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Rotary International President Mark Maloney gave us a great theme this year: Rotary Connects the World.
Little could he have known how prophetic that theme would turn out to be, as the year progressed, and we moved from one disaster to another.
The DG year began with many wonderful functions hosted by our clubs – changeovers as well as club visits – and a chance to hear the abundance of success stories written by our clubs throughout the District.
Whether I was consuming breakfast, lunch or dinner, the amazing feats, projects, and community service offered by our clubs would leave a very large hole if we all decided to pack up and move to Hawaii for some reason.
Those events and projects take on all manner of shapes and sizes, across all portfolios in our repertoires, and are designed to inspire anyone. Those meetings, those gatherings, were full of smiles reflecting how much we all love what we do, and the reasons we keep doing it.
Getting around the clubs also gave me the chance to see how we look to the outside world. And I certainly got a sense of how attached we are to our heritage and our traditions, which have stood us in good stead for so long.
While each club is an independent entity, there is some benefit in our global presence, and in unity across our region, which we are still in a position to pursue. So our branding overall still has a little way to go to present a united story to Jo and Joanna Public.
There were some special events during the first half of the year that I would like to highlight.
  • The September visit of RI President Mark Maloney, and wife Gay, gave many in our District the chance to spend time with them both, and chat about anything at all. Mark and Gay proved their humanity and openness to many and were welcome visitors.
  • In October, many of us hopped aboard the End Polio train ride, visiting stations from Newcastle to Wollongong, and with 4 current DGs on board this year. The event, started from our own Beecroft Club, is growing exponentially in support of our biggest project, and I hope you have this year’s date in your diary already!
  • In November, Turramurra’s famous Plane Ride for disadvantaged children was a noisy and lengthy delight, full of excited children and their parents on the experience of a lifetime. Those members of the public trying to negotiate the terminal, while we were in situ, wondered what on earth all the excitement could be about – if only they knew!!
  • November was also the month of the NSW Police Officer of the Year awards, sponsored by Rotary Clubs across NSW, and in recognition of the amazing contribution of our Police Force, to our own health and safety. The evening provided opportunity for recognition of city and country officers for the outstanding work that they all do.
  • The joint 9675/9685 Foundation Dinner this year was attended by legendary Past RI President Ravi Ravandran. Ravi has such an understanding of the accomplishments of the Foundation, and the strategies we can all use to maximise our projects, using the multiplier effect the Foundation offers. It was a privilege to enjoy his presence for this annual event in our calendar.
  • We were there for the launch of Grace’s Place at Blacktown, the result of a long journey to provide support for victims of violence, and the focus project of PDG John Wakefield in the previous year. The sod turning was overloaded with more dignitaries than you could count, making for a great celebration of the event.
  • And who could overlook our myriad youth programs. I would have included a photo of the Summer RYPEN camp, except that it was mostly washed out, or flooded, to add to the excitement. However, RYLA opened without a drop of rain, and with so many noisy voices as to make any sort of order almost impossible!
Through all of this, many of our clubs were focussed on relief funding and programs for our farmers, suffering from endless drought with no fodder, no food and no water.
Many of our clubs provided moral support with sister town arrangements. Many shipped supplies to those in need. Many raised money to support our farmers any way possible, including through local supermarkets, the CWA, local rotary clubs. This was an “all of Australia” project, and I thank all our clubs for their efforts in assisting those in need.
Christmas came next – hard to believe during all of this.
And during all this the bushfires continued their unending push. Starting up the north coast, they slowly crept down through NSW, and Victoria, to Sth Australia – so much of Australia devastated.
With all clubs and members already reeling from the drought, it was hard to know where the energy would come from to support more disaster. But a national gift of 500K masks from a Santa Barbara-based charity, provided a great opportunity to support those in and around the Gospers Mountain disaster area, as well as Camden in the south.
In amongst all this, RYLA 2, or RYLA Oceania launched, under the leadership of Ben McNevin and Rebecca Fry, with an enthusiastic class, supported by learn-ed facilitators, all embarking on their new 12 month program. We are hoping it will partially align with accredited vocational or TAFE learning outcomes to really give it a stamp of approval.
And just when we thought the worst was over…..
COVID19 struck, and our worlds were turned upside down. First to be affected, and with just 7 day’s notice, was the joint District conference that 9675 Governor Di North and I had dreamed of. Those 7 days vapourised as plans were unravelled for all potential conference attendees and organisers – a nightmare you would never wish upon anyone at all.
We came to terms with the isolation requirements – with club meetings being off, with events of any nature – fundraising, community service, school-based, awards – all off; and the panic buying of toilet paper and other supplies, which we can all now laugh about to a certain extent.
But we slowly looked at our options, and before long, our District-wide knowledge and experience with Zoom had grown exponentially! Every club is to be congratulation for their flexibility and adaptability in embracing technology most had never heard of, let alone experienced.
To those experts among us I say a very sincere Thank You for the support you have provided, often across many cubs, in getting them subscribed, up and running, and trouble shooting where required.
ZOOM opened up previously unheard of possibilities, such as the inclusion of international celebrities in our meetings, like Rotary International President Mark Maloney, Former International President Ian Riseley, Incoming RI President Holger Knaack, and legendary didgeridoo virtuoso Peter Kirkwood.
We learned how to have fun on Zoom, how to induct new members on Zoom, how to award Paul Harris Fellows on Zoom, and how to raise money on Zoom.
This medium will likely now form a permanent part of our Rotary lives in some way or another. Whether we use it for club meetings now and then, committee meetings, board meetings, training options – it is a medium we would have resisted, or ignored, if not cornered by the pandemic.
And it has an interesting relationship with our Strategic Plan
Most people look at Strategic Plans as romantic notions resulting from a Think Tank somewhere in the organisation. Well, there would be few among us who do not now believe that we have Increased our Ability to Adapt, and have Enhanced Participant Engagement over the last 3 months. This leaves us with just 2 boxes to tick, and still 2 years to tick them!!
When I started my term as District Governor, I suggested 3 potential focus projects for our clubs.
The global focus was End Polio and I thank you for your contributions to continue the fight against this insidious disease. There are just 2 countries left, so we are indeed, this close, and I hope that the late Sir Clem Renouf remains very proud of us.
There was a global announcement at the end of June that World Fundraising has crossed the magic $50Million US dollar line - every single Rotary outpost was stretched to the limit as we all reached for that elusive goal. This ensures that Rotarians’ $50 million total now grows to $150 million under the terms of our agreement with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Thank you all.
The Regional project has been Days for Girls, and despite the COVID crisis, groups throughout D9685 continue to provide support to Vanuatu and other countries devastated by recent weather catastrophes. Thanks to all clubs who have supported this project in cash, or in kind.
And Nationally the Indigenous Health project, in conjunction with Purple House, has been wonderfully supported by so many of you through the RAWCS accounts. There is still a long way to go with the outcomes sought, but DGs around the country know we are heading the in the right direction.
There are some great achievers among our Clubs, and I would like to mention a few.
The Rotary Foundation and its District Chair PDG Bruce Lakin have announced a number of clubs who qualify for the Foundation Giving Awards, to either the Annual Fund and/or the End Polio Now fund, and which include:
Brookvale, Chatswood, Crows Nest, Hornsby District, Lane Cove and Upper Norther Beaches;
as well as North Sydney and Turramurra to both appeals – a round of applause for them all.
Overall giving from our District during these difficult times amounted to over $471 000 US dollars, including nearly $300 000 US dollars to the Annual Fund, and nearly $85 000 US dollars to the End Polio fund.
We have also successfully achieved a record 38 District Grants, as well as 16 Global Grants, many of which were in support of COVID-19 projects. Thank you all for your hard work.
There are also 17 clubs to date which have qualified for the Rotary Citation. This is a fabulous accolade, given the restricted operational circumstances surrounding the year, so congratulations to everyone.
You may be aware that our 50yr old Rotary Club of Lindfield handed in its charter at the end of the Rotary year, with most members transferring to other clubs. However, they left an amazing legacy of Paul Harris Credits, and in conjunction with connections in our worst hit bushfire areas, and the Rotary Club of Kurrajong North Richmond, Paul Harris Fellows will be awarded to 36 community members, in thanks for their efforts during our simply awful summer.
The DG Year would not have been the same without the support and involvement of my national classmates, with whom I am in touch daily. Throughout the bushfires and the COVID crises, we have had formal meetings on a weekly basis, in order to support each other and capitalise on ideas, innovations and creations across the nation. The national cohesion among Australasian DGs has been hilarious, and laughable and all encompassing. We have kept each other sane and grounded through some very unnerving times.
It has been a pleasure to serve District 9685 for the crisis-riddled year 2019-20.
Kalma McLellan
District Governor 2019-2020
Rotary International District 9685