Posted on Jul 07, 2022
If you haven’t thought of attending our District’s annual Conference, my advice is ‘plunge in and register’ next time!  These events are for ALL Members to enjoy and from my personal experience of now four conferences, there are always inspirational speakers and other unexpected pluses that come with attending.
A huge bonus is the ‘team togetherness’ attendance as a Club group creates; and a lovely by-product is the ‘fun and friendship’ is fostered within that group as they relax into the weekend and spent more time together.  In total 120 Rotarians, Partners and Friends registered for the Conference with many Clubs represented.
The stimulation of diverse and inspirational guests’ speakers to talk about together later; the unexpected challenge to embrace and enjoy Te Reo; the ‘idea-sparks’ kindled from mixing and sharing with other Rotarians, Rotaracters and non-Rotary guests.  Altogether a super weekend, worthy of the time invested to be there.
On Friday we were totally blown away by the Keynote speakers.  Some of whom weren’t known to all, but wow delegates were left impressed!
Valarie Wafer’s (RI Vice President & DEI Chair) presentation was pre-recorded but set the tone for the Conference theme which was:  Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI).  We were all challenged to be aware of our unconscious bias, to consider what ‘belonging’ means and what we must consider changing if we want to Rotary to thrive.
Ola Ioane from Diversity Works NZ (formerly known as Equal Employment Opportunity Trust) spoke about the changing face of what we (in NZ) are, and the different dimensions and different lived experiences of diversity.  Ola’s presentation was cleverly jammed packed with info; and he delivered with a vibrance that was infectious.
Robert Oliver, Celebrity Chef from Pacific Food Revolution presented about how he is using a cooking show (getting coverage on TV, Radio and Social Media) to change Pacific people’s eating behaviour.  The statistics he told us about are alarming; and his TV show to promote and reveal indigenous food and cooking as the answer to good health was really exciting.
Sir Ian Taylor, Animation Research Limited (ARL) was the final speaker for the day.  We may not realise it – but we have all seen the work of ARL.  This is the man and company responsible for bringing the public those amazing graphics/animations for the America’s Cup; Golf; Grand Prix; etc.  Sir Ian’s presentation was mainly focused on embracing the Pacifica story and the development of an online learning platform developed to help tamariki learn about the past to navigate to the future.  Sprinkled with fun details on where ARL grew from and personal stories – we were all left feeling tremendously fortunate to have the opportunity to listen to such a wonderful speaker.
I can honestly share that we rolled out of the door on Friday feeling like we had already experienced a jam-packed; value-added weekend.  But wait – there was more!  Drinks and nibbles, a quick and sumptuous local Thai meal; and then navigating our way through Beehive security to enjoy an evening function of the pre-recorded Rotary Talent Show and then ‘live’ Cheese Wheel tasting.  Some of us were also lucky enough to spy Wellington’s Matariki Fireworks display from Parliament’s windows.  WOW so much for one day!
We wondered if Saturday’s line-up could possibly measure up to the day before, and well yes, it did.  Starting with Keynote Speaker Peter Boshier (Chief Ombudsman for NZ) and Honorary Member of the Rotary Club of St. Johns, he fittingly talked about ‘fairness for all’ and how (if embraced) different viewpoints and experience enriches us all.  And who knew Peter was so proficient in Te Reo? 
Followed by Jessie Harman (Rotary International Director) over from Australia who shared Rotary’s focus for the next year which included:  increase of DEI; increase of new types of clubs; greater collaboration with Rotaract; emphasis on partnerships and emphasis on raising Rotary’s profile.
Jessie’s talk segued nicely into a Rotaract Led Panel Discussion led by Shaun Peacock who is fully immersed in a number of Rotaract leadership roles.  The discussion was provocative again challenging us to consider Diversity within our communities and membership; Equity and how to overcome obstacles; Inclusion and unconscious bias and the effort it might take to change.  Ingrid Waugh (Call to Action Facilitator) then led a breakout workshop on DEI which generated useful discussion at our tables, a selected sample of which was then shared.
And in among these serious presentations and discussions, the professional MC’s (Rachel Petero & Simon Wi Rutene) ensured we kept to time as we also enjoyed DG Steve’s presentation of District Awards and DG Elect Allan’s info and invite regarding next year’s District conference at Karaka (March 30 – April 1) planned deliberately early to actively encourage members to consider attending the next Rotary International Convention to be hosted in Melbourne on 27-31 May 2023.  And should I mention our increasingly uninhibited dancing to the iconic song Poi E, cleverly used to keep us alert and laughing between sessions.
The close of the conference was celebrated with the ‘Shining Stars Gala Dinner’ where guests were able to celebrate Matariki stars by incorporating sparkle into their attire, which actually energised us all.  A great meal; great company; and even some dancing ensued before we glittered our way out the door.
Kudos to DG Steve and Edith Chaney and their team for hosting a superb conference in Wellington and to their Conference Chair (Leanne Jaggs) for the massive organisation that went into the weekend.  Our contingent had a wonderful time.
Many thanks to St. Johns PP Robyn Ingram, our roving reporter!