Posted by Michael Crowe on May 29, 2021
On 24 May 2021 Rotarians and local dignitaries gathered for a gala dinner to celebrate the Centenary of Rotary in Australia and to mark the 60th anniversary of Rotary in Port Fairy.  The event took place in the Drill Hall, the venue of the Charter meeting of the Club on 25 March 1961.  This year also marks 100 years of Rotary service in Australia.
In proposing a toast to Rotary, the Mayor of Moyne Shire, Daniel Meade, acknowledged the outstanding service provided by Port Fairy Rotary to the town and the district over the last 60 years.  Other highlights of the night included a presentation on the history of the Club by Harry Bracegirdle, and addresses by District 9780 District Governor Elect (and Port Fairy Rotary member) John Clue, and Club President Tony Bawden.
Tony Bawden
In his address John Clue described the growth of Rotary in Australia from 37 members in April to around 33,000 members and 1304 clubs in 2021.  John emphasised that Rotary's ability to adapt to change has provided many opportunities for Clubs to become more inventive, more aware of technology, more resourceful, and more connected with our families and communities. This is critically important in light of the enormous environmental, health, social and economic challenges currently facing our nation and the world.  John said that the history of Rotary showed us that through tough times and big challenges Rotary can continue to grow, adapt and deliver important services to the community.
Heather Clue, John Clue and Mandy Bawden
Harry Bracegirdle took the audience on a tour through the 60 years of Port Fairy Rotary.  There were 22 charter members at the first meeting and average membership has been around this figure since.  Some of the highlights and lighter moments of the Club over the years were:
  • In its foundation year (1961) members were charged an annual subscription of 5/- for the publication of the Bulletin. The typical membership fee in 1960s grew to around £8/8/- pa (~$17.60 per annum). When Australia converted to decimal currency in 1966 the fee was established as $8.40 per half year
  • 1964 saw the establishment and maintenance of Charles Mills Park. This was a common activity for working bees in the 1960s. It included building a brick BBQ and planting trees.  Rotary's involvement in the Park continues today
  • Fundraising in 1974/75 was $1,140 mainly raised through the sale of pickled onions! The “Thought for the Week” in a 1980’s Bulletin was “The place for a knocker is outside the door”
  • In 1983 the Port Fairy Golfing Rotarians challenged the Warrnambool Club to a competitive golf day with the condition that it not be played in the still atmosphere of Warrnambool but at the links of Port Fairy – home ground advantage!
  • The Club established the annual BBQ fundraiser outside the Reardon Theatre on Folk Festival Weekend in 2000.  This BBQ is still put on today, although the location has moved to Campbell Street
  • In 2003/04 Pauline Shirrefs became the first female President of the Club
  • The Moyne Gazette of the 17th of February 2005 recorded four Rotarians carrying a flag pole down Cox Street. On close examination it can be seen that the late Col Martin has one end while the other three tackle the lighter end.  Presumably the flagpole was bound for Charles Mills Park where it still stands, having been recently rejuvenated
Harry and Diana Bracegirdle
President Tony Bawden wrapped up the evening with a report on the ways in which Port Fairy Rotary was recognizing the Rotary Centenary and the Club's 60th anniversary.  In addition to the gala dinner and an earlier birthday dinner,  the Club is proposing a town clock as a permanent marker of the two milestones.  In particular the proposed clock would act as a permanent recognition of 100 years of Rotary Service in Australia and 60 years of Rotary Service to Port Fairy and district.  It would also benefit the local community and visitors and enhance the town centre streetscape and add to the attraction of Port Fairy as a visitor destination by providing a beneficial, practical service and attractive feature that is lacking in the town centre.
Tony outlined the progress to date on the proposal including consultations with key local organisations and with the Moyne Shire. Possible locations for the town clock have been identified.  Other aspects of the project have been documented including budget and potential funding sources.  Discussions with the Shire are ongoing.
Exchange students Destiny Kelly and Lisa van Someren enjoy the Gala