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100 Years of Rotary Australia

Updated: Dec 14, 2021

Rotarians Caroline, Robert, and Rod at the Boroondara Farmer's Market

2021 marks the 100 year anniversary of Rotary in Australia and New Zealand. It was in 1921 that the first rotary clubs were started in Melbourne, Sydney, Auckland, and Wellington.

Rotary International was founded in Chicago in 1905 as “a place where professionals with diverse backgrounds could exchange ideas and form meaningful, lifelong friendships”. The name rotary came from the club’s early days when the procedure was to rotate meeting places among the offices of each member. Rotary has now grown to a global network, based in over 200 countries with up to 1.2 million Rotarians throughout 36,000 Rotary Clubs. Rotarians today “take action to create lasting change — across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves”. City of Boroondara is home to seven clubs including our very own Hawthorn Rotary Club and Glenferrie Rotary Club.

Hawthorn Rotary Club was founded in 1953 and sponsored the creation of three local clubs; Camberwell, Kew, and Glenferrie. In the early years, Hawthorn Rotary mentored the other clubs and its office bearers. Richard Blakeman, Communications & Public Image for Glenferrie Rotary, explains that “the clubs are now fully self-sufficient, with separate boards, but there is still a special closeness with Hawthorn”.

Glenferrie Rotary Club was granted a charter in October 1975 and the first meeting was held at Hawthorn Town Hall (now Hawthorn Arts Centre). Over the 46 years of Glenferrie Rotary, the club has met at various venues, some of which are the Hawthorn Football Club Social Club, the former Manresa Function Centre (now Billy Lids), and since 2010 the Kooyong Lawn Tennis Club. When not in lockdowns, both the Glenferrie and Hawthorn clubs hold their meetings on Tuesdays at the tennis club, Hawthorn meets at lunchtime and Glenferrie in the evenings. Preferred meeting time is often a deciding factor as to which club to join.

Richard explains, “the [Glenferrie] club is thriving. It currently has 43 active members and nine honorary members. Last year it inducted six new members and currently has 22 prospective new members on its list”. There is no geographic limit on membership, many live and work in the surrounding suburbs but oftentimes joined whilst living in the area and have retained their membership despite relocating. Rotary members range in age and background, “diversity is a key objective”, mainly looking for “people of good character who have initiative and who want to make a positive contribution to the community”. The club encourages those interested to attend at least three meetings to see if Rotary and in particular the Glenferrie Club is the right fit. Anyone can attend a meeting by invitation of a member or by contacting the club. A typical meeting will feature a guest speaker on a topic of interest to Rotarians, the local area, or general subjects, and members must attend at least 50% of meetings held.

Although Glenferrie and Hawthorn clubs collaborate on many projects, the main difference between the atmosphere at each club is the projects that they engage in. Over the 46 years of Glenferrie Rotary, the club has implemented and been a part of many community service projects on a local, state, national and international level. Ongoing projects include Sumba Eye Program, CHANCES Scholarship Program, and the Boroondara Farmers’ Market which is the club’s major fundraiser held on the first, third, and fifth Saturday of each month.

On 21 November 2021, in celebration of 100 years of Rotary in Australia, Glenferrie Rotary in association with the clubs of Camberwell, Canterbury, and Hawthorn will host a Family Fun Day at Yarra Bank Reserve (44 Creswick Street, Hawthorn). The free event will include live music, face painting, a sausage sizzle, and the opening of an interactive playground and sculpture, a “gift to the community from Rotary .... to mark the 100th anniversary”.

Rotarians Tim and Miffy at the Boroondara Farmers Market


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