History of the Club

Club bulletin covers
1983 2008
Bulletin cover 1983 Bulletin cover 2008

The history of the Rotary Club of Burnie in a nutshell.

"I move that we form a provisional Rotary Club and apply for a Charter." This motion by Frank Abell, at a meeting on Dec. 3, 1941 chaired by President Frank Matthews of the Rotary Club of Devonport, was seconded by Charlie Guest and carried unanimously by the 26 Charter Members-elect that were present. This was the beginning of the Rotary Club of Burnie. The Charter (No. 5480) was granted on January 12, 1942 and the new club's boundaries were: "All the area West of a line North from West Beach down Wilson Street to Spring Street, West to Mount Street then North to the Municipal boundary including the Municipality of Wynyard." Somebody had only a hazy idea of Burnie's geography! Please insert South in place of each North in that statement to arrive at the intended boundary definition.

The Charter was formally received from a Past International Director of RI, Angus Mitchell, at the inaugural meeting of Burnie Rotary Club on May 25, 1942. This meeting was attended by about 100 people (see photo below). Angus subsequently served as RI President in 1948-49.

Formed during World War II, the club participated in sending food parcels to Britain, in flax gathering; salvage operations and also in plane spotting. Another obligation saw club members welcoming arrivals on the twice weekly Bass Strait passenger ferry when it berthed at Burnie at 6 a.m.: Two Rotarians would greet passengers and hand out gifts and other items. One ramification of Australia being at war was that food rationing forced the club to be restricted to a maximum of twenty-five members.

In December 1942, club member T. M. Crisp accepted the position of Secretary of the club temporarily, as he said: “to enable us to find a successor.” In 1951, he was still in the job and he continued to ask that the temporary nature of his appointment be recognised!

The club commenced meeting at lunchtime each Monday. According to one club document: “An attempt (in 1952) to change from luncheon to evening meetings was not successful. This did not eventuate until May 1964.” According to a current (2008) member, however, the change actually happened in 1961. Take your pick! The venues used for club meetings have been: Club Hotel, Methodist Hall, Bay View Hotel, Breckenborough, Regent Hotel and – since 1980 – the Burnie Civic Centre.

Len Harris had been a charter member of the Rotary Club of Devonport in 1928 and was elected charter president of the Rotary Club of Burnie in 1942. His son, Lloyd, and grandson, Nigel, have also served as presidents of Burnie Rotary Club, making three generations of service by this Harris family. Nigel was inducted into the Rotary Club of Burnie in June 1992 - just 50 years and one month after Burnie's Charter Night.

Program for Charter Meeting in Burnie, May 25th 1942
Front page An inside page
Charter Program 1942 Charter Program 1942
Photo of Charter Night attendees> Len Harris, Charter President of Burnie
Charter Presentation Night Charter President Len Harris
Induction of third generation of Harris family
1992: Nigel & wife Suzanne with Lloyd Harris
Nigel Harris inducted by Lloyd Harris

Prior to 1942, there were only three clubs in Tasmania: Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. For a map of Tasmania click here. Burnie had been a small town - population 4,000 - until 1936 at which time construction started for a pulp and paper mill and Burnie changed from being mainly a port for surrounding farms and for the extensive mining operations south of Burnie on the rugged West Coast of Tasmania. By 1955, over 5,000 persons worked for the mill! For a brief history of the town of Burnie click here.

The Rotary Club of Burnie grew with the town and the club later sponsored formation of the Rotary Clubs of Ulverstone (1957), East Burnie (1970) and Somerset (1980). In East Burnie's case, that club ceased operating in 1999/2000; most members (including both Charter President Noel Atkins and Charter Secretary Stan French) became members of the Rotary Club of Burnie. For a short history of the East Burnie Rotary Club, click here. The East Burnie Club's charter was used to form the East Burnie Sunrise Rotary Club - a breakfast club. The East Burnie Sunrise Rotary Club ceased to exist in 2008 and some of its members then joined the Rotary Club of Burnie.

The Gallery page has some photos from events of the former East Burnie Rotary Club.

Both clubs, East Burnie and Burnie, existed side by side from 1970 and things looked bright for the first ten years; the attendance of Burnie Club’s members consistently exceeded 80% and the Club had an average of 60 members. From 1978, however, (click on graph below) a slow downward trend began in member numbers and in their attendance record – so slow as to be of no concern for many years. After 1990, the deterioration in Burnie Rotary’s fortunes could not be ignored but it took time to reverse the trend and it could be argued that salvation only came in 1999 when several members of the East Burnie club joined Burnie Rotary and injected some essential "vigour." After some members of the East Burnie Sunrise Club joined Burnie Rotary in 2008/09, Burnie's membership rose above forty - for the first time in many years - and, simultaneously, its average age decreased markedly: Two good signs!

Attendance trends

Over the years, the Rotary Club of Burnie was also active in establishing the Inner Wheel Club of Burnie (1981) - several members of which have played influential roles in the Inner Wheel organisation in Australia - the Probus Club of Burnie (1983) and the Ladies Probus Club of Burnie (1991).

For a complete list of Club Presidents up to year 2008/09, click here.

Presidents since 2008/09 have been:
2009-10 John Glen

Service to the District

Two members of the Rotary Club of Burnie have been District Governors:

Jim Loughran [classification - Electrical Contracting] joined Burnie Rotary Club in 1959, was Club President in 1970/71 and District Governor in 1979/80.

Harold Ogilvie [classification - Agencies: Stock and Station] joined Burnie Rotary Club in 1976, was Club President in 1982/83 and District Governor in 1988/89.

The District Conference has been hosted three times by the Rotary Club of Burnie; in 1965 (Club President Alan Gray); in 1978 (Club President Paul Rollins) and in 1986 (Club President Bruce Clark).