District Conference 2017 – Connecting Communities – Serving Humanity


Summary by District Governor Neville John       

The conference theme ‘Connecting Communities – Serving Humanity’ focused on social cohesion, inclusion and community resilience. We know why these things are so fundamentally important to the wellbeing of our society, and we know that generations of Australians have worked hard over many years to build a reputation for being inclusive, welcoming people who give others a fair go and are generous in helping those less fortunate.

Pre-conference started with a choice of activities including a Community Connection Settlement journey conducted by local welfare organisation, Kildonan, an historical walking tour of Shepparton and the ‘hysterical’ walking tour at the Shepparton Golf Club. That evening we gathered at the McIntosh Centre for the ‘Tastes of Harmony’ welcome function, featuring seven different cultural foods and local wines provided by local sponsor, Tallis Wines. Many thanks to Shepparton South Rotary for their wonderful support and assistance with this event. 

The conference kicked off with the Victorian Minister for Multicultural Affairs, Robin Scott declaring that Rotary has a leadership role to play in helping newcomers settle in our communities, and encouraged us to host more ‘Taste of Harmony’ type events locally.

RI Director Noel Trevaskis enlightened us on what Rotary needs to do to be more attractive to the next generation of future Rotarians, with his description of some incumbents bringing howls of agreement and laughter. Human Rights Commissioner Kristen Hilton talked about the importance of listening and looking at things through someone else’s eyes. We learned that Kristen had been a Rotary Exchange student to Denmark and in describing how much that had meant to her, shared her emotion when she said ‘thank you, you changed my life.’  Sorry we forgot to put tissues in your conference bags.

Local entrepreneurs, Andrew Fairley and Adam Furphy discussed the collaborative partnerships that are being developed to provide positive outcomes on community issues, as did sponsor, National Australia Bank. There is no doubt that Rotary has a place in these partnerships and we should be talking to our local leaders to make that happen.

Journalist, Hannah McDonald interviewed the partners in the Cleeland United Soccer Club, where one person’s idea became something that benefited the community, by leveraging that idea through Victoria Police, Chadstone East Malvern Rotary, Melbourne Victory Soccer Club and other community networks.

The Rotary Foundation was back on stage to highlight 100 years of ‘Doing Good in the World’, as they transported back in time, Arch Klumpf and Paul Harris, as we listened in on their plans for the Foundation from many years ago. Well done to Greg Ross (aka Arch) and Gabe Hau (the centurion) with a high commendation to scriptwriter, PDG Dennis Shore. Former Foundation alumni, Alexandra Ridgeway, Stephanie Woollard and Charlie Allen were all keynote speakers who respectively shared their important work, which has benefited from their respective Foundation scholarships.

We asked you to note down your thoughts and ideas and share them throughout the conference using #Tagboard. These are your ideas to take away and develop into interesting projects, that engage your members, your community, and local stakeholders such as government, schools, emergency services – any person or organisation who is at the coal face in the community.

The auditorium rose to give a standing ovation after hearing an inspiring presentation from Marcus Akuhata-Brown on how courage is about challenging your beliefs and stepping outside your comfort zone to grow and help others, and the importance of connection to community and place.

And then we watched and heard something else very special. The combined choirs of the Dhungala Children's, St Paul's Lutheran and the Melbourne Singers of Gospel, accompanied by Wiradjuri Soprano Shauntai Batzke, and led by Michael Lapina and Deborah Cheetham AO, filled with the stage with over 100 choristers for the finale. It looked the perfect picture to bring together two days of conversations and discussion about social cohesion and resilience.

If we are here to serve; and if we are involved in Rotary to make a difference, then we need to find out the needs of our community. If we do, our projects will be interesting and people will be engaged and more will want to be part and remain part of what we do. Remember, every Rotary project starts with one person’s idea!

Thank you to Conference Chair, Kevin Love, our wonderful MC Koren Harvey, Artistic Director Michael Lapina, the Organising Committee, including members of Rotary Central Melbourne and Melbourne Park, plus two amazingly talented performers, Ian Hovey from Werribee and Peter Shepheard from Altona. The speakers and artists each made their contributions by expanding on the conference theme. and we all walked away with some work to do. Thank you to everyone who attended for supporting the future of Rotary.

The Rotary Foundation Centennial Celebration – 31 May 2017

Last edition I provided more information about The Rotary Foundation Centennial Celebration. Brochures and Bequest forms have been emailed to all Club Presidents. As you know, I am hoping that by the time we get to celebrate this event, and with your help that we will sign up more than $1 million in bequest pledges.  Maybe you have already identified the Foundation as a beneficiary in your Will but not advised them. This is the time to do so by completing a bequest pledge form and have your intentions included in the 100-year anniversary. Contact Foundation Chair Dennis Shore for more information.

We are well on the way to achieving our objective and with your help, it will become a reality. There won’t be another 1000-year anniversary in our lifetime but we can ensure the wonderful work that the Foundation supports will continue for another 100 years.

Youth Exchange Inbound Hosting – 2017 – 2018

Each July, the current inbound exchange students return home and the next group arrives. I have had the pleasure of getting to know all of this year’s students and say without exception that they are a credit to themselves. We saw at the Shepparton Conference how Youth Exchange changed the lives of Kristen Hilton, Mandy Drury and Peta Credlin, all of them successful in their respective careers, and each of them saying how they owed a debt of gratitude to Rotary. In a world that needs more understanding between countries, Rotary Youth Exchange remains relevant. I hope that every cluster in the District might talk about hosting one inbound student. It should be possible if we think about what we heard from the people that I mentioned above. Contact Youth Exchange Chair, Gabrielle Morgan if you, your club or your cluster is interested in hosting.

Conference Finale

We witnessed something extra special when more than 100 choristers from the Dhungala Children's, St Paul's Lutheran and the Melbourne Singers of Gospel Choirs, accompanied by Wiradjuri Soprano Shauntai Batzke, and led by Michael Lapina and Deborah Cheetham AO, filled the stage for the finale. 

It was the perfect picture to bring together two days of conversations and discussion about social cohesion and resilience. What they then performed will be remembered by all present, including those standing up the back. 

On behalf of the conference committee, I thank all of the 720+ who attended. By doing so, you made the considerable effort worth it. We hope that there was something for every one of you, and that your thoughts and ideas will be taken back to your clubs and communities to be turned into projects.

Neville John   

District Governor 2016-2017

Lots of Conference photos are available at: https://goo.gl/photos/v2hzYd2ZCrxPG1hq9

The Conference Finale Video is at:  http://www.rotaryconference.org.au 

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