVID outbreaks gave sudden prominence to Dr Oppermann’s work wrangling health data as NSW Chief Data Scientist but the pandemic also became the backdrop of a dramatic series of changes inside ACS that saw former CEO Andrew Johnson depart after six years at the helm and a vote of no confidence in the ACS Management Committee which led to two of its members being removed from their positions.

“We were really fighting for the heart and soul of the ACS last year,” Dr Oppermann said.

“And I think if I could be a little selfish, I would say my biggest achievement was not backing down last year when it became increasingly clear that we had serious cultural challenges inside the ACS, and that it was increasingly dividing the management of ACS.

“Being able to reach a point where we really identified a crisis in the culture of the ACS and then working through that crisis, and being able to then work with Rupert and the team to rebuild, has been really wonderful.”

Reflecting on the legacy of his tumultuous presidency, Dr Oppermann said he hopes that ACS is in a stronger position than when he was elected two years ago.

“I hope more people see the ACS as a partner and not an organisation that tries to compete,” he said.

“And I hope people see the ACS as a long-term, valuable part of the national ecosystem that will actually leave Australia in a better place.”

Dr Nick Tate will succeed Dr Oppermann as ACS President, starting his two-year term from 1 January 2022.

Tuesday’s AGM also saw the official announcement of the 2021 Congress election in which Jo Dalvean was elected as Vice President (Membership Board) and Helen McHugh, Chris Radbone, and Beau Tydd were all elected to Congress.

Stephen Godbee became an Honorary Life Member of ACS after 15 years with the organisation during which time he was instrumental in developing the Professional Partnership Program and creating open membership.

Dr Oppermann and ACS CEO Rupert Grayston signed a Diversity Pledge at the AGM, making a commitment that the organisation will seek to advance the cause of diversity within the Australian technology industry and ACS itself.

The AGM’s formal business was also conducted successfully with the passage of three motions.

The first, accepting the minutes of the last AGM, was passed with 67 votes for, 1 against, and 21 abstentions.

ACS’ financial statements for the last financial year were also received with 71 votes for, 2 against, and 16 members abstaining.

And the final motion, confirming the Management Committee Report, passed 71 for, 4 against, and 14 abstentions.