The story of The United Bird Societies of South Australia Inc. (UBSSA) commenced in 1978 when a small group of wise and dedicated bird keepers and breeders saw a need for unity within their hobby as an essential element in defending the hobby against outside forces. Concerns were held for the possible actions of radical persons creating difficulties for the hobby. The bird keeping fraternity saw these people as having connections to groups with, in the opinion of bird keepers, extremist views and with a degree of political support at a time when minority groups were being particularly active. Without unity it was considered at the time that it would be all too easy for the Governments of the day to impose their possibly misinformed wills upon our hobby of bird keeping and breeding. It was recognised that authorities – directed by their political masters in following party philosophies that quite often reflect the views of vocal minority groups – could, conceivably, cause difficulties for our hobby.

There was then, as there is now, a need for bird keepers to be in a position to present a consolidated approach to Government and in doing so, developing a working relationship which assists the Government in achieving its objectives with a minimum impact upon bird keeping generally.

In developing the concept of a unification of the hobby on a nationwide basis, it was realised that an initial aim should be to achieve unification within our own State before attempting a nationwide coalition. A meeting of South Australian bird clubs was held and at this meeting, a decision was taken to form a State Council.

The June 1979 edition of “Birdkeeping in Australia” (the magazine of the Avicultural Society of South Australia Inc.) included the following article:

“Representatives of the majority of South Australian Avicultural Clubs unanimously agreed to form a State Avicultural organisation at a meeting held on Sunday June 3rd 1979 . The Organisation is to be known as The United Bird Societies of South Australia. Councillors will serve a two year term and will be drawn from a cross-section of the organisations affiliated with the UBSSA.

The inaugural Councillors who were elected at the June 3rd meeting were:

Mr George Duffield – Budgerigar Society of S.A.
Mr Roy Deslandes – Budgerigar Society of S.A.
Mr Roy Davies – Adelaide Canary Society
Mr John Fisher – N.E. Budgerigar Society
Mr Colin McDonough – Avicultural Society of S.A.
Mr Keith Hocking – Pheasant and Waterfowl Society
Mr Richard Chilton – Avicultural Society of S.A. ”

The structure is as follows: 2 UBSSA Council (comprising 9 people)

The Affiliated Bird Clubs in South Australia from which the 9 Council members are drawn

This structure gave bird keepers in South Australia an opportunity to present a consolidated approach to authorities within the State – be it at a Local Government or a State Government level. Other States were encouraged to embark upon the same course and ultimately most States developed organisations that basically replicated the South Australian model.

To give bird keepers a stronger national voice, the Avicultural Federation of Australia (AFA) was formed. This structure again replicates the South Australian model. The difference is that the affiliated bird clubs forming the UBSSA are replaced in the structure by the State bodies thus forming the National organisation. The AFA is operated by a Board of Management that has the support of a Secretariat to perform the associated administrative duties. Board members, known as “Directors of AFA”, are appointed from each State and are Council members from the respective State bodies. Each State or Territory is entitled to appoint (3) Board members but each State or Territory is entitled to only one vote. The Secretariat is usually conducted by one of the State or Territory bodies willing and able to undertake the duties. There have been instances where the Secretariat memberships has been spread over more than one State or Territory to overcome resource difficulties.

The structure of AFA is capable of giving coverage to a large cross-section of bird keepers and breeders in Australia .

The UBSSA has 12 objectives which are:

  • The promotion of goodwill and communication between all bird keepers and societies.
  • Provision of protection, where-ever possible, to all bird keepers.
  • Provision of a forum for all S.A. bird organisations to express their views and contribute to a united effort to ensure the betterment of aviculture.
  • Provision of delegates to represent S.A. on a national body.
  • Formulation of views, and courses of action, for conveyance to a national body.
  • Dissemination of information from a national body to affiliated organisations.
  • Provision of mediation and/or consultation on Federal, State and Local Government legislation.
  • Act as a watchdog on proposed Federal, State or Local Government legislation
  • Instigation of appropriate submissions for amendments, where necessary, to existing or proposed legislation.
  • Co-ordination of all available information for the benefit of affiliated organisations.
  • The gaining of acceptance as an authority on avicultural matters with Government departments and all sections of the media.
  • To take an active interest in – and to contribute to – conservation matters considered to be relevant to the interest of the UBSSA by the Council or a Delegates meeting.

There is a close similarity between the objectives of ABSSA and those of AFA and this reflects the fact that the founders of both organisations were the same people. The objectives of AFA cover a wider scope with their Australia wide application.

The AFA objectives are:

  • The promotion of aviculture in Australia .
  • The representation of all aviculturists within Australia .
  • The pursuit of an interest and involvement in the avian species within Australia .
  • The promotion of goodwill and communication between all bird societies and aviculturists within Australia .
  • The provision of a forum for affiliated organisations to express their views and to contribute to a united effort to ensure the betterment of aviculture.
  • The establishment of avicultural councils within each state or territory of Australia to represent all facets of aviculture, including the objectives of AFA.
  • The collation and dissemination of information to all affiliated organisations and other relevant parties.
  • To act as an advisory body, where required, in the preparation of submissions on legislation, proposed and existing, and other relevant matters.
  • The promotion of the propagation of rare avian fauna.
  • The promotion of uniformity of fauna laws between the states and territories of Australia .
  • The promotion of National Avicultural Conventions.

Membership of UBSSA is open to all avicultural and/or bird clubs or societies based in South Australia with exceptions being those organisations devoted to poultry and pigeons. The Council has 9 members and is required by the rules to meet at least once every two months. Since its inception, a Delegates Meeting has been held in Adelaide in June and November of each year.. Each affiliated club is entitled to send delegates (with one vote per affiliated club) to determine UBSSA policy directions for the Council to undertake. The Council does not operate outside of, or contrary to, the policy directions determined at the Delegates Meetings. The Delegates Meeting in November has been the meeting when appointments are made to the Council.

Appointment to the Council is for a two years term with about 50% of Councillors retiring each year. Retiring Councillors are eligible for re-election and elections are held, if required, for the filling of Council positions where candidates out-number vacant positions. The Council had the power to fill short term Council vacancies until the next November Delegates Meeting when such positions automatically become vacant. As from 2005, an Annual General Meeting will be held whereby the Council elections will be conducted. Other Delegates meetings will be scheduled throughout the year on ‘if required’ basis.

Over the years, UBSSA has established itself as a legitimate advisory group without the radical element sometimes prevalent in special interest groups. A good working relationship has been established with National Parks and Wildlife officers and a UBSSA presence is maintained on the Exotic Bird Advisory Committee to the Animal and Plant Control Commission. The relationships developed between UBSSA and Government agencies have been envied by bird keeping and breeding people in other states.

The 1st National Avicultural Convention was held in Adelaide (at Flinders University on 17 and 18 May 1980 ). This Convention was organised and hosted by the Avicultural Society of S A Inc. The UBSSA hosted the 5 th National Convention in Adelaide (at Adelaide University from 21 to 24 April 1989 ) – a function which was a resounding success. The UBSSA also hosted the successful 10 th National Convention held in Adelaide (at Sunnybrae Farm, Regency Park on 4 to 6 May 2001).

To assist in financing the operations of the UBSSA, a Supporter’s Scheme was created and people were invited to participate. Membership is renewed annually and each member is provided with a quarterly Newsletter containing up to date information on matters of interest and concern to bird keepers.

Annual UBSSA Seminars have been held since 1993 – originally at the Unley Civic Centre and then subsequently at South Terrace, Adelaide and Nuriootpa. These economical one-day Seminars have been top class functions with current and relevant topics presented in a friendly and well catered for environment. Presenters have been brought from interstate to merge with local speakers to provide quality sessions. In general, the attendance at these Seminars has been disappointing but those who have taken the effort to attend have always found the day well worthwhile. There was no Annual UBSSA Seminar in 2001 due the 10th National Avicultural Convention being held in Adelaide.

In the early – mid 1980’s, the Government of the day was planning to take draconian steps in relation to the keeping of foreign birds in South Australia . The plan seemed to be for the registration of all foreign birds – both finches and parrots. Lovebirds were particularly popular at the time and a proposal to register all of those birds alone was enough to cause an uproar amongst the bird keeping fraternity. After protracted discussions – including strong representations from UBBSA – the result was that about 6 species of foreign birds were banned from South Australia and the rest were able to be kept without registration. This was a significant watering down of Government proposals for which UBBSA can rightly take credit.

The UBBSA took a very strong stand over the proposal to import birds into Australia when UBSSA became aware of a plan to import live birds through the egg importation quarantine facility on Torrens Island . The UBSSA fell foul of many other groups in Australia . UBSSA held the view that quarantine protocols seemed to fall short of desirable protection levels needed if, for example, a cargo of imported foreign birds into Adelaide Airport suffered in a traffic accident in Adelaide’s Western and North-Western suburbs during transfer to Torrens Island. The UBSSA argued that an exotic disease, such as Newcastle Disease, could easily be released into our suburbs. Such an outbreak would also put the numerous waterbirds on the (then) Penrice salt fields at risk and with their migratory habits, Newcastle Disease could soon be widespread. At the time, the authorities denied there were any plans to bring livebirds into Torrens Island but after an extended on-going battle they finally conceded that livebird importation into Torrens Island “was a possibility”. Other states and importation interest groups considered UBSSA to be anti – importation but the objections only revolved around protecting our own aviaries and wild birds against the underhanded and uninformed wills and actions of interstate authorities. The fact that no live birds came through Torrens Island was a big win for South Australian birds – both captive and wild.

UBSSA has worked with Government, and others, to produce a handbook which is a guideline for the care and management of birds in South Australia . The need to tend to our birds in a proper manner is paramount and UBSSA has no objections to working with groups such as the RSPCA to ensure the well-being of our birds. The guideline document sets minimum standards for the care and management of birds and if bird keepers fail to maintain such standards, they will receive no support from UBSSA.

Many bird clubs have displays and conduct bird sales. There were instances of birds being held in very in-appropriate conditions at some of these functions. National Parks and Wildlife Officers held serious concerns about some of the conditions and it appeared likely that such functions could be banned. UBSSA was able to negotiate an appropriate standard and to set guidelines for the presentation and holding of wildlife at bird sales and displays. All affiliated clubs have been advised of what is required for the continuation of sales and displays. It is very important that all clubs conform to the guidelines as future sales and displays are dependent upon all clubs doing the right thing. Failure by any one club could result in a complete ban of all displays and sales because the outside forces are still active and observant in this area.

As a large benefit available to all affiliates, the UBSSA has been able to negotiate insurance cover at a much lower premium to clubs. Over the years, there have been considerable savings to clubs through the UBSSA arranged insurance cover.

The Federal Government introduced a scheme for the registration of foreign birds as an attempt to reduce the level of bird smuggling into Australia which has the resultant risk of introducing exotic diseases into our country. The scheme became un-manageable and was discontinued. However, the South Australian authorities retained an interest in achieving a proper record of foreign birds already in Australia . In the interest of protecting our bird keepers, UBSSA put in a large effort to produce (from all sources) a list of all foreign birds known to be legally in Australia to be used as a basic guideline document for the Plant and Pest Control Commission in South Australia. In the future, any foreign birds not on this list may be deemed to have been smuggled into the country. The holder of such birds may be held accountable. It was therefore very important for the list to be comprehensive and complete upon acceptance by the Plant and Pest Control Commission. In addition to the preparation of the list, the Plant and Pest Control Commission required a document setting out guidelines for the secure housing of all exotic bird species which are, or may be, held in South Australia . The working party developing this document includes UBSSA representation.