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Opening keynote address at the Rotary International District 9680 Conference.



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ADDRESS BY HIS EXCELLENCY MAJOR GENERAL MICHAEL JEFFERY AC CVO MC

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF

OPENING KEYNOTE ADDRESS AT THE ROTARY INTERNATIONAL DISTRICT 9680 CONFERENCE

SYDNEY, NSW 16 APRIL 2005

Mr Bruce Allen, District 9680 Governor, and Mrs Allen Premier Bob Carr Mr Eddie Loughnan, Rotary International President’s Special Representative, and Mrs Loughnan Mr Robert Richards, District 9750 Governor, and Mrs Richards Rotarians Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you for your warm welcome to Marlena and me this morning. As a proud Paul Harris Fellow, I am delighted to have this opportunity to renew my long-standing links with Rotary - an organisation that I strongly support. I have always thought of Rotary as one of the great ‘enablers’ of society - people with ideas, goodwill and a sense of purpose, always focussed on grassroots action.

I have read what your international president, Glenn Estess Snr, wrote when reflecting on this centenary year of Rotary. He noted that the organisation’s “first one hundred years stand as an inspiring record of men and women of all races, religions, nationalities and political creeds who have made significant contributions to creating a more peaceful world”. These are no empty words nor is there unwarranted flattery in what he wrote.

You can look back on a century of meaningful achievement; of men and women accepting challenges, providing solutions, transforming communities, living and working to high ethical standards, and, individually and collectively, being wonderful role models throughout the world.

Rotary’s growth in 100 years has been extraordinary - in 2005 there are 1.2 million members and close to 32,000 clubs in 166 countries - the world’s largest international humanitarian service organisation. If one was ever to choose a case study where the little acorn has grown into the giant oak tree, then Rotary leads the way.

But what makes it so effective, and what is within the culture of Rotary that doesn’t allow it to drift?

For me, Rotary has two defining characteristics that are also its strengths. First, each Rotary Club is a

microcosm of the wider business and professional community. This encourages creativity and dynamism, and discourages ‘clubbish’ complacency.

Secondly, Rotary is primarily about service; about action.

I’ve always been impressed with the way Rotary meetings address the business at hand in a no-nonsense way and invariably within the breakfast or luncheon hour; that is without procrastination or sidetracking. You cut to the chase - an approach that, above all else, gets things done.

Like you, one of my great passions is youth.

Let me paraphrase Winston Churchill: “people occasionally stumble over youth, but unfortunately many just pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened.”

Rotary adopts the opposite approach. For example, programs such as the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards, the Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment, the Science and Engineering Forums for Years 9 and 12 students, and the Model UN Assembly, prove the point.

And so does this conference where delegates have opportunities to learn from the imagination and passion of young people, where you can highlight and encourage the role-model status of young Australians and help encourage their life-long participation as contributing citizens.

But what about some of the other realities; the consequences for many young people as a result of family breakdown? What can we do to assist?

I have talked frequently for several years about the value of young Australians belonging to some type of well-led, well-organised youth group or program.

I know from personal observation and participation, that youth groups do improve the self-esteem, leadership potential, personal discipline, teamwork, environmental awareness and employment potential of the young - be it in scouts, environmental groups or sporting organisations.

It would be wonderful to see every 10-16 year old in this country encouraged and with the opportunity to belong to a well led youth group of his/her choice, and might this be an area in which Rotary can make a contribution?

Ladies and gentlemen. Youth development is an issue that I will also continue to promote through mentoring programs.

Well orchestrated mentoring, including in subjects such as literacy and numeracy, can be extraordinarily valuable to young people in terms of improving confidence, capability and self-esteem.

Mentoring also has another dimension; in supporting young people who in showing capacity in a particular area, be it in say music, mathematics, science or sport, may need someone of influence to open the doors to opportunity and choice.

Mentoring is about reality; giving young Australians in need, a caring shoulder to lean on, for a sustained period. Indeed I am hoping to encourage the development of a national mentoring program which I drew attention to during my Australia

Day address in January.

I truly believe it would have a highly positive impact on our social condition, and I ask Rotary to consider how it might further contribute its skills and experience for that purpose.

During the 1990s, as Governor of Western Australia, I saw the potential of the School Chaplaincy program; as an overwhelmingly positive experience for young people. In an economic sense alone, a chaplain on less than $50,000 p.a. had only to save one youngster in a school of 1000 students from going into detention for a year to save the equivalent of over twice that chaplain's salary. And of course most chaplains do much more than that.

In just a handful of years the chaplaincy program grew from fewer than twenty chaplains in state schools to more than one hundred and twenty.

The State Education Department conducted a survey among high school principals and found that more than 93% indicated the chaplain’s work was irreplaceable in their school’s environment. And it is easy to understand why.

Beside traditional instruction, pastoral care and counselling included dealing with personal problems at school, broken family relationships, truancy, leaving home, child and sexual abuse, suicide, illness, hospital visits, births, deaths, drugs, police trouble, alcoholism, accommodation, financial needs, study skills and relationship problems.

Today, we find the chaplain becoming a necessary surrogate parent in a country where around 1 million young people live in a single parent home; whose head is mostly the mother and for many of whom through no fault of their own, often live in difficult circumstances.

Might this be another area in which Rotary can exercise its influence?

District Governor, I am impressed by the program for this conference; by the fact that you and your team have given special emphasis to young people.

And thus I commend the fine young role models who are guest contributors:

● Kelly Nicholls - the recipient of a 2005/2007 Rotary World Peace Scholarship who will travel to the

University of Bradford, UK, to participate in Rotary Centres for International Studies in Peace and Conflict Resolution program over the two year period;

● Gemma Sisia - whose work in establishing St Jude’s School in Northern Tanzania is a classic story

of human compassion through the educational opportunities she has created almost single-handedly for deprived youngsters;

● Rojda Guzel - a highly motivated Year 10 student from Model Farms High School who wants a

career in law, who is committed at an early age to motivating young people make the very best of their personal capabilities; and

● Scott Draper - a tennis world great in Davis Cup and Nations Cup tournaments, and who, as a

gifted golfer, in January this year played the Victorian Open Golf Championship and the Australian Open Tennis Championship on the same day.

These young Australians are inspiring examples of 21st century citizens.

Ladies and gentlemen.

A subheading banner on the Rotary International website declares the organisation to be, “A global network of community volunteers” - one instance where the word ‘global’ has no negative connotations.

Rotarians are out working in their communities - not because they ‘have’ to, but because they ‘choose’ to be involved. I know you will all agree with the shrewd observation that, “I must do something” always solves more problems than “something must be done”.

And as you know there is always something to be done - and at times the challenges of the day may seem insurmountable. However Rotary’s approach of “thinking globally, acting locally” provides a sensible perspective in recognising that every bit counts.

At my swearing in ceremony in 2003, I said: “Australia is a wonderful nation, rich in talents, resources and potential. We are a free, decent and innovative people prepared to ‘have a go’”.

I try to re-inforce this statement in my approach as Governor-General by being the communication link between individual Australians and great events, by reinforcing our national values, and by supporting those splendid volunteer and charity organisations who work for the benefit of the wider community.

And it is within this context that I commend Rotary International, especially in your centennial year. I salute you for your innovation, dedication, loyalty and energy.

I know that if it were not for you, and the thousands of Rotary members and supporters who always seem to make their entrance and exit without fuss - our nation would be so much the poorer in its community life - particularly in the sense of the word’s original Latin meaning, ‘in common’. Undoubtedly, yours is one of the greatest humanitarian groups in the world.

The Rotary International centenary inspires us to believe that human effort is unbounded in its possibilities. And why? Rotarians have proven time and again their “Capacity to change the world”.

So my message to you all this morning is simple and sincere - thank you for your magnificent work; for a job well done.

District Governor Allen, congratulations on Rotary International’s centennial year. I wish your district clubs every success in 2005. I am sure your members will, as always, continue to respond to the charter of Rotary with commonsense, good humour and dedication.

It is now my great pleasure to declare Rotary District 9680’s 43rd Annual Conference officially open.

Thank you.