District 70 History
- The Early Days of Toastmasters in Australia, 1957 - 1971
- The Foundation Years of District 70, 1971 - 1976
- The Consolidation Years in NSW and the ACT, 1976 - 1980
- The First Distinguished Years, 1981 - 1988
- The Final Distinguished Years, 1989 - 1996
- Further Consolidation, 1997 - 2004
- Growth Resumes, 2005 - date
1. The Early Days of Toastmasters in Australia, 1957 - 1971
The first Toastmasters Club to be formed in Australia was Wollongong Toastmasters Club. This Club received its charter in August 1957. Whilst Wollongong was the first Club to be chartered in Australia, a Toastmasters group had met earlier in Melbourne but it did not charter. The second Club in NSW, Sydney Toastmasters, followed in October 1958. The third Club to be established in NSW was Cronulla, which was formed in July 1960.
Meanwhile in Queensland Toowoomba Toastmasters had received their Charter in February 1958, being followed by Coolabah in September 1961 and Brisbane Central in June 1962.
Toastmasters in the other States started with Naracoorte Club, South Australia in December 1961, Tasmanian Club (Launceston), Tasmania in January 1962 and Melbourne Club, Victoria in December 1962.
All these early Clubs were formed quite separately to each other, generally by people who had gained Toastmasters experience in the USA
1962 saw a major expansion of Clubs in the Sydney area when Cronulla RSL, Port Hacking, Bankstown, Concord West, Keira, North Shore and Miranda were chartered.
Even in these early days, a need for an umbrella organisation covering all Clubs was recognised. In 1959 the Toastmasters Territorial Council of Australia (TCA) was established, although it was not officially recognised by Toastmasters International (TI) until 23rd August 1963 when there were 18 Clubs. TCA covered all Clubs in Australia, but the Clubs in NSW, being concentrated in the Sutherland Shire played an important role in the running of TCA.
By 1964 there were 22 Clubs in Australia and 13 in what is now District 70. In that year we received our first official visit from an International President, Alex P. Smekta. New Club formation continued steadily during the rest of the 1960's and 1966 was a particularly spectacular year with 7 Clubs being chartered in NSW alone.
By the end of 1968, Clubs had been established in many parts of Sydney as well as in Wollongong, Newcastle, Tamworth, Gosford and Taree.
The election of the first TCA National President, Graham Morton in 1959 preceded the first TCA Convention in Wollongong in 1960. Jim Player of Sydney Club was the winner of the first TCA Speech Contest that year and the first recipient of the Wollongong Trophy.
By 1969 a program of annual Conventions had become well established. The 10th Convention was held at the Hotel Manly, being hosted by Karingal Club. A total of 186 Toastmasters attended, representing 46 Clubs in 6 States. Also attending the Convention was the 2nd International President to visit Australia, Earl M. Potter and his wife Helen, while Manly featured on the front cover of the May issue of The Toastmaster magazine as "Town of the Month".
In 1969 TCA formed the Clubs into Areas in all States of Australia, with the Clubs in NSW being grouped into 9 Areas numbered 201 to 209. The Areas in the other States were also given 3 digit numbers, the first digit in each case corresponding to the first digit in the State's postcode. In addition to a National President, a Senior Vice-President and Divisional Vice Presidents for Northern NSW, Southern NSW, Queensland and the Southern States were elected by TCA members.
However, despite the sterling efforts of these office bearers and the Area Governors, administration by TCA was becoming increasingly difficult because of the huge geographical distances involved. Imagine the logistics of attending Conventions at such varied venues as Sylvania, Brampton Island, Melbourne, Newport and Launceston in the years between 1963 to 1971!
In 1970 the TCA Semi-Annual Meeting passed a resolution asking Toastmasters International to approve the division of Australia into 2 Councils. Fortunately at the same time, changes were occurring within Toastmasters that opened up the way for Districts to be formed outside North America.
So the 1971 Convention at Surfers Paradise was the final meeting of the Toastmasters Council of Australia before Districts 69 and 70 were formed. District 69 covered Australia north of the 30th parallel (in effect Queensland and Northern NSW) and District 70 covered the rest of Australia south of the 30th parallel.
At the time of their formation in 1971, District 70 had 45 Clubs and District 69 had 32 Clubs.
The area covered by District 70 was still huge, comprising most of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. But the beginnings of District 70 as we know it today had been put in place and Toastmasters in Australia had taken a giant step forward.
2. The Foundation Years Of District 70, 1971 - 1976
Under the guiding hand of the first District Governor, Tom Stubbs, District 70 established 3 Divisions covering Northern NSW, Southern NSW and the Southern States. Each Division had 4 Areas with NSW covered by Areas 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 208, 209 and 210. The Clubs in Area 206 (Northern NSW) were transferred to District 69 while the Clubs in Area 207 were transferred to other Areas in District 70. Area 210 was established to cover Clubs on the North Shore.
Distance was still a problem in District administration, particularly in the years 1973 - 1975 when District Governors were elected from Launceston, Newcastle and Melbourne respectively. And some Conferences were still hard to get to for the average Toastmaster in NSW, particularly those held in Warburton, Victoria in 1973 and in Mount Gambier, South Australia in 1975.
Available funds were limited and tended to get swallowed up in travel so that District 70 was not able to give the same assistance to clubs as that which is available today.
As the District Executive could not meet regularly in the early 70's, the host Club undertook all arrangements for the Annual Conference. An example of this was the organisation of the first District 70 Conference held at the old Carrington Hotel in Katoomba in May 1972. This Conference was organised entirely by host Club Parramatta and set many of the precedents adopted in the following Conferences. One innovation introduced at the Katoomba Conference was the District Humorous Speech Contest. In those days the speech length was 3 minutes and Clubs entered their contestants directly into the Conference Humorous Speech Contest, which was held on the Friday evening, often before a small audience.
Because Parramatta were the current Club Champions as well as Conference hosts, Parramatta was chosen to be the 2nd Australian town featured on the front cover of The Toastmaster magazine as "Town of the Month", being the November 1972 issue.
Before 1973, Toastmasters was all male so the Katoomba Conference had special ladies activities for members' wives. Elizabeth Wilson, later to become our first female District Governor in 1987, was Chairman of the Ladies Committee at that Conference.
However some ladies were determined to find their way into Toastmasters ranks so some members names appeared as B. Smith on the records before Toastmasters International allowed women to become members. Clubs still had to amend their By-Laws to permit women members to join after 1973, While many Clubs changed in the next 10 years and all new Clubs formed after 1975 were mixed, it took 20 years before all the male only Clubs finally made the change to admit women.
In the period 1971 - 1976 Club growth in NSW was steady but not spectacular. All of the new Club growth was in Sydney except for Woden Valley, which chartered in 1973 and was the first of many Clubs that now exist in Canberra. Henry Parkes was a country Club formed in 1974 but it folded ten years later.
In the Southern States Club growth was also continuing steadily with 15 new charters granted in Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia between 1971 and 1976.
This growth added to the geographical problems of a District that extended from Sydney to Perth. So moves were initiated in the mid 1970's to establish the Southern States Division as a separate District. At the same time, representations were made to the Board of Directors to permit a representative of the Australasian Districts to enter the International Speech Contest. The proposal was that the Districts would organise an Inter-District Speech Contest to select a single representative and meet all costs.
The Board of Directors responded favourably to these proposals. They agreed to send International President George C. Scott and his wife Elaine to attend the inaugural Down Under Convention and Inter-District Speech Contest held at The Wentworth Hotel, Sydney in May 1976 so that he could help in the creation of the new Districts.
The Southern States Division became Provisional District 73, being established on July 1, 1976 with 22 Clubs. The reformed District 70 was confined to NSW and the ACT and contained 41 Clubs. A Western Division was added to the Northern and Southern Divisions at that time.
So 1976 was a great year for District 70 when the new boundaries allowed the potential for growth that was to occur in future years.
3. The Consolidation Years in NSW and the ACT, 1976 - 1980
The period from 1976 to 1980 was one of consolidation for District 70. Now that the District boundaries were confined to NSW and ACT, the District administration became more cohesive and effective. District officers were becoming more visible and the District Governor and Educational and Administrative Lt. Governors were able to attend Area Councils, Division Speech Contests and Training Sessions.
District Speechcraft was commenced in 1977 and this provided the District with a source of income additional to that received from Toastmasters International out of membership fees. These extra funds were used to establish the District Supplies Office and to send the District Governor to the International Convention. The Supplies Office, which was taken over by Ray Toyer in 1978, also became a source of funds for District 70 as well as providing ready access to materials for Districts 69 and 73. Prior to this, Clubs had to order supplies from the United States and endure long delays and customs problems.
Among the many goals set by the District Executive was that of achieving the status of Distinguished District. Clubs were also encouraged to use the Distinguished Club Plan that later became the Club Management Plan.
One early obstacle in the achievement of Distinguished District was that many Clubs were late in paying their Semi-Annual dues direct to Toastmasters International. Much time was spent chasing wayward Clubs.
The problem of late payment of dues was solved by the introduction of local collection that was carried out initially by the District Secretary. A Staff Officer was appointed later which enabled the District to closely monitor this aspect.
The next obstacle in reaching Distinguished District level was in achieving the required goal in the number of Able Toastmasters and so demonstrating that District 70 Clubs were effective in providing advanced speaking opportunities. This required greater awareness and promotion of the whole Toastmasters education program.
Educational sessions were introduced at Semi-Annual Conferences and the District Executive took over the organisation and presentation of the sessions at Annual Conferences. This facilitated the communication of the whole Toastmasters program at all levels of the organisation, as well as helping to identify and encourage the keener members of Clubs, Areas and Divisions for future District involvement.
During this period the Australia Day Public Speaking Contest was commenced. This was a public relations venture undertaken in conjunction with District 73. It was launched in District 70 in 1979 and ran for five years. Each year nearly 100 people entered both the Youth and Adult sections.
District 70 came close to achieving Distinguished District level in 1979/80 when it fell short by 3 Able Toastmaster awards. In the 1980/81 District year under District Governor Geoff Henson, District 70 finally achieved Distinguished District status, becoming the first District outside North America to achieve this.
In 1981 District 70 consisted of 61 Clubs in 3 Divisions and 13 Areas and the District was poised for a period of great growth.
4. The First Distinguished District Years, 1981 - 1988
In 1978 Long-Range Planning Chairman Gary Wilson presented a growth plan for District 70 with the title "90 by 1990". At that time District 70 had 49 Clubs and 90 Clubs was then considered more of a dream than a realistic goal. However, the slogan "90 by 1990" was enthusiastically adopted and rapid growth occurred throughout the District.
The most spectacular expansion occurred in Canberra between 1982 and 1984, in Newcastle and the North from 1984 to 1986 and steadily in the Sydney CBD. The massive new Club growth resulted in the establishment of Central Division in 1983, Monaro Division in 1984 and Hawkesbury Division in 1985. The number of Areas increased to 23. The chartering of other Clubs in their vicinity boosted formerly lone Clubs such as Tamworth, Taree RSL and Orange, while the establishment of Wagga Wagga Club extended the southern point of the District even further.
The result of all this activity was that the 90 Club goal was reached late in 1985. By mid 1988 the District had grown to 120 Clubs and when 1990 finally arrived there were 140 Clubs!
The achievement of Distinguished District in 1981 was not just a matter of status for District 70 in the world of Toastmasters International. Because the District was achieving its goals in Club growth, CTMs, ATMs, Speechcraft and Youth Leadership, growth was accelerating in all areas of District activity.
Many more Staff Officers were appointed to handle specialist and administrative roles. This allowed the senior District Officers to spend more time coordinating and administering the District Executive and to attend the many Area and Division Contests and Training Sessions that were being held.
The Down Under Conventions continued as an unofficial Regional style get together and Speech Contest to decide which contestant would participate in the World Championship of Public Speaking from the Australasian Districts, Districts 69, 70, 72 and 73. These Conventions rotated amongst the 4 Districts. Every 4th year when the Convention was hosted by District 70, the International President attended since the Sydney Convention was always the largest and most prestigious of these Conventions. The Presidents attending were Eric Stuhlmueller and his wife Lil at the Sydney Hilton in 1980, Eddie Dunn and his wife Beverley at the Sydney Hilton in 1984 and John Fauvel at the Hyatt Kings Cross in 1988. In the 1980's Training was introduced at the Down Under Conventions for the incoming Senior Officers of each District.
The District 70 Governor had been attending International Conventions in the United States since 1978 and it became common for many other District 70 Toastmasters to attend as well. This gave support to the Down Under contestants in the International Speech Contest Finals and also made the votes of the Australian Districts important in International Convention elections.
The success of District 70 finalists in the Down Under Speech Contests and the subsequent International Finals was rewarded in 1981 when Ken Bernard of Deadline (now Professional Speakers) Club became the World Champion of Public Speaking. District 70 was a force to be recognised!
With the establishment, consolidation and structuring behind it, District 70 in the 1980's began to match the top North American Districts in overall performance, although they had been existence over 30 years earlier.
The achievement of minimum goals for Distinguished District became an accepted standard and higher recognition naturally beckoned. The next few years were to be the "golden years" for the District.
In 1983/84, District Governor Ted Mackness led the District into 11th place in the world and the status of Select Distinguished District.
The 1985/86 team, with John Fairman as District Governor, made it to the highest category of President's Distinguished District (placed sixth) as well as winning all available awards at the Reno Convention, being President's 20+, President's Club extension (17 new Clubs) and Top Ten Bulletin.
In 1986/87, with John Keen as District Governor, District 70 achieved Select Distinguished District, being placed in 11th spot.
Then in 1987/88 the District team, led by the first female District 70 Governor Elizabeth Wilson, again achieved Select Distinguished District, being placed in 9th spot.
In 1982 Ken Rennie (District Governor, 1981/82) became the first Australian to be elected to the International Board of Directors and Gary Wilson (District Governor, 1982/83) followed him in 1986. Both members came from Parramatta Club.
In 1985, TI created the President's 20+ Award. This is presented to the 3 Districts with the highest percentage of Clubs over Charter strength. District 70 was an initial winner of the award in 1985, receiving it again in 1986, 1987, and 1988 when the District was rated No. 1 in the world for membership. That was the year that the District reached its all time peak in TI's two membership criteria of average members per Club (25) and percentage of Clubs at Charter strength (72.8%) as at 30 June, the end of the District year.
Because of its growth, District 70 moved into the top 15 Districts in size in this period. But it was consistently listed in the top few Districts for Speechcraft, Youth Leadership and Success/Leadership programs on a program per Club basis. District 70 News also became a Top Ten District Bulletin for the first time, the four Editors to be honoured being Joy Augustessen, (1984/85), Gary Wilson (1985/86), Ted Mackness (1986/87) and Geoff Wood (1987/88).
By 1988, District 70 was recognised as a cohesive District with a great District/Club culture whose performances led the world. The other Districts outside North America, many of whom in turn had major growth spurts and successes in the 1990s, closely copied the culture and ideas pioneered in District 70.
5. The Final Distinguished District Years, 1989 - 1996
The early 90s were steady years of achievement and growth, although some of the team cohesion that had been a feature of the previous years started to disappear. For the 5 years 1989 - 1993, District 70 was a Distinguished District each year and the Club numbers rose steadily to reach 172 in mid 1993. This led to the creation of Phillip Division in 1993, at which time the number of Areas increased to 34.
The concept of Toastmasters week was started in 1989, and this has been held in the February/March period in most years since. District Sunday Seminars had also started in 1986 and in the next few years were very well attended. As attendances fell, a Speakers Showcase was added in 1992. The combination of Seminar and Showcase has continued in most years since, being held throughout at the Bankstown Sports Club.
In 1991, the District moved into the group of Top Ten Districts by size. The only major award received in this period was for District 70 News, which was a Top 10 District Bulletin in 1992/93 with Pixie Fagen as Editor. The educational performance from Clubs remained strong in CTMs, ATMs, DTMs and in Speechcraft, Youth Leadership and Success/Leadership, maintaining the District's leading status on a world basis in these areas.
In 1993 there were 2 special events of note. On the weekend of 5th to 7th February, Nigel Bryan, a member of St. Vincent's Private Hospital Club, talked himself into the Guinness Book of Records. He did this by setting a new world record for the longest after dinner speech, speaking for 50 hours 40 minutes to an audience that at all times included at least 10 people who attended the opening meal function. In this case it was a formal breakfast.
Then in October 1993, the District had visit from the International President Neil Wilkinson and his wife Jean. They attended a round of functions in a busy four day period.
The 1989 Down Under Convention in Brisbane was the last major one held. From 1990, all Districts outside North America were invited to send a speech contestant to participate in an Inter-District Contest to be held at the beginning of the International Convention. Prior to this, a more limited contest had been held at the DTM luncheon where the sole Down Under representative spoke against the representatives of the other 3 overseas Districts (71, 74 and 75 at that time) for the right to compete in the world final.
With this change, TI also decided to introduce formal training for the top 3 officers of each overseas District before the start of the International Convention. The Regional Speech Contest and the training of top officers are the 2 major activities at the 8 Regional Conferences in North America. Thus although not a formal region, from 1990 the overseas Districts enjoyed all the benefits of the other Districts. The attendance of Toastmasters from the overseas Districts at the International Convention also increased, so that the organisation became much more visibly an international one.
In 1994 the District commenced another growth spurt. The 1993/94 team, with Lynda Parsons as District Governor, made it to the highest category of President's Distinguished District (placed fourth) as well as winning the President's Club Extension award with a net growth of 16 Clubs.
In 1994/95, with Pamella Vernon as District Governor, District 70 achieved Select Distinguished District, being placed in 8th spot with a net growth of 10 Clubs.
Then in 1995/96 the District team, led by Brian Keane achieved President's Distinguished District, being placed in 5th spot. The District also won the President's Club Extension award with net growth of 15 Clubs, taking the District over the 200 mark to 213 Clubs. This made the District the 3rd largest in the world where there were now 74 Districts.
This was to be the final year that District 70 was a Distinguished District, bringing to an end a record of 16 successive years of Distinguished District achievement. This equalled the record for all Districts in the history of Toastmasters International.
6. Further Consolidation, 1997 - 2004
The growth in Clubs was to continue for another year, as in 1996/97 the District again won the President's Club Extension award with a net growth of 8 Clubs to reach 224. However, while the total number of Clubs and members had been increasing each year, the average membership per Club was falling slightly but steadily through the 1990s. In particular there were significant drops in 1994 to 1997. This downwards trend caught up with the District in 1998, when new Club formation was not able to make up the membership fall in existing Clubs. The end result was that the District finished 19 per capita payments short of its Distinguished District goal of 9738.
One result of the growth in clubs from 1993 to 1997 was the need to create a new Division and to reorganise the other Divisions. After two years of study, Eastern Division was created in 1998 and the number of Areas increased to 43. A rationalisation of Areas was made between most of the other Divisions. Sydney Harbour and the Parramatta River were used as a major demarcation line between the Divisions, with 4 Divisions being located to the north and 4 to the south of this line. This was the first time in the District's history that at least one Division did not spread across this natural boundary.
Since 1997 the District again moved into a consolidation phase. Club numbers reached a peak of 227 in 2000 but then fell slightly each year to a low of 211 in 2003. New Clubs continued to be formed, but at not enough rate to replace weaker ones that folded. Membership in the Clubs continued to fall, with the average membership per club falling steadily to 2001. The loss of weak clubs saw this trend reverse in 2002, with the average club membership increasing over the previous year for the first time in over a decade.
Despite this negative membership trend, the educational performance in these years continued to be outstanding. From 1997-99, the District was the No. 1 District in the world each year for ATMs and in the top 3 for CTMs while the DTM performance was equally outstanding as it had been for over 15 years, averaging 21 per year for those 3 years. The District then slid back from being the 3rd largest District by Club numbers and membership as its membership dropped and other Districts grew. By 2004 the District was 9th by Clubs (215) and 11th by membership in size, being placed 12th with CTMs and 7th with ATMs.
In July 1999 TI modified the Distinguished District Plan and stopped monitoring achievements in DTMs, Speechcraft, Youth Leadership and Success/Leadership on a District wide basis. However, the District's performance continued to be strong in these other educational programs. TI also removed Speechcraft, Youth Leadership and Success/Leadership from the Distinguished Club Program. This was part of a change to make Toastmasters a narrower, mission focussed organisation with particular emphasis on the critical success factors at both Club and District level.
At the same time new leadership awards were introduced in the Competent Leader and Advanced Leader awards and the requirements for the DTM award were changed. It took a while for members to take to these awards, but by 2002 they had become well established.
7. Growth Resumes, 2005 - date
The first sign of a turnaround in performance occurred in 2003 when the percentage of clubs at 20+ (as of 30 June) rose back over 50% for the first time since 1997. This was the only year, in those 8 years of not being Distinguished, that the District achieved its per capita membership goal.
The next year saw a further slight improvement in clubs and membership. Then in 2004/05 District 70 once again became a Distinguished District with Reg Stewart as District Governor. Club numbers recovered to the previous high of 227. It was also the 25th successive year in which the District had met its educational goals. A highlight of the year was a visit by the Immediate Past International President, Ted Corcoran of Ireland, who attended the Annual Conference in Canberra.
The 2005/06 year was a rather dramatic one for the District. The previous year the District had started enrolling participants of District Speechcraft courses into Clubs around the District in order to make the speechcrafters members of Toastmasters. This was queried in 2006 and the procedures used to do this were found to be contrary to Toastmasters policy. As a result the District was disqualified from the Distinguished District Program due to the violation of the program rules in relation to membership of the organisation. This was a dramatic action, especially when the performance of the District, even without the enrolment of speechcrafters would have been enough to make the District Select Distinguished.
The District did start a spurt of real net growth in that year though, something that was to continue over the next 2 years such that the District grew from 227 clubs in 2005 to 249 clubs in 2008. The culmination of this saw the District become Distinguished again in 2007/08 with Sue Haynes as District Governor. The Annual Conference in April 2008 also featured a Presidential visit by International President Chris Ford.
At this Conference, President Ford announced that Elizabeth Wilson had been appointed as The Host District Chairman for the Toastmasters International Convention to be held in Sydney in 2010. This was to be the first Toastmasters Convention ever to be held outside North America. Elizabeth assembled a strong team, including representatives from the other Australian Districts and they organised a promotion for Sydney at the 2008 Convention in Calgary. Thus it was a major disappointment when, in late 2008, Toastmasters International cancelled Sydney as the Convention site for 2010, reverting to the long-standing practice of having Conventions only in North America.
The following 4 years saw continued growth within the District, with the District being Distinguished for the 5 years from 2007 to 2012. As a result the District received the Excellence in Leadership Award for being Distinguished for 3 consecutive years for the last 3 of those terms.
In 2011 two new Divisions in Oxley and Lachlan were introduced. The split of Northern into Northern and Oxley was intended to make the Areas in the far north more manageable and the introduction of Lachlan was necessary because of the great growth in Central (especially in the CBD) and Phillip Divisions.
In 2012/13 there was again good club growth but the District missed its membership target. However, by this time the District had grown to 301 clubs. In recognition of all this growth, the August 2012 meeting of the Board of Directors instructed the District to form a Reformation Committee to make a proposal to reform the District into 2 new districts. A reformation strategy was prepared and after extensive consultation around the District, this was adopted in November 2013 and then approved by the Board of Directors in February 2014.
District 70 today is a tribute to the thousands of members who have passed through its Clubs in the last 50 years and who have contributed in their own ways to the growth and establishment of Toastmasters as the leading communication and leadership training organisation in New South Wales and ACT.
This history has been compiled, revised and added to over many years. Our thanks are extended to those who made their records available, contributed research, and wrote and edited the material. In particular, thanks go to Wal Roberts, Ray Toyer, Peter Leney, John Fairman, Gary Wilson, Elizabeth Wilson and Geoff Wood.