AVN – new name, new president

Meryl Dorey, the founder and long-term president of the Australian [anti]Vaccination Network, has announced that she has relinquished her position as president of the organisation, effective January 1. Her replacement is Queensland-based AVN board member, Greg Beattie.

Beattie, whom the AVN describes as a “long-time vaccine researcher”, is the author of two anti-vaccination books – Vaccination: A Parent’s Dilemma, and Fooling Ourselves on the Fundamental Value of Vaccines. The first of these covered his legal suit against the former Maroochy Shire Council on the Queensland Sunshine Coast. The Council had refused two of his seven unvaccinated children access to Council-run childcare centres. Beattie lost the case.

He told Australian Doctor magazine that he wanted to “change the direction of how [the AVN] is perceived in the future”.

“I want it to be perceived as the go-to place to balance out the information [about vaccination].” Judging by his books and the AVN’s history, this means it will likely continue its anti-vaccination stance.

He admitted that the media had stopped contacting the group as often as it once did, which he put down to “the media in general … stepping away from airing the controversy and more involved in airing the status quo.” There was no suggestion from Beattie in the article that the media may have stopped approaching the AVN for comment because of a growing disenchantment with the group’s pronouncements that the NSW Healtch Care Complaints Commission has described as “misleading and deceptive”.

In an AVN press release, Dorey indicated that her reasons for stepping were to give herself a “sabbatical” to work on “several very important projects which have been neglected due to the pressures of running this organisation”. She refused to tell Australian Doctor what the projects would be, though she said details of one of them would be made public in February.

A number of years ago Dorey had offered to stand down from the position due to financial constraints on the organisation, but despite a search for a new office bearer, she stayed on in the position, at various times described as “acting president”. Speaking with Australian Doctor, she did not rule out a return to the president’s position in the future.

The NSW Department of Fair Trading recently ordered the Australian Vaccination Network to change its name because the title is “against the public interest”.

Dorey said that it was only a coincidence that her vacating the president’s position happened only a short time after the Department’s directive. [She has been under pressure coping with other issues of late, including the issuing of AVOs against several anti-AVN campaigners.]

The Department gave the AVN until February 21, 2013, to apply for registration of a change of name.

“If an application for registration of a change of name is not made on or before that date, Australian Vaccination Network Incorporated’s registration may be cancelled.”

A news item carried in News Ltd publications at the time of the Department’s announcement quoted NSW Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts as saying ‘the information [the AVN] provided was a public safety issue of “life and death”.’

“This is not a victimless issue,” Roberts said. “It’s about the ability to stop pain and suffering.”

Dr Rachael Dunlop, Australian Skeptics’ vice-president, suggested to Australian Doctor that the change of presidency could be a prelude to shifting the group’s headquarters to Queensland, possibly to circumvent the NSW Department’s demand to change the AVN’s name.

Beattie denied this, saying that “If one state has said your name is unsuitable … surely [another state’s] fair trading establishment would say, ‘Hey, you can’t do that here either’.”

In other words, he does not deny that the AVN might move its headquarters. But he does offer an interesting invitation to the Queensland Office of Fair Trading to follow its NSW counterpart.

For more information on the order to change the AVN’s name, see:

Anti-vaccination network told to change its name or be shut down – By Dr Rachael Dunlop

Press Release from the Minister for Fair Trading in NSW, Anthony Roberts.