ASTW Newsletter – October 2020

October 2020

Dear ASTW members,

What a month it’s been! (I was thinking of leaving just that as my President’s Report. But, of course, there’s always more…)

Early in the month we had the unexpected departure from the ASTW committee of Catherine Marshall. Thank you, Catherine for your energy, commitment and passion for supporting the society and committee.

The gaps in committee membership were filled with four new/old members stepping in to support the continuing members, Kylee Kay, Pip Macken, Scott Podmore and Christina Pfeiffer, and yours truly.

Thank you to Lee Mylne, Lee Atkinson, David McGonigal and John Borthwick for contributing your combined years of ASTW experience, fresh perspectives and sage advice. We’re also relishing your welcome wit, giving our meetings and correspondence a much-needed lighter tone.

The committee, which sees itself in a caretaker role until the next elections, has embraced the firm request of the Advisory Panel to hit the pause button and cut back on most activities and initiatives until the AGM. We are now focussing on the less glamorous yet essential tasks required to maintain the society and support you, the members, while also navigating the complications of the pandemic.

A heartfelt call out to our Victorian members who have suffered far more than others while in extended lockdown and the hardships this creates.

Included in the committee task list are the 2020 Awards, culminating in our virtual awards event to be held on November 19. Here is the chance to see each other virtually and celebrate, as all other gatherings have been suspended or cancelled for this year. Thank you to the Awards subcommittee members who have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to re-structure the ASTW Awards for Excellence.

I want to thank everyone who has volunteered their time and expertise during this extraordinary year. To all members of the subcommittees working behind the scenes and those in front of the cameras, THANK YOU! You are all much appreciated and your value to the society in this year has been exemplary.

I will mention specifically the Professional Development subcommittee for keeping us informed, entertained and connected with ongoing webinars and Zoom drinks. Those thanks extend to all who shared their expertise and talents via the webinars. A wealth of resources is now lodged on the ASTW website for everyone’s reference. Thank you, all, for hanging-in throughout this coronavirus. We look forward to more webinars in 2021.

To close, I reiterate my personal ethics of kindness, respect and inclusion, values I hope I also bring to my role as your Pandemic President.
Kind regards,

Elisa Elwin
ASTW President



This year’s annual awards ceremony will be like no other. Clear your calendar for 19 November, 6pm AEDT We are excited to announce the fab Jean Kittson as MC for our first-ever online event. Many of us know Jean from her TV shows such as The Big Gig and Let the Blood Run Free in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but some may not know that Jean is an extraordinary master of ceremonies. With her mix of wicked wit and a dash of seriousness she promises to be the perfect fit for our event. The event will include the award presentations along with several interactive segments to ensure that everyone is part of the fun and can share it with friends.

The committee encourages members to get together and share the event with ‘real-life’ interactions. Why not find a local venue with a screen (probably a pub or restaurant) for a casual catch-up where you can watch the ceremony and share the fun? Where restrictions still exist, we encourage home or small-group events. These gatherings would be DIY social pop-ups rather than ASTW sponsored events.


Judging is now complete for all categories, thanks to a panel of local and international judges that were recruited and supervised by Mike Smith. The 2020 Awards received 619 entries.

Stringent new measures are in place with both the Award Force and Awards subcommittee procedures. No one beyond the three-person subcommittee and the secretariat has access to the Award Force admin area. No other party knows who has entered, the number of entries per category, the identity of judges and which ones judged each category. The judges do not know their fellow judges or their scores.

The Awards subcommittee will check the scores and all shortlisted entries for eligibility. The secretariat will be notified of their decisions. The Awards subcommittee will report to the ASTW committee with the finalists in each category, plus relevant observations and recommendations.

Huge thanks to Peter Hook, Mike Smith and Justine Costigan for going above and beyond the call in their efforts, enabling the ASTW to run the awards smoothly this year. We look forward to seeing everyone at the Virtual Awards Ceremony and celebrating the winners and all finalists.


Members recently voted via special resolutions for constitutional changes proposed by your committee in order for the society to move forward. During this we received generous feedback that will be applied for future decisions around constitutional changes. A constitution must stand the test of time. To this end a subcommittee will be created post-AGM to work on governance, in conjunction with our Advisory Members, to frame a constitution that hopefully remains ‘timeless’. For now, we are pleased to announce that all special resolutions were passed with a minimum 84 percent of voters for each amendment. The revised constitution has now been lodged with NSW Fair Trading and will be tabled at the next AGM. Thank you to all who voted.


What an enormous contribution the Professional Development subcommittee made to the ASTW during 2020 and the pandemic.

ASTW Zoom drinks became a highlight and a connection for many during lockdown. With the commitment, creative energy and professional talent of primary co-hosts Tracey Croke and Amanda Kendle, many Friday nights were spent laughing, connecting and supporting each other during these strange times. We learned much about one another during these events, from hidden talents, back yard adventures and huntsman spider companions to shared tales from our many travel adventures.

The webinars have been a valuable training opportunity for the society when most other options for gatherings and membership ‘value’ were cancelled or postponed. Thank you to Dianne Bortoletto, Seana Smith, Catherine Marshall and Amanda Kendle for being the driving force in the creation and facilitation of so many worthwhile and informative presentations. A huge shout of thanks extends to all those who presented webinars, offering their expertise and advice.

The committee has decided to pause both the drinks and webinar sessions while awaiting the newly elected committee to work with the Professional Development Subcommittee on future projects. The final Zoom drinks, during which the good folk of Tourism Authority of Thailand treated us to a terrific cooking and cocktail class on Bangkok’s Chao Phraya River, was a fitting farewell-for-now event. Meanwhile, we encourage you to continue to meet, connect and support each other outside the official ASTW banner. Looking forward to seeing you all in person when we can all meet again.



We regret that there are no more lunches planned for 2020. Yes — no ASTW Christmas lunch! And no possibilities until January 21 at the earliest. However, some members might consider organising their own informal Christmas gatherings or picnics, with Santa Claus at 20 paces.


Steered by the well read Sue Gough Henly the inaugural meeting of the ASTW Book Club took place via Zoom on 15 September. There was plenty of excitement about THE YIELD by this year’s Miles Franklin award winner Wiradjuri author Tara June Winch. Eight members joined the discussion during the evening. What might have been lacking in numbers was made up for by enthusiasm for language and ideas. Sue has a contact for Tara June Winch who might be a great resource in potentially developing an indigenous travel writer-mentoring program. We invite feedback from members before taking this further.

After Sue suggested WANDERLAND by Jini Reddy as the next book in discussion with those who attended the last group, the focus then changed to WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens, as also suggested by Lou (‘loved the writing’) Southerden. Set in the coastal marshes of North Carolina, ‘Crawdads’ offers a scientist’s fascination for the natural world and a heart-wrenching coming-of-age story, all wrapped in an intriguing who-dunnit plot. This excellent debut novel for wildlife scientist Delia Owens was published at age 69.

The next meeting will be at 5pm on 12 November. Stay tuned for more announcements on Facebook. Meanwhile, read on!


Pitches for the 2021 convention have been received and are under review. With the uncertainty that Covid-19 continues to create in travel, the committee has erred on the side of caution, narrowing the potential destinations to two – both domestic, both fabulous. Negotiations continue and we will announce the decision as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the next AGM will hopefully be held in late December or early January.


THE TIME WHEN TRAVEL STOPPED – Social History Story Project 2020

Do you feel inspired to write about your experiences while living through a pandemic that has changed all our lives?

If so, please send your story about life in Coronavirus time – happy, sad, amusing or serious – it’s up to you.

Hopefully, the collection of stories will showcase how we all coped and become part of social history for future generations of ASTW members and family and friends.

Stories can be about a moment in time, the bigger picture or whatever you want.

All ASTW members are invited to send stories to be collated for the ASTW archives and maybe an e-book down the track.

The stories will all be published on the ASTW website in coming weeks.

The Details

  1. Please send stories – long or short, with a headline to
  2. First deadline is November 15 2020 with a second deadline of January 15 2021. Later stories can be added.
  3. There is no payment involved and you will be asked to sign an agreement giving ASTW rights or a licence in perpetuity to publish the content on


Longtime ASTW member and current committee member, John Borthwick recently won the 2020 Pacific Area Travel Association’s (PATA) Gold Award for Best Destination Story. His article, ‘Thai Left Bank is Just Right’, about Bangkok’s Thonburi district was published in The West Australian. This was John’s second PATA Gold gong. We’re proud of the line-up of recent ASTW members who’ve won this PATA Gold Award: Kerry van der Jagt (2019), Aleney de Winter (2018), Christine Retschlag (2017) and Roderick Eime (2016). At drinks soon after the award announcement a fellow writer, who wasn’t familiar with PATA, asked John, ‘A Putter award? You’ve taken up golfing? Well done.’


Are almost in the mail. Members can expect to receive their new cards by early November. As ever, big thanks to TravMedia for their support in producing our membership cards.


The ASTW acknowledges Traditional Owners of Country throughout Australia and recognises their continuing connection to lands, waters and communities. We pay our respect to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures; and to Elders both past and present.