The extraordinary work undertaken by Rotary International over the past three decades towards eradicating polio worldwide is an achievement that every one of Australia’s polio survivors is aware of and fully supports. No one who lived through the pre-vaccine epidemics ever wants to witness the effects of this vicious virus on the community again.

End Polio Now

However, in addition to the lengthy “End Polio Now” campaign, Rotary International has an even longer history with polio than you might know, having helped establish community organisations over 80 years ago to support Australian children and adults who had contracted polio.

In 1925 the Rotary Club of Sydney sent one of its Directors, Mr B R Gelling, to the USA to examine the support that Rotary was then providing to polio survivors. There he was introduced by Paul Harris (Rotary’s founder) to Mr Edgar ‘Daddy’ Allen who had recently established the National Society for Crippled Children. Paul Harris and Edgar Allen were fellow Rotarians and close friends and in the early 1930s framed the Declaration of Rights of Crippled Children. Paul Harris became the Patron of the National Crippled Children’s Society and for the rest of his life maintained a keen interest in the support of polio survivors.

In December 1929 the Rotary Club of Sydney convened a meeting of ‘concerned citizens’ in the Sydney Town Hall and as a result the New South Wales Society for Crippled Children was established. The then President of Sydney Rotary Club, Sir Henry Braddon, became the first President of the fledgling New South Wales Society for Crippled Children. In fact, of the seven state wide community organisations around Australia once known as “Crippled Children Societies”, six were established by Rotary.

Polio Australia is now inviting Rotary International’s Australian Districts and Clubs to explore strengthening relations with polio survivors in the following ways:

Invite a polio survivor to speak at your Club. Contact Polio Australia to book.

Challenge your Rotary Club members to see how many polio survivors they know of and/or can track down to sign them up to the Australian Polio Register. This might entail sourcing people through links with other clubs, especially those that attract a high number of retired people such as golf clubs, or aged care facilities, and other community services.

Registrations can either be completed online, or by downloading the paper version which can then be posted back to: Polio Australia, PO Box 500, Kew East, Victoria, 3102.

Polio Australia has included a section in the “How did you hear about the Australian Polio Register” section of the Registration Form where registrants can select “Rotary” and provide details of the Club which made them aware of the Register. This will help to track which Rotary Clubs are most active.

The Australian Polio Register was set up in October 2010 as a vital tool to capture statistical details of polio survivors living in Australia today – there is no other Australian registry recording this information.

Read more about Rotary’s links with Australia’s polio survivors in Rotary Down Under – October 2013.


Rotary and Polio Australia – Working Together

Mary-ann Liethof doing a Rotary presentation
Mary-ann Liethof doing a Rotary presentation
Launch of the "Touched by Polio" Art Exhibition
Launch of the
Rotary Club of Kew supporting Polio Australia at Bunnings Sausage Sizzle
Rotary Club of Kew supporting Polio Australia at Bunnings Sausage Sizzle
Rotary Club of Kew supporting Polio Australia at Bunnings Sausage Sizzle
Rotary Club of Kew supporting Polio Australia at Bunnings Sausage Sizzle
Dr John Tierney with David Clark, President of the Rotary Club of Cessnock
Dr John Tierney with David Clark, President of the Rotary Club of Cessnock
Sue MacKenzie (right) with Denise Mitchell, President of the Mulgrave Rotary Club, Cairns
Sue MacKenzie (right) with Denise Mitchell, President of the Mulgrave Rotary Club, Cairns
George Laszuk mans Polio Australia Stand - Rotary International Convention, Sydney
George Laszuk mans Polio Australia Stand - Rotary International Convention, Sydney

Rotary Support for Polio Australia Activities

Polio Australia particularly thanks the Rotary Club of Kew for their generous support with the following activities:

  • Ongoing – Mentoring Polio Australia’s staff in networking opportunities with Rotary International
  • March 2013 – “Touched by Polio: from casts to catharsis” art exhibition and fundraising auction
    • donated finger food and beverages
    • rostered volunteers to prepare and serve food, clean and pack up
    • purchased artwork
  • December 2013 & October 2014 – “Bunnings Sausage Sizzle” fundraisers

Rotary Contributions in Support of Polio Survivors

We would like to thank the following Rotary Clubs for their generous donations in support of Polio Australia’s work on behalf of all Australian polio survivors:

2014 – donations to date: $16,250

2013 – total donations: $4,700