Will Courts intervene in matters relating to clubs?

The recent case of Hogan v Fraser & Ors revisited the longstanding Australian case of Cameron v Hogan. This was the case of a member objecting to the ballot to allow women members at Tattersall’s Club. These cases address whether the Court will intervene in matters relating to Clubs. The Supreme Court followed the decision in Cameron v Hogan, a case from the 1930’s.

The judgment makes interesting reading, but essentially the Court decided that it would not intervene in the Club’s matters. Having said that, the Court went on to determine that if it did intervene it would have still found that the ballot was validly held.

The Judge said that to obtain relief the applicant must demonstrate that the Cameron v Hogan test does apply. The Judge noted that tests would apply if:

  • there was a public interest; or
  • the applicant had a sufficiently important personal interest; or
  • The Rules were contractual in nature.

The Court was unable to be convinced on any one of these three grounds.

The Court found that there was no public interest in intervening.

The Court found that the applicant, Mr Hogan was not personally disadvantaged in any way and neither his reputation nor his personal livelihood were affected by the decision.

Finally, the Court found that the nature of the relationship between the members and the Club did not create a contractual relationship between them.

When people are unhappy with what happens in clubs, the threat of taking matters to Court is frequently used.

The case illustrates that just because a member is not happy with a decision by a club, does not mean that the Court will even hear the matter, let alone determine in favour of the aggrieved member.  In this case the member lost on all grounds and was ordered to pay the substantial costs of the respondent.

“The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication.”
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