What is Rotary?

Rotary is an international organisation creating opportunities for professionals and those in business to use their vocational skills in assisting their communities the world over. Rotarians contribute time and expertise to make a difference – helping those who need it and encouraging youth to reach their potential. If you’ve ever asked yourself ‘What can I do?’ ‘join Rotary’ may be the answer.

Rotary International is a global network based within local communities providing aid and assistance throughout the world. An example of an ongoing international Rotary project is the universal eradication of polio by ensuring, among other things, that all children have access to immunisation.

Rotary International is one of the world's largest service organizations with 32,000 autonomous clubs in 166 countries, all providing an up-to-date and progressive representation of a community's business, vocational, and professional interests.

Some facts:

Rotary was founded by Paul Harris in 1905 in Chicago, USA.

There are more than 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide in over 150 countries – a new Rotary club is established somewhere in the world every 12 hours!

Rotary has a seat in the General Assembly of the United Nations in recognition of the efforts of its membership to foster goodwill and peace across national boundaries.

Rotary is the world’s largest Non-Government Foundation providing educational and humanitarian aid.

Rotary is non-political and non-religious, recognising the needs of all people to work together to achieve world-wide peace and prosperity.

The Object of Rotary

The Object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise, expressed as these four principles:

First The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service;

Second  High ethical standards in business and professions, recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations, and the dignifying by each Rotarian of his/her occupation as an opportunity to serve society;

Third The application of the ideal of service by every Rotarian to his/her personal, business and community life;

Fourth The advancement of international understanding, goodwill, and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional people united in the ideal of service.

How is Rotary Structured?


Rotary International headquarters is located in Evanston, Illinois, USA. A world President is elected each year from one of the many clubs worldwide for a 12 month period to lead Rotary, providing inspiration, motivation and direction to all Rotarians. Four Australians have governed as RI President since its inception.


The world of Rotary International is divided into 525 districts; each year these districts elect a District Governor whose task is to communicate the President’s message and direction to clubs within the district. The District Governor’s team of experienced Rotarians is also available to all clubs for information and assistance in achieving their plans and objectives.


The power of Rotary comes from club membership. Each club is chartered by Rotary International with an approved constitution. Clubs are autonomous and make their own decisions regarding initiating and supporting projects. This autonomy allows for wide diversity between clubs around the world while they maintain principles in common and dedication to “service above self”.  Each club elects a President for a term of 12 months so that all members who wish to serve through leadership have an opportunity to direct the club’s activities. Rotary clubs have a board of directors representing essential tasks and committees:-

  • Secretary
  • Treasurer
  • Community Service
  • International Service
  • New Generation (previously Youth)
  • Vocational Service
  • Club Service