Author's Name: Adrian Nelson
Date: Sun 18 Dec 2022

A Word from the President – Christmas Edition

As we approach the half way point of our Rotary year, I think of the American singer songwriter, born John Francis Bongiovi Jr, who sings with plenty of passion, “Woah, we’re half way there” and “Take my hand we’ll make it I swear”!

It’s been an incredible six months at the Rotary Club of Melbourne of volunteering, local and international service projects, and engaging events. After navigating years of COVID and disruption, our priority is now very much positive and on the future.

Now that we are allowed out again, a key focus has been on volunteering, just as it is for our District Governor Amanda Wendt, our club’s first District Governor for 47 years. Members planted trees on National Tree Planting Day, collected surplus produce from Prahran Market each week for SecondBite, helped out at the RIMERN warehouse (Rotary Inner Melbourne Emergency Relief Network) including coordinating volunteers across the District, packed meals FORaMEAL with other clubs in our Batman Cluster, coordinated bike riders "Around the Bay", and in addition to our regular weekly participants at the Donations in Kind warehouse in West Footscray, we hosted Year 10 student volunteers from Melbourne Grammar School – our next generation of volunteers – in December.


Around the club, we have many unsung heroes including our lunch set-up team, our evening meeting team, Maestro David Kram on the keyboards each lunchtime, Sue Smith completing the bulletin on time even when she is in London or Palm Springs, Peter Hollingworth who coordinates the weekly club reflections, and of course our board and executive committee. Thank you to you all.

At our heart we are a service organisation, and I commend our many Rotarians who have been involved in such a variety of local and international service projects this year. Our Make A House A Home team collect and put together boxes of items to help the homeless and Australians in need. Our End Hepatitis team deliver presentations across Melbourne to increase awareness of Hepatitis and create tools to better identify its prevalence. We have supported Rotary SAFE Families to translate materials into Swahili and Arabic to promote into the African-Australian communities. Internationally our new Papua New Guinea Piggery project has received its first delivery of pigs, Give Every Child A Future continues towards its goal to immunise children across 9 Pacific Island Nations, we have funded International Humanitarian Crisis Response training in Tonga for the amount of $60,000, and commenced a new Water Sanitation Hygiene Project providing water filtration with Sky Hydrants in Banotan La Union, Phillipines. Members of our club have travelled to remote destinations, including Jeremy Oats completing a decade of travelling to Timor Leste to train doctors and midwives, and Rob McGuirk continuing his tireless work with our indigenous community this year visiting remote Warburton, Western Australia.

At last Wednesday’s End of Year Luncheon, we heard straight from the heart of Heather Watson, President of the Rotary Club of Rochester about the recent floods and the impact upon homes, schools, and every part of their livelihoods. Funds raised from our annual Christmas Appeal this year go to flood recovery for Rochester and its community. You can still give generously by clicking here. We will work closely in the New Year with Heather to ensure that our support goes to what is needed most.

Our strong attendance at this week’s luncheon indicates that we are all starting to get out again. It was wonderful to see so many of you on Level 35 to hear from Heather, from Aviv Palti from the Rotary Passport Club, to present our cheque to The Smith Family from Around The Bay, and to see our beloved Bev Brock in person for the first time this year to receive her much deserved David Wittner Award.


This week was one highlight of many great weekly meetings held during the year. With wonderful support in arranging speakers by Stephen Rando, Peter Dakin and Richard Dent, we have featured Sam & Tim Lane in Grand Final Week, Brad Hodge on the eve of the T20 cricket world cup, Victor Perton - Founder of the Centre for Optimism, Professor Andrew Pask on bringing the Tasmanian Tiger Back to Life, the RACV Chairman & CEO on their groundbreaking environmental projects, and presented Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp with a Paul Harris Fellow when she spoke on the resurgence of our great city. Our monthly evening meetings at the Lyceum Club show a different side to our club, and if you are yet to attend one, I strongly encourage you to make time in the New Year.


Even with this full program of weekly meetings, we acknowledge that life has changed considerably in recent years. Whilst we’d love to see everyone as much as possible, it can be challenging coming every week, and for some of us, weekday lunches or evenings are prohibitive because of work, travel or personal circumstances. Our hybrid meeting technology enables you to beam in from wherever you might be and whatever your health, and you can also watch a recording of our guest speaker following a meeting. Never feel guilty because you are unable to attend each week. Your membership is still valuable and you remain connected to an iconic Melbourne institution, the Rotary Club of Melbourne.  

Members have engaged in a terrific program of events, including the NGV’s Picasso Exhibition, the Melbourne Book of the Year, a Snooker Night, regular Group Events and Gin Tasting. We painted our pinkies purple on World Polio Day and toured the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute and the Bionics Institute. Professor Peter Darvall, former Vice Chancellor of Monash University was presented with our Monash Medal and we held our 0808 Ceremony at the Shrine. The Governor of Victoria invited me to represent our club at the Proclamation of King Charles III at Government House, emphasing our club – and Rotary’s – status within our State.  


In November, seven of us travelled to Japan to celebrate the Centenary of our Sister Club, the Rotary Club of Osaka in Melbourne’s sister city. It was a prestigious week for our club, where we met privately with the Mayor of Osaka, and shared the stage with Rotary International President Jennifer Jones and other Past World Presidents, in addition to building further friendships with Osaka Rotarians. Our connection with Osaka has never been stronger.


A favourite quote of Jennifer is “You don’t imagine yesterday, you imagine tomorrow”, and as we look forward to the next six months, we see an exciting, dynamic 2023.

We will be starting the year on Wednesday 18th January with a Field Trip to RIMERN in lieu of our regular lunch at the Sofitel. Our big events continue including our Angus Mitchell Oration, our Thomas Baker Oration and our now annual Environment Lunch.

Guest speakers planned for our weekly meetings include Jenny Gray, CEO Zoos Victoria, Alex Badenoch, head of People & Culture at Telstra, a Panel of Melbourne’s Religious Leaders in March on the role of religion and peace, and Jaime Martin, Chief Conductor of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

In May, we unveil the new Peace Bells in our Rotary Park – which will be officially renamed Rotary Melbourne Peace Park. To kick off our social events we will hold a Picnic in the Park at Rotary Park on Thursday 2nd February 2023 – so please pack your baskets, rugs and bring your champagne and chicken sandwiches for a great fellowship event.

Of course the Rotary International Convention in Melbourne in May is a big deal. If you have not booked yet, please do so. Our club’s highlight will be our Special Convention Cocktail Party on Sunday 28th May 2023 at Melbourne Park with all our international sister clubs and inviting the first clubs of every country across the globe. We’d love to see every member of our club at this event.

On Wednesday, I was excited to announce that the Floral Bed on St Kilda Road - opposite the Victoria Barracks and leading up to the Shrine Remembrance - will feature a giant floral Rotary wheel with the words "Rotary Melbourne" for the period of April to August next year. It will be the single-most photographed location for the many visitors to the Convention.

There are also some new service projects you will start to hear about, including our involvement in the City of Melbourne’s Greenline along the Yarra River from Flinders Street Station to Docklands, and our exciting Social Enterprise Accelerator to be piloted in Melbourne and rolled out across the globe, with impact in Rotary's seven key focus areas.

Along the way, I’m sure we’ll have more than a few surprises.

As we approach the holiday season, I know that sometimes this time of year can seem overwhelming, especially for those who have lost someone close to them across the year. We remember our members, spouses, family and friends who have died this past year. Our people are the most important part of our club. I have witnessed first-hand such wonderful generosity, friendship and support amongst members at their most difficult times. Thank you for being there for each other.

On behalf of Louise and I, and our two sons Harry and Charles, we wish you all a very Merry Christmas, and safe and happy holidays. I look forward to seeing you all in 2023.

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