The Asia Pacific Association of Threat Assessment Professionals (APATAP) is the region’s key body in promoting and developing the cross-disciplinary study and management of threatening individuals and behaviours such as stalking, harassment, and threats. Besides holding a conference on threat management, the association is also dedicated to developing a range of professional education seminars and support to academic research in the fields of its expertise. Damian McMeekin, President of APATP, gives us more insights on the association that brings together members from different disciplines.
Interview by Katie Lau
How would you introduce your association to our readers?
APATAP was established in 2013 from an earlier Australasian incarnation, which was set up in 2011. Its ultimate purpose and that of its international partners is to enhance best practices and defensible decision-making in the primary prevention and response to disruptive and dangerous behaviours, which include stalking, harassment, threats, violence,from the very personal through to broad movements such as violent extremism (one focus of our 2017 conference).
How would you describe the background of your members?
Our members tend to be forensic psychiatrists and psychologists working in specialised mental health disciplines, academics and students from related disciplines, police specialists, and corporate security executives. Mostly they are from Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong along with a number from elsewhere in the region as well as Europe and North America.
Could you describe the events held by your association?
APATAP’s conferences comprise a themed one-day expert seminar followed by two days of tightly managed presentations addressing issues across the disciplines within our field of professional interest. Presenters are drawn internationally, and content is required to meet established academic and professional standards. Formal sessions are complemented by informal events structured to strengthen engagement across our multi-disciplinary community.
How do you pick the destination for your events?
Our earlier conferences were held in Australia, reflecting our establishment by professionals there. We’ve become better able to support our regional colleagues and growth, so have been able to move our focus to Asia, with the previous conference in Bangkok and the next being held in Singapore. In addition to supporting a local community of colleagues our priorities include international connectivity, capable and reputable conferencing facilities, and pricing suitable to our diverse membership.
What are your criteria for choosing venues and destinations?
APATAP’s conferences are relatively small but highly communal and very international, so we need a venue that can manage our size and expectations respectfully and within conservative price bands appropriate to our various constituencies. We ask a number of people to travel a good distance so, as well as a supportive conference venue, there needs to be an interesting environment with options for social events and free time.
What is the most memorable event you have attended as a participant or an organiser?
Our 2014 conference in Brisbane suffered a memorable storm with hail striking fiercely enough to drown even amplified sound, and winds strong enough to shake us 30 floors above street level. More broadly, APATAP has a very diverse and distributed membership for a professional association, so our executive committee has experienced an incredible breadth of events. My own started in Papua New Guinea at the Goroka Show in the late 1950s, and that simply cannot be beaten for spectacle and difference. I believe every peak professional association conference can be memorable, because they all carry the passion of colleagues almost regardless of size or location. With professional support from providers, though, that passion carries into truly memorable professional and personal occasions.
Do you have a favourite country or destination for your events?
APATAP remains a relatively young association and is still on a steep trajectory, from our origins in a small and informal meeting of colleagues in Microsoft’s Melbourne office to where we are now, with experiences of very different meetings too in Brisbane and Bangkok and with a conference coming up in Singapore. Each has been incredibly important to our development, and each has had its own wonderful personality, so it would be unfair to favour the memory of any one particular occasion.
You are the Global Head of Security for ANZ. How does your experience at APATAP enrich your personal and professional life?
The disciplines contained within APATAP’s fields of work are important and professionally fascinating, but the members themselves are also extraordinary in their own right, and wonderfully enthusiastic. They show in the association their recognition of each other’s work, and the importance to our communities’ wellbeing of successful cross-disciplinary collaboration and of professional excellence. Building on this cohesion and sense of purpose is stimulating and rewarding.
What trends have you noticed in the association industry?
Globalisation has made life more complex for everyone. It’s created extraordinary mobility and inter-dependencies while opening niches and demanding collaboration. APATAP is a prime example of where that has taken us, and what needs to be serviced: a relatively small international gathering of diverse but highly professional colleagues who are engaged intensely with each other’s thinking but meet only intermittently, and need to make the most of the opportunity and occasion. The association industry has been responding to that, and will benefit from continuing to recognise customers’ diversity of need against more uniform standards of awareness and expectation.
What lies ahead for your association?
The Associations of Threat Assessment Professionals here in the region, in North America and Europe, and soon in Africa are developing strongly and working already towards the establishment of an international association that will develop global professional standards. This regional and global development is of great importance to the fields in which we work, and of commensurate benefit to our communities. APATAP is still a relatively small body requiring stringent financial management, and a carefully balanced professional and ethical approach to publicity, but we are known increasingly well within our various professions and have been receiving support from understanding sponsors. Microsoft, for example, have been with us from our beginning, as had a number of practices in our fields. This has made it possible to conduct professionally valuable and enjoyable events, which will only strengthen as we grow our regional programmes.
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