By David Harmon, president, Rotary Club of Ballina on Richmond, New South Wales, Australia
If we want to reverse the decline in membership that many clubs have been experiencing the last 10 years, we need to have a cause that engages our members and communities. With this in mind, our Rotary club created a focus group three years ago that searched for an issue that would make a real difference in our community. After carefully consideration we decided to adopt a project to address domestic violence and family abuse. Since our involvement in this project, we have grown from 31 members to 76 members.
Australia has had several well-publicized cases of domestic violence in the news and it is a growing social problem. It became obvious to us that this was an issue of vital relevance and one worthy of our primary focus.
Our club closed the main street in our town and conducted peaceful walks to “Break the Silence and End the Violence.” We had 800 participants during our initial walk in 2019. We had to take a pause in 2020 because of the pandemic, but are planning another walk on 19 November.
We’ve also helped negotiate, plan, and fund the delivery of an education program called “Love Bites” in our high schools. The program seeks to teach young people appropriate and respectful actions and attitudes in relationships. It conducts interactive sessions where students can learn about their rights, responsibilities and how they can get help if they find themselves in an abusive relationship.
The club has grown from 31 to 76 members since launching a project to confront domestic violence and family abuse.
We feel that by reaching people at an early age we’re helping bring about generational change in attitudes and behavior.
We also need to take advantage of events and key moments. This year, Australia and New Zealand celebrated 100 years of Rotary in their countries. Our club and some partnering clubs in neighboring districts had a vision that we could link our 100 years of Rotary Baton Relay event with our project to address domestic violence.
The relay offered our members an opportunity to get outside our club meetings and interact with members of our communities on our streets and footpaths, and deliver a firm message of saying No to domestic violence and family abuse. Our advocacy stance generated unprecedented levels of media attention, increasing our relevance and engagement in our communities.
Our club members have a cause that has merit, validity, purpose, and currency. Clubs all around the world can do it too. All it takes is one initiative “that hits home” to engage your members and communities.
Learn more about how Rotary in Australia and New Zealand is celebrating 100 years of service in 2021.