Former ACT health minister Michael Moore has been appointed the inaugural district governor of a massive new merged Rotary district that covers all the clubs in the ACT as well as scores of others extending "from the outback to the ocean".
"It's about the size of England," is how Dr Moore described District 9705, which officially comes into being on July 1.
The new district is a merger between district 9710 - which includes all the Rotary clubs in the ACT as well as the South Coast, Southern Highlands and inland clubs from Bungendore to Batlow, Queanbeyan to Cooma - and district 9700 encompassing those further west, including Bathurst, Wagga Wagga and Young.
The huge new 9705 district will now comprise 83 clubs and 2300 members.
Dr Moore said the merger would save on administrative costs but had nothing to do with the coronavirus-induced economic downturn, with the move two years in the planning. The district changeover, always a big celebration, will be a virtual event, however, due to the virus. The merger was a matter of being pragmatic.
"As districts drop below a certain number of members, Rotary International then says, 'No, you're going to have to be divided or merged'," Dr Moore said.
"And so if we go back a number of years, it was clear this was going to happen. District 9700 had been losing numbers and instead of waiting for Rotary International to orchestrate the changes, the two district governors at the time said, 'Why don't we do it ourselves?'. And they set a standard that has been of great interest internationally, because it's been done with really goodwill whereas in some cases [elsewhere] there's some antagonism. My job now is to have us all thinking as one district and looking at what are the advantages of that.
"And this is actually a really serendipitous thing because Rotary International each year has a theme and this year it's 'Rotary opens opportunities' so we actually see this as a fabulous opportunity."
Dr Moore, an Independent MLA for four terms in which he was a minister for health, housing, corrections and community care, will be district governor for a year. He joined Rotary in 2002, motivated by its aim to eradicate polio, clubs globally helping to immunise more than 2.5 billion children in 122 countries.
"Many people see Rotarians at barbecues at Bunnings or collecting money for parking at events, but that's not why they join Rotary. That's to raise the funds to do the good work," he said.
"The good work is, for example clean water and sanitation in developing countries, it's working on glaucoma projects in indigenous communities, helping with education and working locally, nationally and internationally. The club I am a member of, the Rotary Club of Canberra, for example is working with homeless youth."
Always good planners, Rotary has already mapped out his successors - Leo Farrelly from Belconnen, and then Wagga Wagga's Geraldine Rurenga, who is only 29.
"For me, Geraldine is a breath of fresh air and showing that Rotary is across the generations. We are, at this point, overloaded with crusty old white guys, like me, and we're really working hard to bring in the next couple of generations," he said.
"I joined when I was 50, which is common, people have their families settled and want contribute more. But we'd also like to bring in younger people."
Dr Moore will spend the year visiting as many clubs as possible in person or by virtual meetings to overcome the tyranny of distance.