Mudgee District Conference

Part 1: D9675 District Conference moments

by Bernadette Hunkeler Brown

For me, the main reason for attending a District Conference is not the stellar speakers, the training sessions or meeting the RI President’s Personal Representative (the “RIPPR”) but quite simply to meet people. This time was no different. Nigel and I arrived early and did a wine tour the day before, enjoyed what Mudgee has to offer, and then attended the breakfast meeting of Mudgee Sunrise (please note the “make-ups” for us both Mr Secretary!) where we heard some interesting comments from IPRIP John Germ about district member age-profiles and someone else about the possibility of NSW becoming a single district in the coming years. That evening it was into the conference-proper and I enjoyed talking with people from far and wide. And that continued for the next two days. I heard that our district has only 2.6% of members under 40.  And I think our club has most of them!  As John Germ said in his conference wrap-up (words to the effect of), in a district where the average age of members is 74, the clubs with no younger members have no future – extinction is a likely outcome of their short-sighted membership policies. That made me rather proud to be a member of our club – go the Coves!

Part 2: D9675 District Conference moments

by Nigel Brown

Yes, yes, yes, I agree with all of the aforesaid too. I attend district conferences to hear a good idea for a project or fundraiser (not many there this time unfortunately), to meet an interesting person (yes, there were a few!) or to hear an inspiring speaker. And for me (oh, and Bernadette too – we are a team!), hearing Dr Gill Hicks, a survivor of the London Bombings of 7 July 2005, speak was pure inspiration. She lost both her legs and nearly her life on that dreadful day.  But she decided to fight and she won.  Her role in life is, amongst others, to engage with would-be terrorists and to talk them out of their misguided beliefs that blowing themselves-up is going to do anybody any good whatsoever. She managed to inadvertently talk one radicalised youth out of his intention to die because, forget the virgins, they probably don’t play soccer in Heaven! I swelled with a sense that the possibilities to achieve in this world are directly related to your ability to grasp the possible out of the ether. To paraphrase Thomas the Tank Engine, “I know I can” – and you can!

Part 3: Saturday highlights

by PP Jackie Charlton

The trip to Mudgee was lovely with the recent rains turning the paddocks a rich green in parts. Parkland resort was a good venue with a spacious auditorium ad friendly service although there were some problems with the sound system on Friday night and the band were disappointed when the majority had left before the end of their first set.
Ken Suttcliffe, the sports journalist and polio survivor was very well received, particularly by my sports junky husband! We heard from two inspiring ladies. Gemma Sisia, the Science & maths teacher from Armidale who built schools in Tanzania for poor students with the help of Rotary and Stephanie Woollard who many Coves know from the Seven Women Project in Nepal. Both began with a very small idea and continue to grow their amazing work with the help of the Rotary Network.
Mike Brady finished the day with a musical autobiography, entertaining those who remember his many advertising jingles and the AFL anthem, Up There Cazaly!

Part 4: District 9675 Conference in Mudgee, NSW, March 2018

By PP Michael Austin

Mudgee reputedly derives from the Wiradjuri Aboriginal term 'Moothi' meaning 'nest in the hills'. This is a suitable title as Mudgee is an attractive town of fine old buildings, located in the broad, picturesque and fertile Cudgegong River Valley. Surrounded by hills of green and blue, it is situated 265 km north-west of Sydney, 470 m above sea-level and has a current population of around 8200. The area is noted for its fine wool, beef, fat lambs, cereal crops, lucerne, vegetables, vineyards, cheese and honey. There is also a coal mine at Ulan, a livestock exchange and numerous horse, sheep and cattle studs.
Having Rotary links with the Country Education Foundation and the farmers’ mentoring scheme, “Soils for Life”, this was a District Conference not to be missed and I was certainly not disappointed! The highlights for me were in meeting old acquaintances again, accidentally stumbling upon an informal Rotaract gathering whilst exploring the well-appointed Parklands Conference Centre, all of our keynote speakers and Saturday night’s dinner-cum-“shin dig” in a nearby tin shed!
On Friday afternoon, I joined two interactive sessions, firstly on “Branding”, secondly on “ What makes a club viable?”. My wife Gunilla joined our group of Coves for the evening dinner and bush dance. Saturday saw us in full swing, President Edei, Bernadette, Nigel, Jackie and myself enjoying a full day of presentations and keynote speakers whilst Jackie’s husband Neil did his own thing and Gunilla had a golf day with the Mudgee ladies.
Welcomed by DG Stephen Britten, conference proceeded with some encouraging words from immediate Past Rotary International President, John Germ from Tennessee, followed by an entertaining and interesting keynote talk by polio survivor  and Mudgee man Ken Sutcliffe, who will be well known to many readers as  a radio and television sports presenter. Wine maker of the year John Stein then gave us insights into the history of local winemaking before Gemma Sisia talked about her outstanding and growing project, fighting poverty through education - The School of Saint Jude in Tanzania. Although Jude is the saint of desperate and lost causes, this school is without doubt an outstanding success.
Many Coves will remember Stephanie Woollard from the premier night of her movie “Seven Women” at the Event cinema in George Street. Stephanie held us spellbound again by the story of her stumbling across seven disabled women in India and turning her meager $200 pocket money into an outstanding venture.
Prof Ron Rapee, from Rotary Australia Health, talked about Youth and Mental Health, then the day’s “ official business”  ended with singer/song and jingle writer Mike Brady entertaining us with stories and songs.
The Sunday sessions began with a talk by Dominic Teake of the Police Community Youth Clubs (PCYC), a Rotary initiative. Dom spoke about kids at risk and the positive work that continues through PCYC. Judith Mogi then took the stand to speak about Rotaract and working with Rotary, a subject that particularly interests me, then Skillaroo finalist and heavy vehicle mechanic Louise Azzaopardi spoke about her journey from RYLA to her current success.
Finally, remember the London terrorist attack on its transport system? Dr Gillian Hicks from Adelaide lost both legs when a bomb went off in an underground train. Gillian’s sense of humour and obvious courage held the audience towards the standing ovation that she truly deserves.
Thanks for reading this to the end – I don’t often attend these conferences but am so glad that I didn’t miss this one!