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Ian Riseley OAM, PPRotary International

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The power of volunteers adds significant value to society. For example, volunteer fire fighters work together to save lives, and vast areas of habitat. By interacting together, they provide personal values in a crisis, their work preserves environmental values and they share the social values of interacting with others.

Most of us like to think that the world is a better place because of us, and that we have been able to make the world a better place because of us as individuals. By working together we are able to make a difference in the world. This helps the world, and also helps us as individuals. It involves people of all ages and backgrounds. It is certainly not the preserve of adults. Younger people are just as committed. Following the major New Zealand earthquake that devastated Christchurch, the young people formed a Student Volunteer Army that took initiatives in helping their city in so many ways. Young people are able to show due diligence in any organisation they choose to support.

The projects undertaken by Rotary clubs are based on the six areas of focus as established by Rotary International. Peace and conflict prevention/resolution, disease prevention and treatment, water and sanitation, maternal and child health, basic education and literacy and economic and community development. At this stage, Peace and conflict resolution and the Environment are of over-riding concern. Ian Riseley gave a personal example of the world’s current hopes for Rotary action. President János Áder of Hungary asked him “What are you and Rotary doing about the large amount of plastic in the seas?

In June this year, The Rotary Foundation announced grants of US$100 million to support the global effort to end polio, a vaccine-preventable disease that once paralysed hundreds of thousands of children each year. With the help of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Rotary is close to achieving its long held goal of eradicating polio. The persistence of Rotary International is paying off.

You might ask, what is in it for me? By joining an organisation like Rotary that tries to make a difference, you will find yourself amongst kindred spirits. You will gain personal development by interacting with your new friends who can help your professional development. You will share in the chance to make a difference together you will share in the medical miracle of disease eradication.

Volunteers meet real needs in society and their ole is recognised by governments everywhere. In addition, being a volunteer can be a significant benefit to an individual.

At the conclusion of the presentation by Ian Riseley, he participated with a panel including Dr Kerry Bennett, CEO and Head of College of the Graduate Union, Ludovic Grosjean, a Rotoractor who is a Principal Consultant with OceanX, Rotarian Dale Hoy, Governor Nominee of D9800, Dr Parisa Shiran, a friend of the Rotary Club of Carlton who is the Executive Assistant to the CEO of the Graduate Union and Rotarian Dr Murray Verso, Governor D9800 2014-2015 and Chair of The Rotary Foundation in D9800.

As the panel took their seats, Father Michael Elligate (Rotary Club of Carlton) asked Ian Riseley, “Did you ever get Rotaried out while you were President of Rotary International?” Ian Riseley replied that “A visit to a local Rotary Club would always give me a lift.” Michael then asked “What were the highlights of the job as Rotary International President?” Ian replied, “All that Rotary does relates back to Peace and Conflict Resolution. My highlights came from the successes in these areas. However, there are occasional hiccups.”

This panel then shared a lively Q&A Session with the audience that raised a wide range of issues.

Kerry Bennett said that while there was a very real time problem for busy students, she has been impressed with the way in which they could find time to volunteer at a Bunnings BBQ or at a Rotary Book Fair. Clearly such activities can be a very real lead-in to enthusiastic involvement with Rotary as she has seen with Parisa Shiran. And with 1.2 million Rotarians world-wide, young people can certainly take the lead. Murray Verso then said that Rotary has had an identity problem and must learn to be more welcoming to younger people. Dale Hoy followed on by noting that the Rotary Social Impact Forum earlier this year involving young people was able to produce a passion at a very high level for many young people.

Parisa Shiran, whose home was in Iran, said how great it was to be involved with Rotary as a global community that was working towards Peace & Conflict Resolution. It was really great to work with people who were having fun as they worked to raise funds. Parisa has encouraged many of her friends in Graduate House to be Rotary volunteers. Roy Hardcastle (Rotary Club of Carlton) added that it is the people you meet at Sausage Sizzles that is valuable as we share in fund-raising. It is a way to experience social culture.

Prakash Raniga (Rotary Club of Carlton) said that young people who want to make a difference should join a Rotary Club here rather than spending big money to go there rather than raising funds to be used overseas.

Dale Hoy said that Rotary doe s not do well with marketing and that we should market the positive consequences of being involved. However, as each Rotary club operates independently, this gives so many ways to volunteer. This often means that many project outcomes do not become widely known.

Murray Verso said that working with Rotary does great things for our mental and physical health. There are many benefits for volunteers in Rotary as they join with like-minded individuals.

Parisa Shiran commented that as many of the challenges that people experience overseas are not seen and so are neglected by our society. Rotary helps to communicate about their needs and where possible to respond to those needs.

Ludovic Grosjean pointed out that one big positive about Rotary is that you can take risks without judgement and gain broad experiences not available elsewhere. Rotary can also focus on one cause and focus on raising funds to address each challenge such as Polio Eradication. Ross Hedditch (Rotary Club of Carlton) pointed out that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation appears to get all of the credit for Polio Eradication when they are only providing funds to enable the completion of a project commenced by Rotary. We need to work hard to put the name of Rotary in there too. Ian Riseley responded that Rotary needs to spend some of our money on Rotary self-aggrandisement to gain such credit. Dale Hoy said that the strength of Rotary is that it works together with other groups. Murray Verso said that while we developed other partnerships to help us achieve our goals, we still need to sing it from the rafters.

Kerry Bennett said that the severity of polio is not known by young people today, perhaps reducing the sense of urgency to eradicate the disease. She had a father who died with Polio. Emeritus Professor Tony Jorm (President of the Rotary Club of Carlton) later said that he had suffered with polio as a child, and that the effects of the disease were still very real to him as he ages.

Lien Trinh (The End Trachoma Project) asked if Rotary Central in Evanston could create a data base to enable us to make connections with other Rotary Clubs working in the same country or region. It was pointed out by a panel member that the Rotary Down Under magazine communicates about projects and needs. A further suggestion was that RAGS (Rotary Action Groups) are also a way to find a project you want to be involved in. It can be joined for a $30 subscription.

Michael Elligate pointed out that the way people volunteer in now very different. Flexibility is now needed, which is different to traditional Rotary practice. The model has to be different.

Jenny Foster (D9800 International Service Chair) spoke about an approach to flexibility. With her involvement with Rotary’s Donations in Kind, she is aware that they are collating information about where their projects are. They are working towards mapping and co-ordinating within different regions. In addition, Rotary Passport Clubs provide a new type of Rotary Club designed to be flexible, affordable and accessible. Members are a diverse group of people who will meet anywhere in the world at a mutually agreed time.

Ian Riseley spoke of the awareness that in Shaping the Future of Rotary, clubs need to be as flexible as we can, as young people do not have the time that previous generations have had.

Murray Verso also observed that he was nominated to be a Rotarian by two Rotarians who made an appointment to see him, and was not given an invitation that he could refuse with “I haven’t got time.” Instead he was told that “we’ll take whatever time that you have got.”

Ludovic Grosjean commented that not only are we facing the challenge that people lack time to be involved, but we are meeting new challenges that are coming very fast. Technology has made us very busy, we do not have social connections like we used to. We have to use these factors as an advantage. We need to react to problems when they occur and take actions that are feasible. We need to be adaptable and we need to listen to people.

Keith Ryall wrapped up the discussion and presented each panel member with a Certificate of Appreciation for their work. The certificate states that the Rotary Club of Carlton had made a donation of an insecticide impregnated mosquito net as part of the Rotarians Against Malaria Project.

The Rotary Club President, Tony Jorm, thanked Casey Tan for his inspiration to invite Ian Riseley to speak tonight and for his organisation of so many aspects of the meeting. Casey then thanked others who contributed and then announced a $20,000 donation from the Australian Community Foundation for Rotary’s End Polio Now Project that has been running for 30 years. Casey also noted that the 24th October is World Polio Day.

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