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Attending the District Centennial Conference 2021 - 23 March 2021


Being a member of a Rotary Club can sometimes be exciting, fulfilling, and enjoyable. And sometimes it can be downright uninspiring. Many members these days avoid the District Conferences (and even the visit to the Club of the District Governor) perhaps because it seems too much of an effort, or they've heard it all before, or no doubt for lots of reasons. It can require an effort to enrol. What else could one be doing with one's time?  

However, a District Conference inevitably turns out to be uplifting, not only because of the messages delivered by some of the speakers but also because there is an opportunity to see the Rotary world through the eyes of a member from another club,

The 2021 District Centennial Conference was held in the Wairarapa this year, presided over by District Governor Gillian Jones. It celebrated the 100 years of Rotary in New Zealand since 7 June 1921. The major theme was CHANGE and we were entertained, informed, and challenged by the many thought-provoking speakers. 

Festivities began on Friday evening at Cobblestones in Greytown with an opportunity to explore, be entertained, enjoy food from the food carts, and partake at the open bar. Tables and chairs were spaced out in the open. It was a great opportunity to catch up with friends from other clubs and it would have been an excellent evening had it not been bitterly cold. The Saturday evening dinner was a highlight with clubs dressing up according to the decade in which they were chartered so there were plenty of costumes to behold. Plimmerton's attempt was a tribute to the 1970s and we were accompanied by a member from Masterton Club, inaugurated in the 1920s.

President-Elect Kay, past Presidents Wendy and Donna, and President-Nominee Denise flew the flag for Plimmerton. The social and networking was a highlight of the weekend. Thanks to Denise and Maestro Dexter for their hospitality and to Linda and Peter Sinke for travelling over the Hill to help to make our Club Party such a success.

At the Rotary meeting on 23 March, the four attendees gave a glimpse of the range of change-focused speakers ...

Wendy began with a taster of what we had heard from Dr. Paul Wood in his presentation, 'What is your prison?' You can watch his TEDx talk here, but in the meantime, Wendy gave us a taster.

Where you end up in life, said Paul, is often the result of a number of seemingly innocent choices, each appearing insignificant at the time but all leading you in a single direction.

After his mother died when he was 18, Paul chose to use drugs and put himself in high-risk situations. He chose to meet with a drug dealer. What he didn’t know was that the drug dealer had an interest in adolescent boys and sex acts. What the drug dealer didn’t know was that Paul was prepared to fight.

What neither knew was that before the day was out, the drug dealer would be dead and Paul would be spending the next 10 years behind bars in a high-security prison.

Paul told us that he didn’t realise before he was imprisoned, that he was already living in his own prison, the prison of his mind. He came to understand that there are many beliefs that imprison us and stop us from experiencing the fullness of life.

He escaped his mental prison through 5 progressive steps to personal change – his 5 steps to freedom. He elaborates on these in his TED talk.

As a high school dropout, Paul entered prison without qualifications and the belief that he was incapable of achieving anything. The man he is today is defined by how he chooses to live his life now, by how he chooses to behave today.

He developed two specific goals. To become drug-free and to complete a degree. He completed an undergraduate degree and fought for entry into a post-graduate degree in psychology. He then fought to have his honours research project upgraded to a master’s thesis. Those teaching the programme allowed him to study by distance learning. A doctorate seemed like the next logical step. His supervisors travelled hours out of their way to visit him in prison. Mentors encouraged him to dream bigger.

He now helps other people to discover their own freedom through Oprah Consulting Group. You may want to watch the whole TED talk.

Donna summarised the talk given to us by Eva Hartshorn-Sanders whose topic was 'Changing our Clubs – our changing population. How Can We Change?'

Eva grew up in Hawke's Bay at a low decile high school of mainly Maori and Pacifica students. She was especially warm and responsive to our RYPEN students  EJ  and Gemma.

Eva's background is predominantly in law reform, policy, and negotiation. She has a Masters in Advanced Global Studies from the Paris School of International Affairs, partly funded by Rotary's Global Grant scholarship.

 She critiqued Rotary as doing good work in the Pacific, investing in projects to improve the quality of life and in making a difference in the community. She also identified some of the challenges to membership, giving the example of a Rotary club that required 'my husband's permission for me to join' - in 2018 no less.

Eva spoke of the ways to promote peace, the priorities, and who to partner with to build strong relationships. Her key point was in asking how we are living our values in our club and how are we meeting our cultural competencies. She has recently completed a contract as the Principal Adviser leading counter-terrorism policy and law reform projects at the Ministry of Justice in response to the Christchurch Mosque Attacks.  She also mentioned her work with Jan Logie on the Domestic Violence and Transgender Bills.

Donna's next step is to link Eva with our Global Grant recipient Jessica Sebastian who is remaining in Berlin to finish her thesis during her Covid lockdown, and with our Maisy Bentley who spoke to the United Nations as New Zealand  Youth Ambassador. These young people are certainly Opening Doors and Making a difference for Rotary and the world.

Denise summarised her thoughts about the talk from Mark Huddlestone from The Rotary Club of Seaford, who joined the centenary conference via zoom from his home in Australia.

Prior to conference, Denise had been mulling around with thoughts about Rotary now and in the future, including what that might look like for our club. She gleaned five key take-outs from Mark’s presentation and in no particular order they are:

  1. The relevance of Rotary in the future, with the future being the next 100 years. Service to others and thereby service above self will remain relevant, it is the essence of humanity. Designing our relevance for the purpose of community is key, which led her to wonder just how we identify community needs.
  2. She was heartened to hear Mark define young as “50” years of age. Now we have a picture of youth! This also represents a demographic of 'young' people to counter Rotary’s membership challenges.
  3. Volunteer time – 'are we making the best use of volunteer time?”. Think about the hours given to Rotary in all its forms – meetings, committees, community service, preparation. Time is the greatest gift we can give, therefore we must ensure that our time is used in the best way possible.
  4. What is the reason for meeting when we do? As clubs evolve and the membership needs mature, what is the purpose for our various meetings? It may be an uncomfortable question to reflect on but one to probe.
  5. What is the reason why people join Rotary? Mark’s studies showed under 50s viewed Rotary as a perfect vehicle to network, whilst over 50s wanted to realise the benefits of social connection.

An overarching thought that has remained with Denise after Mark’s presentation was 'how does Rotary pivot for the next 100 years and how will she, as a Rotary guardian, enable relevance and fit for the Rotarians celebrating 200 years in the Australasia and Pacific region in 3021?

Kay covered the talk by Martin Bosley of the Yellow Brick Road Seafood Company who introduced his talk with the seven purposes of food as: 

  • Identity and culture
  • Status
  • Survival
  • Pleasure
  • Community
  • Change and Transforming Lives


  • Humanity

Martin then spoke about his Gate to Plate programme run at Rimutaka Prison and how at first he refused to run this. However, he overcame his nervousness and spent several months training six inmates to cook well enough to participate in Wellington’s Gate to Plate. It has become one of the most sought-after venues for that event. The attitude of the inmates has been positive and has changed their lives. The recidivism rate of his trainees is very low with most obtaining jobs on release. Martin presented his programme as just one-way lives can be changed.

Attending the District Centennial Conference 2021 - 23 March 2021

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