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|Origins of RYLA|
In placing on record the origin of RYLA, it would not be complete if reference were not made, first of all, to 'GUNDOO', as without 'GUNDOO', 'RYLA' would never have been considered as a Rotary project.
In 1959, when Queenslanders were celebrating the Centenary of their State, the Queensland Government arranged a special Festival Week in Brisbane. As the representative of the Queen for these celebrations was Princess Alexandra, the activities for this week were planned essentially for young people in the same age group as the Princess: it was this week which was called 'GUNDGOO', which (I understand) is the Aboriginal word for 'festival' or 'fun together'.
An invitation was extended by the Government to two young people from each Shire of the State to attend 'GUNDOO', as guests of the Government. The age group requested was between 17 and 23 years; over 300 acceptances were received.
The Queensland Government was responsible for the travelling expenses of the guests, other than those living in Brisbane. The Government approached the Rotary Club of Brisbane and asked if members would accept the responsibility for (a) organisation of the week's activities for these young people and (b) accommodation of those coming from outside of Brisbane. The Brisbane Club accepted.
Because of the magnitude of the project, the Brisbane Club decided to approach all Rotary Clubs in the Brisbane metropolitan area and request one representative from each Club to join their representatives and form a 'GUNDOO' Committee. President-elect Arnold Bennett, ably assisted by another Club member, Alex. Symonds, were the representatives of the Rotary Club of Brisbane on the Committee.
There were 12 Clubs in Brisbane at that time. Other representatives from the Brisbane Club were Alan Trist and Oriel Morris. Frank Farley represented the Rotary Club of Windsor, and I represented the Rotary Club of Hamilton. Unfortunately, I am unable to remember any further members of the 'GUNDOO' Committee.
Acceptances were received from approximately 250 country guests. They were all billeted in the homes of Rotarians from the twelve Brisbane metropolitan Clubs.
There were many problems associated with 'GUNDOO', but, at the wind-up meeting which I organised and which took the form of a dinner at the old Brisbane Bellevue Hotel (since demolished), the Committee decided it was generally a successful activity. It was further decided that some consideration should be given by Rotary to taking 'GUNDOO' over as a Rotary project and running it on an annual basis. This suggestion was put forward to the District Governor of District 250 at that time, and he had no hesitation in giving the suggestion his approval. As I remember, the District Governor was Art. Brand.
Although a number of the original 'GUNDOO' Committee did not join the 'RYLA' Committee, there ware at least four members who carried on. They were the late Alex Symonds, the late Alan Trist, the late Oriel Morris, all from the Rotary Club of Brisbane, and myself, a member of the Rotary Club of Hamilton. There may have been additional members, but, as I remember, they were not regular attenders of our meetings. These meetings were held in Alex. Symond's office, which was in the old YMCA building in Edward Street, Brisbane.
The following are some of the decisions made by this Committee for the first seminar:
The Committee felt there should be some form of recognition for the awardees. It was decided to issue a certificate, the certificate to be presented at a Rotary meeting following the seminar, when the awardees would be asked to express their thought on the seminar.
As regards the name by which the week could be identified, although many and varied titles were submitted, it was felt that whatever decision was made, it should refer to the words 'Youth', 'Leaders', 'Award' and also include 'Rotary'. After some weeks of deliberation, at a meeting at the YMCA, the name 'RYLA', which stands for 'Rotary Youth Leadership Award', was adopted.
Date: 8th July - 15th July 1961.
The response to the first 'RYLA' seminar was very poor. District 259 indicated they were not interested. Only 26 nominations were received from District 260. These were mainly from the metropolitan area of Brisbane. Despite this poor acceptance, it was generally considered the week had served a purpose and it was decided to continue with the project in the following year.
In 1962, the date was brought forward to June (9th. - 16th.). The main challenge in the week's programme was that the awardees would spend Thursday and Friday at the YMCA Camp Warrawee at Petrie, which is about 25 kms. north Brisbane. The Committee felt that living together at the camp would provide a better opportunity for leadership training, group discussion, fellowship etc. Despite the changes which had been made, and the promotion given by the Committee, 'RYLA' did not receive support at District level. The Clubs generally remained uninformed. Due to this lack of interest, the acceptance by the Clubs for the second 'RYLA' week was again very poor, only 35 registrations being received. The future of 'RYLA' was very much in jeopardy.
At the Committee meeting following the second seminar, the Committee made a decision to continue for one more year. If what was considered to be reasonable support was not going to be given by the Clubs, the project would be abandoned.
Arrangements were made for representatives of the Committee to fully acquaint the District Governor (Frank Sanders) on all aspects of 'RYLA' and probably, as a result of his promotion and a concerted effort by the Committee, the Clubs showed added interest. The registrations for the third 'RYLA' week were 64, which was most encouraging to the Committee. 'RYLA', as we saw later, was at that time, well on the way to being firmly established.
The development of 'RYLA', after that third seminar, was one of those success stories which are hard to believe. After being adopted by adjoining Districts, 'RYLA' not only spread to many other Districts throughout Australia, it was accepted also by Rotary in New Zealand. Perhaps one of the most gratifying aspects of all was when Rotary International, at the International Convention in Sydney in 1972, approved 'RYLA' as an International project. Following this approval, District Governors in various countries introduced 'RYLA' to their Clubs. 'RYLA', from its modest and very uncertain beginning, has developed into a well supported Rotary project.
As regards the introduction of 'RYLA' into North America, in 1976, the District Governor of District 709 (Canada and U.S.A.) sent a representative to our Heidelberg Club (District 979), to undertake a study on 'RYLA' for his District. The visit was timed to coincide with our own 'RYLA' seminar and, in addition to providing the D.G's representative with the information we had available, arrangements were made for him to attend our seminar. Subsequent to the visit, 'RYLA' was approved by District 709 as a District project in 1977.
These notes cover most of the aspects concerning the origin of 'RYLA'. Although many years have elapsed since 'RYLA' was founded.
|A copy of this paper was circulated during a meeting of the Rotary Club of Rosanna, then the Rotary Club of Heidelberg North. The author was a visitor from Hamilton in Queensland, who may have been a past member or visitor to the Rotary Club of Heidelberg.
PP Jerome Winston, Rotary Club of Greensborough, for RYLA, District 9790, December 2000.
An empowering seminar for young leaders
The final phase of a project that began in December 1998 ended when 32 awardees from District 9790 completed RYLA on 16 December 2001.
The energy used to say goodbye on the day meant that RYLArians left the site about 2 hours late. What caused this tardiness? A program woven around 'behaviour change happens if a person's values and beliefs are challenged and shifted'.
The program began with getting to know each other and a 'definition of leadership' discussion. Then Monday continued with communication skills, project management skills and a project management project. With approximately 6 hours or less the group planned to host the Rotary meeting scheduled on Tuesday evening. A highly successful experience, speak to the Rotarians and guests of Sunbury, Romsey-Lancefield, Strathmore-Gladstone Park, Rosanna and Kilmore-Broadford.
Beginning Tuesday morning there were sessions on reaching your potential, positive living, followed by outdoor leadership challenges: flying fox, low ropes and sailing. And so the week unfolded through other leadership content.
The results are an indicator of RYLA's success, therefore, I changed the original plan for this article when I received the following comments by RYLArians. The sponsoring Rotary club is provided after the RYLArian's name. Have a FANTASTIC read!
|"How the RYLA Eperience Changed my Life"|
The RYLA experience has instilled a belief or self-confidence in myself that I have never achieved before.
I always considered myself an introvert and have often found it hard to introduce myself to people and maintain conversations with strangers. RYLA has taught me terrific communication skills that have been invaluable in obtaining a new part-time job outside of a sheltered office environment and into a service industry whereby the effectiveness of the job I perform relies entirely on how I interact with customers.
This self confidence has flowed into my full-time job in the office and has resulted in me not shirking an issue when it comes to things like public speaking or confronting senior management, both of which I would have avoided previously.
Personally, one of the most valuable things that I was able to take away from RYLA is to just be myself. I used to be far too concerned with what views people had of me and would change my image to what I thought was acceptable to them. Since returning from RYLA I have allowed the inner child to surface, acted myself and have found that people will accept you for who you are.
As I write this, it has been 4 weeks since the end of RYLA and the last 4 weeks have simply been the best of my life. My whole attitude towards work, people, conflict, and problems has changed enormously and has resulted in me really enjoying life to the fullest. By learning to look at things in "the big picture" and put them in perspective has reduced my work stress to nil and resulted in much greater job satisfaction.
I wish that everyone could experience what we did at RYLA, because until you do, I think that you may not be living life to your full potential.
Ben Anderson, Kyabram
It was fantastic, a week that has motivated, enlightened and developed me in the fields of personal organisation, communication, teamwork and general management.
A week that is a unique experience, and one that can only truly be recognised through attending and, most importantly, participating. I took part in activities that I have never been apart of before, or undertaken through fear, such as rock climbing.
On the whole, it was a week that has changed my view on life (mine, others and business). I was apart of the development of something special, and something that will never be quite developed again; a formation of a community that had never met before, but came together at the end of the week as a whole. A group that loved each other, respected one-another and had fun together. The creation of friends I will keep in contact with for the rest of my life, and something I can reflect back on and say, 'yeah, I was part of a unique group of people that impacted on each others lives in some form or another'.
Highly recommended and looked upon as being a vital week in my life. Confidence building, self-motivating and an opportunity to develop skills I knew I had in me, but didn't know how quite to generate them into action and being.
Harley Graef, Belvoir-Wodonga
I attended the 7- day RYLA program under the recommendation of my Chief Executive Officer. I had always considered myself to be a leader in my profession of Speech Pathology. I had been involved with leading planning committees for conferences on a state and national level, supervising speech pathology students and lecturing at university and TAFE level. However, I was having difficulties demonstrating these skills in a multidisciplinary situation.
I am employed at a hospital and community health centre in Benalla. This involves working with doctors, nurses, allied health staff, administration staff, clients and their families. I consider myself to be "an enthusiastic organiser" and become disheartened if my skills, and others skills, are not demonstrated to their greatest potential. RYLA allowed me to explore how I feel in such a situation. With the support of the facilitators and my peers, I learned that it is not wrong to be enthusiastic and passionate about what my heart feels is right.
The seminar has allowed me to become a better team leader/player within my workplace by standing up for what I believe would work to make our centre a successful and well respected one.
RYLA has allowed me to take risks within my personal life. Before RYLA, I was not an adventure seeker. I would make up excuses to avoid having to do activities which others regarded as "fun". During my week at RYLA, I went rock climbing, sailing, canoeing and completed a ropes course. These activities allowed me to trust, my own and others judgments of tasks. I am proud that I pushed myself to do such exercises. I proved to myself that I can do anything if I focus on the task and have the passion to succeed.
I would recommend the RYLA program to anyone aged between 18-30 years who wants to learn to lead others, share ideas, challenge themselves and make new friends. RYLA allowed me to unlock the real me and I am not ashamed to say I love who I am.
Sally Eddy, Benalla
Thank you for your encouragement to participate in the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA).
With running my own sole operator business, at first I was very hesitant and concerned to close the business for a week during one of the busiest times of the year. Now after participating and completing RYLA I would not think twice about it as the information provided has changed my life.
My wife noticed a change in me (more relaxed) as soon as I arrived home. My performance, both business and personal, has improved dramatically through a range of skills that were both explained and demonstrated. The only thing that I am disappointed about is that no one advised or told me about RYLA 10 years ago.
The investment of time and finance from both Rotary and myself made this experience invaluable. Over a period of time I have attended a number of seminars in both Melbourne and Sydney with both local and overseas speakers, yet nothing comes close to what I participated in last December. Thank you, Linda and your support team for a FANTASTIC experience.
Stuart Lord, Rotarian and RYLArian, Diamond Creek
A friend of mine who is a RYLArian told me that, RYLA IS LIFE CHANGING. I thought "yeah right". Until I was there.
It is a rare thing to have time out, away from the stresses of everyday life, of work, family and have time just for YOU. RYLA is that for young people. A week of "my time", a week to focus on oneself, to get in touch with our deepest values and beliefs...our passions...what we want out of life. A time where we are pushed to challenge our comfort zones, where being wholly "yourself" is OK...and where you have the support and permission to shine...this is RYLA.
RYLA couldn't have come at a more opportune time for me. It was a perfect conclusion to a year of growth and introspection. Having deferred my studies for 2000 I was 'burnt out' and unsure of what I wanted out of life. RYLA helped me re-ignite my passion for becoming a Doctor...and gave me the knowledge that being "me" is the best thing I can be...
The 3 life circles were a revelation for me. That I need to have balance between personal, community and performance...one of my commitments this year is to strive for that balance - in particular become involved in community service, and at this point I am looking to continue to be involved with RYLA, and will be looking into other youth service groups when I return to Melbourne.
I never thought I'd be able to talk in front of a room full of Rotarians and feel confident.
PEOPLE HAVE UNLIMITED POTENTIAL AND POWER
RYLA helped us to realise this, to make Big Hairy Audacious Goals, to chase our true passions in life, NOT to be limited by the negative voice in your head that says "you can't"... that is powerful realisation ... imagine if all young people knew what we know now! Thank you for giving us that opportunity…!
Alana Johnson, Shepparton South
RYLA has been a milestone in my personal and professional development and my community involvement. It taught me a lot about my self and about others. I've discovered how great it feels to be myself, to reach out of my comfort zone and, so, grow.
I've discovered things within my self that I am proud of and confident about. I see my self and life with different eyes, and now my heart's passion is to help others do the same, live life to the full with courage, gratefulness and first of all a giving attitude.
I learnt that there are no limitations to the human spirit that "whatever your mind can conceive, your heart can achieve" (Winston Marsh, RYLA 2000).
Felicia Davis, Bright
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