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Community Service Vice President’s Report 2011/2012

Vice President Community Service – Keith McNeil


President Austen, Fellow Rotarians and Guests.

Please, reflect on my challenge.  Community Services within the Rotary Club of Melbourne is embraced by 16 committees carrying out over 110 individual projects and activities.  How can I adequately acknowledge the time, effort and outcomes contributed by so many?

Therefore, in my address, I will cover four topics.  These are: our strategic and annual plans, how we allocated our funds this year, partnerships and some specific projects selected after consultation with Committee chairpersons.

The Club’s Community Services portfolio embraces four of the five Avenues of Service, the foundation of Club activity:-

  • International Service
  • Vocational Service
  • Community Service, and
  • New Generations.

  1. 1.    Strategic and Annual Plans

Our strategic plan challenges us to “Optimise the Club’s capacity to provide service”, through

  • Fully utilising the skills and experience of club members;
  • Partnering with companies and organisations, on joint projects;
  • Engaging newer members to provide fresh input into Committees and club  activities; and
  • Actively supporting the Internationality of Rotary International through the Rotary Foundation.

 For 2011/12, our Annual Plan required us to:

  • Leverage off existing partnerships with the Brotherhood of St Laurence and HomeGround Services;
  • Ensure all new members are active on at least one Club committee within three months of induction;
  • Focus participation on significant projects to reduce homelessness, assist disadvantaged youth and the elderly, and improve aboriginal welfare;
  • Continue our support in Timor Leste;
  • Establish a program to encourage further support for the Rotary Foundation;
  • Increase the sources of funding to include a greater variety of internal fundraising and establish relationships with external philanthropic organisations; and
  • Research and analyse the nature of membership involvement in the Club to determine the extent and diversity of the Club’s “workforce” capacity.

  1. 2.    Allocation of Funds

In the past year, I have been questioned occasionally by members concerned about the relative levels of particular uses of Club funds for various projects as opposed to other projects.  Thankfully, in a diverse Club, all members have their own personal preferences and interests and that is healthy.  Thankfully, also, from my observation, your Board always endeavours to respond to the enthusiasm and interests of all members without any particular formula other than fairness and common sense.

Broadly, our service projects are funded from within the Club and from external grants from philanthropic trusts and sometimes, the Rotary Foundation.  From within our Club, our projects are largely funded from dividends from three funds, the Community Foundation, the Community Foundation Extension Fund and the Stolfa Charitable Trust and some Committee fund raising.  At the beginning of the year, the following funds were allocated into the four main service streams. 

  • International Service $108,000 including $30,000 for the Rotary Foundation
  • Vocational Service $ 31,000
  • Community Service $ 45,000; and
  • New Generations $ 37,000.

So, some half of our funds were directed to overseas projects and half within Australia, not because of any specific formula but to balance scarce funds across many requirements.  My estimate is that over half of our funds used in Vocational Services, Community Services and New Generations were directed to the needs of younger members of our community.

Additionally, significant funds were sourced from Trusts, including the Peter Mackay Bequest for Welfare of the Young ($19,000), John Reid Trust for Donydji ($80,000), the Assisi Aid Projects and the Baker Foundation for East Timor ($90,000 each) and Grosvenor Foundation to HomeGround ($40,000).

  1. 3.    Partnerships

During the past year, I have been asked about partnerships and why we are doing them.  About three years ago, the Club entered two strategic partnerships, one with HomeGround Services and one with the Brotherhood of St Laurence.  The original intent of these partnerships can be summarised as:

  • Linking the Club to areas of real need within the community;
  • Aligning the Club with organisations having significant resources of their own to assist us in “punching above our weight”;
  • Creating additional opportunities for Club members to use their expertise and capacity, particularly non-financial contributions; and
  • Being able to leverage limited Club financial resources into significant projects attracting support from philanthropic trusts and other external funding.

Both of these partnerships reach important three year milestones this year and are currently undergoing rigorous examination as to how effectively we have delivered on the original intent.  At the risk of pre-empting these findings, I am sure that members will agree that the relationship with HomeGround has been very successful and has enriched not only the previously homeless tenants, but also the social fabric of our Club through activities such as assembling furniture.  Progress with the BSL has been more challenging, largely due to funding constraints, but real progress has been achieved with training of the elderly on computers, mentoring of youth and refugee support. 

  1. 4.    Specific Project Outcomes

So, I will now turn to outcomes.

New Generations. 

Welfare of the Young Committee puts a high priority on education as the way to assist young people reach their potential.  Participation in a project involving two weeks of lectures run by Melbourne University students to provide an introduction to HSC studies in 2011 proved to be an effective incentive for students with a non-English speaking background, indigenous Australians, those with difficult or disadvantaged backgrounds, and applicants from rural or isolated areas and under-represented schools.  Also, the Committee has given specific help to a young woman to attend a well-resourced biology conference at Monash University and the expenses of an indigenous scholar studying a tertiary health subject at Melbourne University.

WOY also contributed funds to the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre for “back to school” kits for the children, thus seeking to assist with the welfare of young people who are new to the country and need help to join with other young Australians.  In particular, the Committee has helped to fund a participatory youth service for refugee and migrant young people living in the Western region of Melbourne, in setting up a futsal football program, and a drama workshop which tackles racial prejudice.

WOY Committee supports regular Rotary District New Generations programs such as the week-long Rotary Youth leadership Award (RYLA) and Lord Somers camps, the week-end camps for Rotary Youth Program of Enrichment (RYPEN) and the Model United Assembly (MUNA).  Science education is encouraged by the National Youth Science Forum, and The Science Experience Program.  All have been much appreciated by the recipients and have made a real difference to their lives.

Thanks to nine years of effort, involving expenditure of over $1.5 million, the indigenous people of Donydji in the Northern Territory can provide their children and young people with education and skills training and can live in accommodation designed by them.  They can demonstrate that living in a small kinship-based homeland offers better health and better lives than would be possible if they were forced to relocate to live in the dysfunctional camps so evident in larger settlements of the Northern Territory.

In the last twelve months we have helped the Donydji people construct specially designed hearth kitchens to accommodate their desire to continue their practice of cooking outside.  We have extended the verandas on their houses, to meet the desire of more outdoor space under cover from the extremes of weather.

The Youth Exchange Committee is about to receive our next exchange student Amelie Hinrichs from Germany in July. She will be with us for 12 months and will be studying at St Catherine’s School.  We are the host club and we are sponsoring Amelie without the assistance of any other clubs.  Finding volunteer hosts remains a challenge for continuing with this program.

Vocational Services

The Arts Committee continued to encourage the awareness of the Arts among Rotarians and guests with a visit to the Winter Masters exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, a Collingwood Gallery Walk and John Tozer’s Photographic Exhibition.  We have supported the Sudanese Australian Intensive Learning “Child’s Play” program by providing music lessons for Young Performers.  Two of these students performed at one of our lunch meetings.

The 0808 Committee conducted a successful series of events in August 2011 including the Spirit of Australia Monash Ceremony and Lecture in the Parliament of Victoria Queens Hall and the Legislative Assembly.  The Kram / O’Flaherty / Monash composition 1918-0808 was premiered by the Scotch College Choir and musicians followed by the Monash Commemoration.  Then, in conjunction with the Arts Committee, Rotarians and guests enjoyed “Music and Song of 08 08”.  On August 8 a dawn service was held at the Shrine of Remembrance and at lunch on August 9, Professor Patrick McGorry was invested as the 2011 Monash Medallist.

The Vocational Service Committee’s Young Achievers Award, the Trainee Awards and the Vocational Service Award all attracted larger than normal attendances at our Club meeting.  They showcased Rotary Club of Melbourne  to the Governor, members and constituencies that were used to source candidates and most importantly recognised the achievements of awardees.

The Vocational Services Committee continues its participation in specific D9800 Programs, Shine On and the Police Leadership Mentoring Program.  Shine On recognises the achievements of disabled folk who rise above and beyond their disability.  Mentoring senior police staff on community engagement and creating vocational awareness is designed to assist up-and-coming police members in later stages of their career.

Our Club arranged and hosted the District Vocational Forum held at The Junction Oval on October 16, 2011

Community Welfare

The Community Welfare Committee, in partnership with The Big Issue, has undertaken a pilot project, Women's Subscription Enterprise, to secure subscriptions to The Big Issue magazine.  The objective of the project has been to train and employ homeless marginalised women in the printing, packing and distribution of the magazine based on the Big Issue employing one woman for every 100 subscriptions sold.  We have involved club members at three levels; individual subscriptions, selling to local businesses and engaging corporate.  A project stall was on display at the District Assembly and the District Conference.  Although sales are not high at this stage, the CWC remains committed to the project objectives and is working with The Big Issue to plan the way ahead and with District to expand the project.   

The CWC champions a Not-ForProfit Advisory Group which offers advice to like-minded organisations which have identified a business or governance issue inhibiting achievement of their goals.  One such organisation which sought our help was the Lighthouse Foundation for optimising the effectiveness of their volunteer base, critical to Lighthouse's care of vulnerable young people.  Our members interviewed the volunteers working in the partner homes and separately Lighthouse management staff.  After analysis of the many issues involved, a report was written and Lighthouse management debriefed on findings.  Lighthouse is now working through the matters raised by the NFPAG.

The recently re-named, Third Age Committee, has commenced a Shared Connections project in partnership with Benetas which aims to reduce social isolation of the elderly.

Recent deaths of prominent Australians from skin cancer continues to highlight an important health issue that does not always figure highly in health research funding.  The Rotary Dermatology Research Centre in Carlton, Melbourne, which was opened by Victorian Health and ageing Minister the Hon. David Davis on February 22, 2012, will make a significant improvement to skin health research in this country.  The Centre operates within the Skin and Cancer Foundation Inc. and carries the Rotary name as a result of a partnership with Rotary initiated by the Rotary Club of Melbourne, which contributed $15,000 through the Health Issues Committee to the required $70,000 needed to finance the completion of the facility.


The Club continues to have a high success rate for its Peace fellowship candidates with eight successful Fellows in ten years.  Club candidates were selected as the District Ambassadorial Scholar in July and as a Rotary World Peace Fellowship in October.  Elizabeth Day, a lawyer from the Department of Premier and Cabinet on policy development has been accepted into Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government for a Master of Public Policy.  Dr Zuleika Arashiro, a Brazilian national working here on refugee issues for The Brotherhood of St Laurence was selected for the Certificate in Peace & Conflict Resolution at Chulalongkorn University and she spoke enthusiastically to the Club in May about the course. 

A three year US$235,000  project to reduce maternal and infant mortality in the Bacau and Lautem Districts of East Timor commenced in July 2011 and overall the aim is to introduce to 20 villages, the tried and proven SHIO (Suku Hadomi Inan no Oan - The Village loves its Mothers and Children) program.

The Baker Foundation committed $90,000 (US$94,000) which was conditional on RCM successfully raising the balance of funds required.  This was achieved through $90,000 from Assisi Aid Projects Inc, $25,000 of Club funds through the East Timor Committee and $30,000 through the remarkable individual effort of Peter Bearsley running in the Berlin marathon.

The Alola Foundation of East Timor is responsible for implementing the project on the ground and reporting on progress.  UNICEF is partnering with Alola to introduce the SHIO model into four other East Timor Districts.  The project is progressing well against both schedule and budget and is being well received in the villages.

On at least five or six times during the past Rotary year, a good number of RCM and other Rotary Club volunteers gathered at the DIK Store in West Footscray to load 40' containers for shipment to East Timor.  The containers had goods for East Timor Roofing, hospital beds from St Vincents, school desks and chairs and a host of other much-needed supplies put to good use in impoverished East Timor.  On each occasion the volunteers enjoyed the fellowship of their fellow Club members and a feeling of real satisfaction for a job well done.

Through the International Programs Committee, we contributed $5,500 towards a USD 46,000 joint project with the RC of Brighton Beach that provided clean water and sanitation for approximately 3,000 people in Lubang, Occidental Mindoro, Philippines.  Other funds came from Melbourne-based district Clubs, a district grant and a matching global grant from The Rotary Foundation.

The project involves pumping water up from wells using electrical energy provided by wind turbines and supplemented by solar panels. Water is then stored in an elevated water tank.  From the tanks water is gravity fed via PVC pipes to cluster locations in specific areas.  Water quality is currently not at desired levels; however a filtration process should shortly rectify this issue.  The major benefit of this project is the close proximity to water, improving sanitation and health with a secondary benefit of enabling backyard gardening to supplement livelihood.

During the year our club contributed $10,000 towards a pilot project in Vanuatu to provide solar lamps replacing kerosene as a source of lighting.  In co-operation with Barefoot Power, lamps were sold and distributed to micro entrepreneurs who have been trained to on-sell to communities.  Our funding contribution has been made to Barefoot Power by way of a loan for a twelve month period.  At this time we expect to receive back our principal plus interest of 10%.  The key benefit of this project is to provide a more cost-efficient and safer source of lighting to selected communities.  Upon receipt of loan funds consideration will be given to provision of further loan funds for this purpose.


Reflecting back on the Annual Plan, I believe that we achieved many of those goals, but there is still more that can be achieved in engaging newer and existing members on fresh projects and on committees.

I consciously left the two international programs involving water and micro energy last to encourage more members, particularly newer members, to be involved in new projects and a committee.  Both of these projects were conceived several years ago.  The funds were not immediately available, but the project champions got them on to the agenda of their committees, they analysed and researched the projects in the meantime and gained the enthusiasm of their committees and ultimately the Board.  These examples demonstrate that this Club and its members ultimately get behind well-thought-out ideas championed by persistent people.  If you have a cause or interest, we can help you achieve it.  Become involved, remain involved.

May I thank President Austen for his confidence in appointing me one of his Vice Presidents and thank you for the support of Directors, committee chairs and committee members.  I want to thank for their leadership, Directors, Spencer Bock, John Shaw, Hugh Bucknall and Quin Scalzo and the chairpersons of various Committees, Chris Wang, Peter Addison, Bob Miller, Pauline Burren, Colin Neave, Ian Ferguson, Hugh Bucknall, Kevin O’Flaherty, Barry Murphy, Bas Hamo, Bob Glindemann, Wayne Talbot, Rob McGuirk, John Mitchell, Peter Davis, and David Prest.  Clearly, we would be here a long time if I were to acknowledge the individual efforts of all those who take Minutes of meetings, who manage projects, who offer advice and who take time away from their work schedules and families.  Your efforts are much appreciated.

Much has again been achieved this year in Community Services.

 Keith McNeil

Vice President Community Service 2011/2012

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