Graeme's Message, 19 March 2015

Dear Rotarians and friends,

Until I attended my first District Conference some 18 months after joining Rotary, I was quite ignorant of the extent of Rotary's work locally and internationally. That changed when I attended the Albury conference in 2013 where I learnt what was being done by clubs large and small , including District 9800 and, of course, Rotary International across the globe. In addition there was a range of interesting and entertaining speakers, some of whom were Rotarians. Last year on the Gold Coast and again this year in Hobart we were informed, challenged and entertained.

Fourteen members of our club went to Hobart for the 2015 District Conference where the theme was "Illuminating Rotary". Hosted by the RC of Williamstown, the conference was a great success with 600 Rotarians and partners registered. 

Some of the highlights for me were:

  • A powerful presentation from Rabia Siddique focussed on her personal experience of racial discrimination and childhood abuse in suburban Perth and in adult life and gender discrimination whilst working in the British Army.
  • Kristy McKellar spoke of her experience as a victim of domestic violence; the difficulties she had within the Victorian Justice system and her role in the process of law reform. District 9800 has a program Violence Free Families supporting work in this area. Colleen Hewitt, also a victim of family violence, who entertained us at the Gala Dinner has become an ambassador for Violence Free Families and has released a new CD supporting this 
  • As the centenary of ANZAC approaches it was appropriate to reflect on the impact of the Great War. Ross McMullen, an historian, related poignant anecdotes of some of the lives of the “lost generation” created by WW1. Meryem, Keilor East Exchange Student from Turkey, moved the audience with her short presentation on the effect of her exchange experience and that her great great grandfather had fought Australians at Gallipoli.
  • David Galbally QC entertained us with amusing stories of his life as a barrister and economist Saul Estlake spoke on the local and international economic challenges faced by Australia.

One of the features of Conference is the Cluster presentations. These are well produced video presentations of the work being done in each club throughout District 9800. Our presentation highlighted the Bike shed project and the Evan Phillips Scholarship. I recommend that you have look at what other clubs are doing by viewing the presentations on YouTube through this link: <https://www.youtube.com/user/RotaryDistrict9800/playlists>. Footscray is a member of the Gateway East Cluster.

The social interaction with other Rotarians across the District is another great feature of Conference. Some of those who arrived in Hobart early were able to enjoy afternoon tea with other District 9800 Rotarians at Government House and all enjoyed the Gala Dinner. Our club group had a great night together at D’Angelos in Battery Point.

The Conference closed with a presentation by the Wyndham Club who will host next year’s Conference in Bendigo. We will be going again and I would thoroughly recommend it to all who can make it up the Calder for March 12-13 next year.

On behalf of all who attended the District Conference, sincere thanks to Phillip Caruso for organising our Club’s involvement.

Regards Graeme