War had been declared on Nazi Germany on 3rd September 1939, and Australia followed suit. Despite this, South Brisbane Rotary was chartered on 18th November of that year. It was a courageous decision. Perhaps the Charter went ahead because the wheels were already turning, perhaps the “phony war” was in place, perhaps because the United States was not yet in the war. In Poland, 12 Rotarians were arrested by the Gestapo during a meeting and summarily executed.
In any event, the Charter was presented at a gathering at the South Brisbane Town Hall in Stanley Street. The Queensland State Governor, Sir Leslie Wilson, attended, as did the District Governor, R.A. Kerr, the headmaster of Ipswich Grammar School. Sir Leslie was Patron of the Royal Qld Children’s Bush Health Scheme, and a cheque for 50 pounds was presented to him by the club for the homes.
South Brisbane then was far different to South Brisbane today, favoured with large commercial and industrial interests. There were shipping and railway facilities, engineering works, flour mills, chemical, furniture, timber mills, motor, pipe, iron, steel and concrete, agricultural implements, printing, coaches, clothing, meat and many others.
The initial membership read like a who’s who of South Brisbane industry. The Charter President, Percy J Allen, would go on to become District Governor in 1945/46 and due to post war travel restrictions, he served a second term in 1946/47. Other members to serve as District Governors were Arch Campbell and Nora, (1967/68), Orme Olsen and Joan (1970/71), Ron Gough and Peggy (1972/73) and Bill Hamilton and Hazel (1989/90).
Over the first 50 years, as membership increased, the club met in a variety of locations. From July 1975 to 1989 we were hosted by the then Melbourne Hotel, now the West End. Coincidentally, in July 2020 the club returned to meeting at the hotel after an absence of 31 years.
In 1999, coinciding with the club’s 50th anniversary, the first female member was inducted in to the club. At the same time, support by Rotaryannes continued, although with the reduction in members this has inevitably lessened.
In 1945, the club sponsored its first new Rotary club, at Southport. Subsequently clubs were sponsored at Wynnum and Manly (1953), Woolloongabba (1955) and Rocklea (1964 – now Brisbane Inner West). Directly and indirectly, some 31 clubs were sponsored.
Nor were its activities limited to Rotary clubs. From 1987, two Probus clubs were supported and ultimately merged in 2006. The club thrives to this day. Chartered in 2001, the Rotaract Cub of South Brisbane continues to excel. An Interact group was sponsored in 1966 at Yeronga State High School, and it continues to this day with a membership of around 30. A number of annual bursaries are presented to the school, and to the Charleville School of the Air.
Early records were destroyed in the 1974 floods, but we know that an early project was originated in 1948 as the Deaf and Blind picnic. Now known as the Special Schools Picnic, it has been held annually ever since, with the exception of one year when a downpour caused a late cancellation, and sadly in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. All being well, it will resume in 2021, and we will see another gathering of around 300 children and carers at Wellington Point riding on water police barges, inspecting fire engines, ambulances and jeeps.
In 1968 the club committed to the establishment of a Senior Citizens Centre in the West End area. Monies raised were matched dollar for dollar by Federal and State Government subsidies. It was opened in 1973, at a cost of $75,000, and ultimately handed over to the community.
Membership peaked around 1988. Expo 88 provided the club with an extraordinary opportunity to serve the community. As the club’s Bicentennial Project, the Service Clubs Hospitality Suite was undertaken, beginning in 1985, with the club being designated as The Official Rotary Club to World Expo 88. Subsequently, Lions, Quota and Zona were invited to participate.
In the vicinity of $200,000 was generated for charitable purposes. After all costs, the club’s charity account benefited by $55,000, which was allocated to the Polio Plus Fund, The Rotary Foundation, and the club’s Mater Children’s Hospital Ventilator Fund. The ventilator was presented to the hospital in 1989, at a cost of $35,000.
More recently, the Emergency Services Awards Dinner, first held in October 2012 recognizes service above and beyond the call of duty by police, fire, ambulance and emergency services personnel in the Metro South region.
Internationally, the club has supported Group Study Exchange (GSE) teams, Youth Exchange students, a matching grant project, beginning in 2000 to supply boats to the Solomon Islands Western Island Hospitals project and artificial hands to mine warfare victims in Cambodia. For his efforts in Donations in Kind over many years, John Paskin has received extensive recognition.
The club celebrated its 80th anniversary at a low-key event in November 2019. The guest speaker was Mundenara Bayles, a daughter of the late Tiga Bayles, who many will remember as a strong supporter of the District Indigenous Australians Goodwill Committee. Also in attendance was Willie Prince, an Honorary Member of the club who recently retired after 32 years at the State Library of Queensland.
Long serving member PP John Paskin is synonymous with Donations in Kind, an involvement that has seen him a recipient of a Rotary Service Above Self award, as well as Paul Harris Fellow Recognition with two sapphires.
With the recent induction of new members, and a new venue, the club can now look forward to a period of renewal and growth.
- Compiled and authored by Roger Crawfoot, 2020
|2003-2004||Nell Charlton/Ian Ross|