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46th Lions Club International Multiple District National Convention, Canberra, Tuesday 12 May 1998: address on the occasion of the opening.

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TUESDAY. 12 MAY 1998

It is a very great pleasure for me to be with you this morning to take part in the opening ceremony o f the 46th National Convention o f Multiple District 201 o f the great world-wide service organisation, the International Association o f Lions Clubs.

Let me, as a resident o f our National Capital, extend a warm welcome to Canberra,

It is 9 years since a Lions’ National Convention last met in this city. And our national capital is a most appropriate meeting place for this 46th Convention. The name Canberra is an anglicised version o f an Aboriginal word metaphorically referring to the plain between the hills. When I was a boy growing up here, the Molonglo River flowed across the Canberra Plain - past Pialligo In the language o f the Ngunawal people, “ Pialligo” means “ meeting place” . In pre-European times many o f the regional tribes would gather in various parts o f the Canberra plain for the annual Bogong moth-hunting expeditions in the adjoining mountains Now, o f course, Canberra has significance to

modern Australia as the “ meeting place” o f the elected representatives o f the whole nation

Today, 5 1 years after the first Lions Club in Australia was established at Lismore, this Convention is a meeting o f the representatives o f some 30,000 Lions Club members across the Multiple District. As delegates o f one o f the largest and most active and influential service organisations in the country, the decisions you w ill make on a range o f issues before the Convention w ill be o f true national significance. They w ill not only be o f importance to our nation’s Lions Clubs. Given the involvement o f Lions with the drug and diabetes awareness campaigns, the Quest Skills for Living program, o f which I have the honour to be Patron ... given the commitment o f Lions to helping those with sight or hearing impairments, people with physical or intellectual disabilities .. and given the assistance which Lions gives to youth, to the elderly, to the community at large, the decisions you w ill make at this Convention w ill be felt across the broad spectrum o f our society.

I am told that there is a number o f significant new community service issues to be discussed during the Convention. Such as the proposal to raise funds for Lions charitable


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causes by establishing “ Unwanted Currency Disposal Chests’’ at airports for the collection o f items o f currency, mostly coins, which banks do not ordinarily exchange Another item on the agenda concerns a suggestion for a national “ Prostate Awareness” campaign, similar to the current “ Breast Cancer Awareness” campaign for women Such a proposal is very much at one with the Lions Clubs’ long-standing commitment to community health and medical research programs in every Australian State

I understand, for example, that researchers in the immunology laboratory at the Lions Research Centre at Brisbane’s Princess Alexandra Hospital have made significant advances in the development o f a vaccine for cervical cancer In New South Wales, a Lions foundation offers scholarships enabling nurses to undertake advanced study The cranio-facial research program supported by Lions in Adelaide, and the Western Australian Save Sight Institute are considered among the world leaders in their field There are programs, too, o f direct and immediate assistance to those in need I mention your support for the development o f the Bionic ear project, your pioneering work with home dialysis, your contributions to Eye Banks and to the talking book program

This same spirit o f practical, beneficial assistance underpins your most recent undertaking which w ill be discussed during the Convention And that is the Lions Clubs’ support, in conjunction with the Spastic Centre o f NSW, for the production in Australia o f the walking frame invented by David Hart, a medical engineer living in Yorkshire. It is a deceptively simple - indeed it is in truth a very sophisticated - device which enables children with severe physical disabilities, including those with cerebral palsy, to learn to stand, to experience walking and to make progress towards independent mobility. Some 30 Australian children have already been fitted with the walker, although it is estimated there are another 200 children who require one, and new cases continue to come to attention.

Hitherto the walkers have been available only from the northern hemisphere; and the proposal now is that they be fabricated through the Spastic Centre here in this country. Lions Clubs have committed themselves to raise the necessary seed funding o f $3 15,000; and I ’ m sure one o f the highlights o f this Convention w ill be the presentation o f the first instalment o f some $ 150,000 towards this most valuable and life-enhancing project. Governors-General are not supposed to engage in fund-raising appeals; but may I at least commend the objectives o f this campaign I might add that Government House staff have long been supporters o f Lions mints and the annual Lions Christmas cakes.

Ladies and gentlemen, as you all know, the International Association o f Lions Clubs was founded in Chicago 81 years ago, when Melvin Jones, a young insurance agent, inspired a meeting o f business people with his vision o f service to others The movement grew, first within the United States, then across the world. In this country the first Lions Club was formed at Lismore, in Northern New South Wales in 1947, through the effort o f a hardware merchant, W illiam Tresise, who had been especially authorised by Melvin Jones to bring Lions to Australia. Now, half a century later, we have a great national organisation dedicated to service and to the betterment both o f the local community in which each particular Club operates and of our nation as a whole. It is, however, important to note that the organisation is also dedicated to companionship, to trust between its members and, let me say, to plain fun And the friendship and the fun are, in their own way, as important as the dedication to service For without them, the Lions Clubs would



lose much o f their unique appeal And with it, much o f their ability to achieve all that they do.

In that regard, let me say that the longer I am Governor-General o f our country, the more convinced I become that the ultimate test o f our worth as a truly democratic nation is how we treat the most vulnerable and disadvantaged o f our fellow Australians. Through their work, through their emphasis upon tolerance and friendship, and through their example, the members o f our Lions Clubs make a massive contribution towards helping Australia successfully meet that test

Today, at the beginning o f your second half-century o f service to the communities o f this Multiple District, I know you will continue to be guided by the same sense o f commitment, o f friendship and o f service to each other and to society that has motivated you from the beginning On behalf o f those Australian people you have assisted over the years, 1 thank you for all that you have done and achieved in the past. And, I am sure on behalf o f all Australians, I wish the Lions Clubs o f Australia and the World every success in all their endeavours in all the years that lie ahead

And now, with great pleasure, I officially declare open the 46th National Convention o f M ultiple District 201 o f the International Association o f Lions Clubs