Welcome to a new year in Rotary. A new year marks a new beginning...an opportunity for renewal, change, refocus, re-energising and rejuvenation.
This is a rather lengthy first message but I hope that you will take the time to read on to gain an appreciation of how we can achieve this opportunity.
Rotary is no exception to the need for change and as we start our new year, I would like to encourage all clubs in our District to take up the wonderful opportunity a new beginning brings to revitalise and rejuvenate so that the wider community will see us as relevant, exciting and worthy of supporting. I firmly believe that if we can do this, Rotary will grow.
A good start is to look at the messages we are sending out. We need to think about who is looking at our websites and reading our materials. What do they tell them about us? Are they current messages, are they relevant messages, are they exciting, interesting and welcoming? Who are you speaking to – club members, Friends of Rotary, community partners, business partners, local government, potential members? Is your website up-to-date? Does it tell people what's happening in your club tomorrow, next week, next month...or does it have the old Rotary theme, last year's calendar, yesterday's news.
This year, I would like to encourage Leaders in every Club to identify with and embrace "servant leadership"...this is leadership that develops and encourages, rather than controls. Engaging every club member retains their interest, promotes growth, development and contribution, as well as a sense of productivity and worth. This is a club that members will want to stay with and bring in their friends and associates as well.
Don't stop there! I encourage every Club to take up a project that involves everyone in the club and supports every Avenue Service. Many clubs already have such a project that builds on a team approach. Those clubs will confirm that a sense of achievement benefits everyone, increases the sense of family and friendship and the rewards that come from a joint effort and service above self.
We can all learn so much from each other. Having members do scatter group meetings to see what other clubs are doing and communicating ideas back to the club brings innovation, as well as a sense of belonging to the larger world of Rotary.
A lot can be done at Club level to bring about revitalisation and rejuvenation, but so too will a lot be done at District level to support you.
That is the job of District leaders. We know Rotary has struggled to find traction in recent years on the membership front and I am therefore aggressively seeking ways to promote and publicise what we do. We will build on and introduce a number of signature events, showcasing what Rotary does and can do.
We will again partner with Fairfax Media to support the City2Sea event, this year on November 11 – and yes we know it is Armistice Day. But think of the connection with Peace through Service.
We will also become the 43rd District internationally to participate in the Rotarians at Work Day program. Whilst we will celebrate Rotary's birth date on 23rd February, we will also do something very special on Sunday 21 April the anniversary of Rotary's establishment in Australia with the charter of RC Melbourne. We will be encouraging all Clubs, Family of Rotary, Friends of Rotary and sponsors to become involved in a community project on this day. Past President Ian Salek will be organising this special day for the District and will soon be sending out the details to you. On this day we hope all clubs will embrace this program and be highly visible in the community, contributing in worthwhile hands on community programs as our gift to the communities in which we operate. I hope that we will receive significant publicity, but importantly our communities will see Rotary at work.
Earlier this year, a new committee led by Kerry Kornhauser put their toe in the water to inaugurate the "Women in Rotary" breakfast on International Women's day to: publicise Rotary and attract new members. Kerry did this in parallel with her role as President of RC Albert Park I might add. The event was a great success with over 700 attending. This year they intend to fill the Crown Palladium to its capacity of 1500 people. The event has gone 'viral' and similar events are set to happen around the country and the world. And it all started right here!
Concentrating on the basics of Rotary is important. Rotary should not be complicated. The long-term District strategic plan, mirrors the Rotary International plan and we have encouraged clubs to develop similar plans. Clubs have also been taking on club visioning as a way to identify how they will best function in the future.
As mentioned earlier, it is important that clubs revisit their communications and that websites in particular are up-to-date. The District Communications team and Webmaster are at your disposal to help you with this process, and I encourage every Club to take the opportunity of making sure the message you are communicating about Rotary is relevant, and is current.
Rotary is not the same as it was yesterday and will not be the same tomorrow. As a District we will provide all the assistance we can for clubs to evolve and adapt. The future of Rotary is ultimately in the hands of clubs, not Rotary International, and not District. As far as I am concerned all options are open provided we stay true to the core values of Rotary - Service, Fellowship, Diversity, Integrity and Leadership.
Let's explore all options, such as the establishment of our first e-club; or perhaps you have a member moving away for a period of time and could still be a member through Skype. Keeping an open mind about how we retain our members or bring new members in is critical if we are to grow.
Whilst the decision has been made by Foundation Trustees to conclude the GSE program at the end of this year, I have chosen to partner with a UK club on another vocational and cultural exchange program that may demonstrate the value equation of a new model based on the areas of focus of The Foundation. This may open up other opportunities and new ways of thinking.
Another area in which we can reinvigorate is Youth. Whilst there has been some reinvigoration of Youth Exchange, I'm determined to give Rotaract and Interact a real push and have established a new District leadership role to do just that. As a result we are also evaluating Earlyact, a program for younger people than Interact, with our first Earlyact club chartering in August at Baden Powell College.
This year our theme is "Peace through Service," a theme I believe resonates with our district and our clubs. RI President Sakuji Tanaka said in his address that by helping others, even in the simplest of ways, we can help to build peace. He went on to say that through our Rotary service, we know that cooperation is more productive than conflict. We learn to value each other. We know that every one of us has something to give, and everyone has something to teach.
Peace and service are in our DNA, and our district has walked the talk:
As a district we have 3 current nominations for Peace Fellow programs, looking to continue our contribution in that area.
Our clubs have also been active peacemakers. Looking ahead I would like to see District 9800 and its clubs continue their priority to build a more peaceful local and international community.
RI President Tanaka has determined as a hallmark of his year, to hold 3 Peace forums around the world. I would like to see our clubs and District find a way to support the attendance of young people from our District at the Hiroshima Forum, which seeks the participation of future leaders. Our repsresentatives would be those whom we have identified as peace leaders for the future, perhaps Rylarians or past exchange students who understand what Rotary can achieve. I see this as a real opportunity to leverage proactive engagement from the broader community for the work of Rotary. I encourage Clubs to get right behind this initiative.
Vincent van Gogh apparently said "great things are not done by impulse but by a series of small things brought together". I think this is the Rotary way.
The power of one inspired individual in Rotary becomes the power of many through our local and worldwide network of clubs - and this is how we achieve amazing outcomes.
As you know, "Rotary - it's amazing" is the theme for our annual conference in Albury in March next year. It will be a bit different, as they all are and as affordable as possible. Why not plan for it now and encourage your members to participate.
My closing wish for the year ahead is to harness the fantastic qualities I see in clubs to continue to make not just a difference, but a profound difference. My key job as Governor is to make sure that clubs have all the resources they need to do just that! Rotary achieves what it does through clubs and your District leaders are focussed on supporting you.