If you wanted to charter a Rotary club in some remote areas of the Australian Outback, you would need to induct kangaroos and emus to make up the numbers. The sparse Outback towns don’t have enough interested people to even form a viable satellite club unless they combined with others online.
One solution to bring the service values of Rotary to the Outback has been successfully demonstrated by the Rotary Club of Campbelltown: an 80-member club in suburban Adelaide.
For the past 20 years, the Campbelltown Rotary Outback Experience has occurred once every two years.
The 15-vehicle nine-day tour of up to 40 Rotarians and their partners travels throughout outback SA or NSW, stopping each night in an Indigenous homeland, small service settlement or on a station. Rotarian Mal and his wife Val Hansen plan a new route each tour and organise all the accommodation and food, as well as donations from Adelaide business houses for prizes and auctions.
The teams have been as far west as Cook, as far east as Tibooburra, as far north as the APY lands, and as far south as Loxton over the years.
“The 15-vehicle nine-day tour of up to 40 Rotarians and their partners travels throughout outback SA or NSW, stopping each night in an Indigenous homeland, small service settlement or on a station.”
Most nights the tourists get to sleep in beds in shearers’ quarters, but occasionally it is just a swag on the ground. On one occasion they spent a night in the cells of the former Gladstone Gaol!
Each day is used to travel from one stop to the next, with plenty of time for sightseeing along the way.
Sometimes the station staff organise specific tours or activities for the entourage, because more and more stations are taking on tourism to supplement their primary industry income.
Most of the evening meals are catered by the stations for a fee or, if in towns, by a sporting or community club. In this way, additional funds also filter into the local communities as well as diesel purchased along the way.
Each night after dinner the club provides a show to entertain the locals and to raise funds for Outback causes. The 90 shows to date have raised over $600,000 – half for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the other half for The Rotary Foundation, Australian Rotary Health, School of the Air, Isolated Children’s and Parent’s Association, sporting clubs and hospital auxiliaries.
The show can include musical performances, skits, auctions, fines sessions and Rotary information spots, occasionally using local talent but mostly based on the performance skills of the Rotarians.
On recent trips, the Rotary Club of Drouin, Vic, (D9820) has joined in with 10-15 Rotarians and partners.
The service and fellowship components of the trips have an immediate impact on the outback communities and whenever they are invited to be involved there is an overwhelming response.