I noticed a recent article in the soaraway Australian rag The Brisbane Times that there has been a recent and violent schism between various factions of Diabetes Australia – the Oz equivalent of Diabetes UK here in Britain.
From my usual scant research (if you can call it that) it seems that the different divisions of the organisation have disagreed about pretty much anything it’s possible to disagree about in diabetes care. The straw that appeared to have broken the metaphoric and unfortunate camel’s back appears to have been a spat about what problem to target first – prevention and education about Type Two or greater funding of pumps, etc., for Type One sufferers.
I don’t think this in particular is a new or unusual problem for diabetes charities. Certainly at the Diabetes UK meeting I attended recently there were mutterings from the back row about the focus our UK charity should take.
However, what is unusual is that the Australian charity has gone into complete meltdown – with the New South Wales, South Australia and Northern Territory branches breaking off to possibly form their own, rival charity. Needless to say, for diabetics in Australia this is not useful.
Anyone with half a brain knows that committees and organisations of any form are a complete nightmare. At university I was heavily involved in student union politics (we were first people to use the Equal Opportunities office to organise a “Men’s Awareness Week”!) but after that experience I refused to ever, ever sit on a committee again. I still have recurring nightmares about petty arguments and politicking about funding, spending and the seemingly never-ending saga about Southampton University’s un-built swimming pool.
It’s therefore naive to think that any diabetes charity will have a complete union of views between its staff, members and supporters. However, any split like that seen in Australia can be nothing but bad news for the diabetics they apparently aim to support. With many different voices clamouring for the attention of the public, the government and battling for scant funds it’s the loudest voice that will be heard.
This is why (perhaps unsubstantiated) rumours that the Scottish division of Diabetes UK wants to break away and form its own separate organisation is perhaps the most dull-witted, stupid, face-slappingly dense idea I’ve ever heard. Being a pseudo-Scot myself I’m all for Scotland having a voice; but where the voice is representing a small minority of diabetics in a small part of a small country, greater division is a very bad and utterly short-sighted idea. I would respectfully suggest that anyone advocating such a move should forget about their egos and remember Diabetes UK and its Scottish division were created to support diabetics – not to as a medium for massaging their own self-interests.
If we diabetics are going to be heard we need to be a large, united body. Little, divided groups will simply not be heard – their voice will be lost in the clamour. While all in-fighting can’t be avoided, we do all need to be pulling in the same direction – otherwise it’s a grim outlook for us pancreatically-challenged hoards.