Instigating Practice-Led Research in Service Industry Sectors: The Licensed Club Sector

Article excerpt

The Licensed Club Sector constitutes one of the oldest and most "resilient" community and leisure service management sectors within Australia. Being principally community-based, most licensed clubs have been established and have continued to operate and continue to be managed on a predominantly "voluntary" basis. This paper analyses the existence of present structures and organisational arrangements within the State's licensed club structure, and uses this evaluation to investigate and establish a conceptual framework for theoretical and practice-led research which surround the management relationships and organisational structures identified within licensed clubs. A framework for practice-led research has been developed to provide guidelines for future planning applicable for use by licensed clubs themselves, and to assist professional industry associations to conduct overarching policy and organisational planning. The data from a Survey Evaluation Questionnaire as part of a series of mini-conferences conducted throughout metropolitan and regional Victoria in 2001, has been utilised to formulate pertinent issues related to increased business management competency, improved business performance, and an increased awareness of and compliance with statutory requirements.

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The Licensed Club Sector

The Licensed Club Sector constitutes one of the oldest, most diverse (in terms of amenities and facilities provision); and yet still remains one of the most resilient community and leisure service management sectors within Australia. The private or community-based licensed clubs have provided a substantial historical, political, and cultural legacy, contributing to Australia's national presence. Further, these clubs continue to maintain and develop an enduring cultural sense of community presence, "place" and identity (Broome, 1984; Dingle, 1984; Hing, Breen, & Weeks, 1998 Johnstone, 1967; Martin, 1989; Robertson, 1879, cited in Heaton, 1986; White, Jackson, & Schmeirer, 1997).

The Notion of the Club

The tradition of the "modern English club" has obviously influenced the establishment of a private and community-based club system in the colonies and territories of the British Empire including Australia (Modern World Encylopaedia, 1935; White et al, 1997). The colonists transplanted the cultural and social mores as well as the institutions and lifestyle in the exact forms as they existed in the "home country" (Johnstone, 1967; White et al., 1997). Put simply, the colonies provided an extension for the club culture of the British Isles. Therefore, that bastion of "Englishness"--the club--initially established its presence in the sovereign affairs of each colony and their presence in Victoria was most decidedly ensconced soon after Melbourne had been settled in 1834 (Robertson, 1879, cited in Heaton, 1986; Priestly, 1984). These clubs included the Melbourne Club (1839), the Port Phillip Club (1840), the St. Patrick's Club (1840), the German Turn Verein Club (1856), the Scandinavian Society (1857), the Caledonian Club (1868), the Cambrian Club (1872), the Australian Club (1879), the Celtic Club (1886), the Athenaeum Club (1887), and the Danish Club (1889). This list is not fully inclusive, but indicative of the activity on the part of the community in establishing private clubs at the time. Australia in this regard, is also quite unique, in that, in the light of this unchanged and "transported" tradition, other ethnic and racial groups of non Anglo-Celtic backgrounds, who had migrated and settled in various parts of Australia, also established social and cultural clubs and associations. This allowed them to continue their links with the "the homeland", and establish common support amongst themselves in their newly adopted country (Martin, 1989; White et al., 1997).

The maintenance of club presence, "place" and identity, has been an ever present issue over the past two centuries of "European settlement". …