Posted by Noel McInnes
Hawthorn Rotary Club has had the honour, fellowship and fun of hosting five District Conferences over the past 60 years.
For a Club to host a district conference it is privilege and a lot of work. However, it is also a lot of fun and one of the best fellowship activities for a club.
The organising committee starts work 24 months prior to the conference and all club members have a role in delivering a successful event. The district Governor for the year nominates a club to host the Conference. It is usually, but not always, the DG’s own club.
The first Conference hosted by the club was at Lorne, at Erskine House, in 1960.
It was held under President Boyard Taft and the Chairmanship of Alan Patterson. The Club had a membership of 50 at the time. The District Governor was Horace Bedggood from the Rotary Club of Melbourne. Horace asked Hawthorn to host his conference. (right)
Regrettably illness prevented DG Horace from attending, and his place was taken by Immediate Past District Governor Joe Bradbury. The official opening was performed by Sir Angus Mitchell. Conference registrations were 649.  The addresses of attendees were recorded on state of the art, reel to reel recorders.
The Second Conference hosted by the club was at Melbourne in 1978.
The District Governor was Hawthorn’s own Ray Chambers, the President was Clyde Bennett and the Conference Chair Jack Cathie. Registrations totalled 1350.
Photos: Rodney Taft helping Gwen Chambers to distribute prizes.
Neale Burgess (second from left) joins Bishop Hazlewood and Prahran Rotarians in discussing global interdependence
The Third Conference hosted by the club, was the “Sydney Holiday Conference” at Darling Harbour, in March 1995.  
The Club’s own DG, David Rosback and Judi , decided that it was time to take a Conference to Sydney.  Club President was Ian Cathels and conference Chair was Noel McInnes. The conference MC was the club’s own David Corrigan. The Club had a membership of around 90 at the time. Registrations totalled around 1300. The conference took 2 years to plan and organise with a budget of $250,000. All club members had a job.
Memorable highlights were Campbell McComas as Dr Christopher Gates, the dynamic Amanda Gore’s “Stress Busters”, Professor Roger Short ‘s “Plague of Nations”, Max Walker and Jesse Ryder with that moving “Mr Walker, Mr Walker what about me”. Amanda Gore brought tears of laughter, Jesse brought tears of Joy. 
Photo:   Max Walker, World President Rep. Jonathan Majiyagbe, DG David Rosback, and Jesse Ryder at the 1995 Darling Harbour District Conference.
The Saturday Night Dinner, “Baubles, Bangles and Bows”, set new levels for conferences with Fillet Steak, The Swing Factory Band and The Andrews Sisters Sisters. Just when everyone thought they had seen it all they were asked to have a break outside on Darling Harbour to watch the Fireworks display. Boxed lunches with wine on the harbour were also a first for a Conference lunch. People wondered how the club had managed a spectacular Harbour Fireworks display with the budget.
On the Sunday following the Conference, Fellowship Chair Vic Burns had organised a Luncheon Harbour Cruise for our Club and Conference VIPs to relax and wine and dine.
The Fourth Conference hosted by the club was “Experience the Power of Rotary” at Canberra in March 2007.  
The Club’s own DG Bernie Walsh and Margaret decided on Canberra for the Conference. Club President was Noel Halford and Conference Chair was Noel McInnes.  The Conference MC was the club’s own outstanding Tony Charlton. Registrations totalled 830. The conference took 2 years to plan and organise with a budget of $250,000.
The Conference was booked 2 years in advance for the Canberra Convention Centre, however, 12 months prior to the conference the ACT Government, owners of the centre, decided to close for renovations and cancelled all bookings. Despite wanting to sue their butts off the DG and Chairman then booked the Australian Institute of Sport, and chose to celebrate elite sport. A setback was turned into a positive.
The Conference opening was very special as it was held in the National Museum of Australia on the Lakewhere conference attendees had a welcome with drinks and finger food followed by exclusive access to the Museum.
Memorable highlights included “Space Odyssey” by Andy , Australia’s own Astronaut, Stuart Diver Thredbo Landslide Survivor, Kerryn McCann Commonwealth Games Marathon winner, Alan Kogosowski Chopin recital, Sergei Druzhina Acrobat, Neuro Surgeon Jeffrey Rosenfeld, John Bradman son of the Don, Emma Carney Tri Athlete, Keith Payne VC and Carmel Arthur, plus performances by “Pot Pouri” and operatic soprano Greta Bradman, granddaughter of the Don. 
 At one stage there was a gap in the program which needed filling and Tony held the audience in his spell with many of his sporting anecdotes over the years.
A unique conference activity was the Clubs’ Relay Race on the AIS track.
The Saturday Night Dinner “Putting on the Ritz” wowed people with not just great food and wine but with the Blackburn High School Senior Stage 18 piece Band and the stunning “Ballroom Dancers”, Michael Miziner & Anastazia Belykh with Mirko Sciolan & Nuria Santalucia.
The Fifth Conference hosted by the club was “Rotary It’s Amazing” at Albury in March 2013.
The Club’s own DG Dennis Shore and Lynda selected Albury. Club President was Ngaire Cannon and Conference Chair was Noel McInnes.  
Our MC to be, Tony Charlton, worked on the conference program right up until his sad death in December 2012, just three months before the conference.
The whole club rallied to complete the program and the remarkable and very, very funny John Blackman took up the role and made the conference his own.
(John Blackman and DG Dennis Shore, left)
Registrations totalled 620 with a budget of $300,000. The main venue was the Albury Entertainment centre. The conference commenced on Friday evening with a welcome BBQ, drinks and Jazz by the river.
Memorable program highlights included Peter Fitzsimons “Eureka:The unfinished revolution” (right), Carolyn Cresswell “The Carman Story”, Robert Pennicott “Follow the Yellow Boat Road,” Tamara Cannon “The world’s toughest walk to school”, Indira Naidoo “The Edible Balcony”, Marilynne Paspaley “A Master Pearler’s Dream”, Suzie Duncan “Wheelies with Wings”, Tania Militec “Peace Building from Cambodia to China”.
Inspector Charles Allen spoke at the Saturday Breakfast on “Police as Peace Officers” at the Albury club.
Another first delivered by Hawthorn was a “Rotary’s Got Talent”session, professionally “Gonged “ by John Blackman.
Some outstanding Rotary talent, including our own late Neil Roberts (left)  doing his Peter Allen – “I still call Australia Home.” Plenary sessions then closed with entertainment by ”Soul Mystique”.
The conference closed on the Saturday evening with a Country Casual Dinner dance featuring the Blackburn High School Alumni Band plus the Johnny Cash and June Carter Tribute Show (right). The marquee really rocked.
A further Conference first was the Sunday morning, Clubs Kayak race on the Lake. The DG and the Chair put in a creditable performance for Hawthorn.


Lots of photos of the Albury Conference are at

Or Hawthorn Rotarians just enjoying themselves:

Noel McInnes was Hawthorn Rotary Club President in 1995-96. To read about his year in office, click HERE.
What an amazing man, to have run five Rotary District Conferences!
Here he is, enjoying the good life, with Lorraine.  - Ed