Senate debates

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Statements by Senators

Rotary International

12:50 pm

Photo of Concetta Fierravanti-WellsConcetta Fierravanti-Wells (NSW, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Senator Molan was to have spoken today on the centenary of Rotary in Australia. Given Jim's absence, I am happy to undertake this task in his stead. I know that Rotary is an organisation that he and other colleagues value, and they would no doubt associate themselves with my comments today.

When Paul Harris started Rotary 115 years ago, I am not sure he imagined that there would be a club in nearly every country and that Rotary would become the largest non-religious organisation in the world, with over 1.2 million members in approximately 31,000 clubs in more than 166 countries. Just 15 years after the formation of Rotary in the US, clubs were formed in Australia and New Zealand, and so Rotary is now celebrating its centenary here this year. In Australia and New Zealand, Rotary has over 32,000 members across 1,284 clubs.

Rotarians are committed to the values and spirit of Rotary, values in action that transcend political and cultural boundaries and foster global understanding and respect. And what a year to be celebrating 100 years of uniting people from all continents and cultures who take action to deliver real long-term solutions to our world's most persistent issues. Making a positive difference to the life of one person is a good thing; making a difference to hundreds or thousands, a community or a country, is another thing altogether. And this is what Rotarians do. Rotary harnesses and develops a values based, action orientated style of responsibility and leadership. They develop leaders who have the spirit of community at heart, those who are committed to supporting those who need support in their community.

This year and beyond is all about sharing Rotary values, knowledge and expertise to make the world a better place. Rotary commands enormous respect from government, business, politicians and the broader community in what its members do and how they do it. Rotary delivers more and adds great value to almost everything its members do. They give of their time and of themselves as Rotarians. Developed and nurtured over 100 years by living their values every day through their actions and support for communities, Rotary has built strong trust and confidence and worldwide recognition. Through this, Rotary has been invited to participate in global initiatives that have fostered peace, changed the world, helped communities and families and fundamentally made a difference to the unique lives of millions of young children, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and much more.

On Friday 10 July last year, the Governor-General, His Excellency David Hurley, and Mrs Linda Hurley officially launched Rotary's centenary year in Australia at Government House in Canberra. During the one-hour event, the Governor-General and Mrs Hurley took part in the passing the baton ceremony. To celebrate 100 years of Rotary in Australia and New Zealand, Rotary is reflecting and celebrating the past, but more importantly looking into the future, with many new projects that deliver real long-term solutions. Two major projects that were launched at the event were EndTrachoma and Rotary Give Every Child a Future. Australia is the world's only developed country with trachoma, an infectious eye disease that can be prevented with good hygiene practices. Rotary wants a trachoma-free Australia by 2021, its 100th birthday. Rotary Give Every Child a Future will give life-saving vaccines to 100,000 children across the Pacific and ensure generations of children and women are protected against cervical cancer, rotavirus and pneumococcal disease.

We are all living through an unprecedented time of upheaval, uncertainty and fear. It is the very global nature of COVID that is driving global collaborations. Even during this period of global pandemic, Rotary in Australia and New Zealand have projects running through our wide geographic community in water, literacy, education and health. Rotary is probably best known for its longstanding global collaboration to eradicate polio through the purchase of the polio vaccine and support of social mobilisation to perform immunisation campaigns. As the driving force for more than 30 years, Rotary have spearheaded the efforts to end polio worldwide. Alongside other partners in the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, they have achieved a 99.9 per cent reduction in polio cases. Rotary members have contributed $2.1 billion and countless volunteer hours to protecting more than three billion children in 122 countries from this paralysing disease. Today, just two countries, Afghanistan and Pakistan, continue to report cases of wild poliovirus. Rotary remains committed to ending polio and will raise $50 million per year, with every dollar to be matched with two additional dollars through an agreement with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. With the infrastructure Rotary has helped create to end polio, they have built a lasting global health legacy that is now used to reach millions of children to treat and prevent other diseases. This established work on polio is the precursor to Rotary's current work on ending trachoma in Australia and providing life-saving vaccines across the Pacific.

Rotary brings together a global network of volunteer leaders dedicated to tackling the world's most pressing humanitarian challenges. Its work improves lives at both a local and an international level. As we look forward to Rotary's next century of service, I am confident it will continue to deliver real, long-term solutions to the world's most persistent issues. Each year, as I indicated, Rotary contributes millions of dollars and volunteer hours. Rotary promotes educational resources and initiates dialogue about environmental sustainability. Rotary has planted over 1.2 million trees, and continues to do so, to support and lead the sustainability movement in our local communities. As we know, carbon dioxide is plant food. Plants and trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen; therefore, planting more trees is a very good idea. Rotary clubs across Australia are uniting in their desire to assist families whose lifestyle is at risk due to prolonged drought. Clubs are raising money for drought affected farmers and farm communities to stay viable.

Last month, along with my colleague Dr Fiona Martin, the member for Reid, I was delighted to attend a dinner to mark the investiture of the new Rotary charter of the Rotary Club of Iron Cove. The Rotary Club of Drummoyne was chartered in 1952. It recently expanded its footprint to include Leichhardt and Balmain. To reflect this, the club adopted the new name Rotary Club of Iron Cove. The new president, Oscar Jones, was presented with the new charter by District Governor Warwick Richardson. At the same time, the club recognised the dedicated service given by so many of its long-time members.

I would like to use my remaining time to look at Rotary's activities in some of my patron seats. The Rotary Club of Wetherill Park is located in the federal seat of McMahon, where I recently opened a satellite electoral office. Rotary Club of Wetherill Park, like many of the chapters of Rotary Australia, consists of dedicated, community minded local people with a passion for community service and volunteering. The club recently staged a successful golf day and raised funds for the Autism Spectrum Australia, Wetherill Park, organisation. Currently, it is looking into undertaking a project to upgrade facilities at Braeside Hospital, Fairfield. This will provide patients and visitors with a more pleasant experience at difficult times during their life.

Additionally, the Rotary Club of Holroyd, as part of this year's Australia Day celebrations, acknowledged the work of frontline and emergency workers—individuals who during floods, fires and COVID gave of themselves to their community. In a small yet meaningful gesture, the Holroyd club delivered more than 20,000 lamingtons to aged-care facilities, police stations and fire brigades.

Rotary District 9675 encompasses much of south-western Sydney and the Illawarra, where my electorate office is based. It contains amazing community-spirited people from different backgrounds willing to serve. I would like to take the opportunity to name just a few of those Rotary chapters and their volunteers: Campsie, Corrimal, Dapto, Granville, Holroyd, Illawarra Sunrise, Liverpool, Liverpool Greenway, Liverpool West, Kembla, West Wollongong, Wetherill Park, Wollongong. Australia has, for the last 100 years, been a better and richer place because of Rotary and Rotarians and the contribution that they have made. It is a unique organisation with an exciting and inspiring future.