2018 Rotaract Conference Wellington, New Zealand
 November 2018  -  Report  for District 9440 Bulletin
“Rotaract is a service club for young people ages 18 to 30 who are dedicated to finding innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges while developing leadership skills and making friends from around the world” (Rotary International, n.d.).
Rotaract New Zealand has significantly evolved over the past 2-3 decades. There has been a significant reduction in members and clubs within New Zealand. As of November 2018, there are only 5 clubs nationwide. This is concerning regarding the viability and sustainability of the Rotaract and Rotary movement within New Zealand. Therefore, in response, a group of dedicated Rotaractors from multiple clubs banded together to present the first national Rotaract Conference in November 2018.
  This was presented as an opportunity to meet Rotaractors from across the country, to meet and listen to a few speakers, and for a few conference participants to participate in a service project.
The Event/Schedule
The conference itself was held in Wellington at Rutherford House, Victoria University of Wellington, Pipitea Campus on the 24th & 25th of November. Additionally, there were pre-conference activities starting on Friday 23rd November in the evening. The schedule (as appended) was well constructed and considerate of the conference participants needs and desires. Having the social meal and drinks on the Friday night was a great introduction as majority of New Zealand Rotaractors hadn’t met Rotaractors outside of their own club/district. Following on to the conference itself, the 10:00 am start was ideal for Rotaractors that were travelling from out of town to arrive. The conference began with Francis Borok giving a warm welcome, swiftly followed by him initiating an icebreaker to facilitate interaction between Rotaractors.
At noon we had our first keynote speaker present. Jennifer Young otherwise known as Jen Y (a play on words because she’s a member of Generation Y/Millennial Generation). Jen works with people to identify what’s holding them back, elevate them to their definition of a deeply fulfilling and deeply impactful lives and regularly obtain clarity, happiness and a sense of ‘thriving’ (Rotaract New Zealand-Facebook Post). Jen delivered a speech on ‘Intentional Impact: How to Make Impact Without Burning Out’, this key note was ideal for the Rotaract audience. Rotaractors as outlined above aim to ‘find innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges while developing leadership skills’, which through Jen’s speech we acknowledged that in the work we are doing through Rotaract as well as for many of the Rotaract population finish university/tertiary education, start a career, start a family, find and develop who we are as young people, etc. this is a significant workload for us. Therefore, Jen’s speech allowed for us to reflect on how we can make an impact without burning out. Jen was great in acknowledging that many of us in the room do a lot but we do it because we enjoy it, therefore instead of telling us to stop or slow down she gave us really great techniques to incorporate into our lives to ensure we are looking after ourselves so that we can do everything that we want to do! She gave us tips on mindfulness, self-care, technology and social media. Jen was a great key note and a highly appropriate choice of speaker for Rotaractors.
Following Jen’s presentation, we had an allotted 1.5-hour lunch which was absolutely amazing. Having such a long lunch period enabled great interaction amongst Rotaractors. There was extensive reflection of what had happened at the conference already and great discussion sharing our own Rotaract club experience. Whilst technically this wasn’t a conference activity for many it was the best bit, to just sit down and hang out with like-minded people with similar interests.
After lunch we had another icebreaker which again highlighted how we were similar as a group but also how we are individuals that each have our own strengths to share. Following that another great part of the conference was the ‘Club Introduction’ presentation. This was a time in a more formal setting for each club to highlight who they were, what they had done, and what they inspire to do. This was great as previously there hasn’t been much interaction between the clubs, so it gave us the opportunity to see what other clubs are doing, celebrate what they have done, and offer support for any struggles that they had highlighted. This activity in reflection was hugely uniting and enabled nationwide bonds of support to develop. Instead of being individual Rotaract clubs we finally had become Rotaract New Zealand which was very exciting to be a part of.
The ‘Club Introductions’ ran a bit overtime, but we ran through the final presentation for ‘What’s happening in the Rotaract World’ and the closing thought/messages of the day. But no long after the closing though/messages we met up again for the conference function at The Backbencher. Again, like the Friday night social we had a great time in a social atmosphere to bond as Rotaract New Zealand.
Day 2 started at the convent time of 11:00 am which suit most as following the social function and all of day 1’s activities many were a bit tired. To kick off day 2 we had another icebreaker however this time the icebreaker was regarding where we identify that we are from. Attending the 2018 Rotaract Conference it was clearly obvious that the demographic of attendees was from all over the globe. Therefore, the icebreaker highlighted our cultural identity differences and sparked great conversation.
Following the morning introductions, we heard another Rotaract presentation but this time on the Pacific Islands Projects. We heard in great depth about how New Zealand Rotaract/Rotary is supporting the Pacific Islands and why support is necessary for the Pacific Islands.
Our second key note speaker of the conference was Chris Desmond, whom Chris started the ‘Uncomfortable is OK’ project Chris has a fascination with how people get out of their comfort zones. He has published over 150 episodes of the "Uncomfortable is OK" podcast where he interviews individuals about how they work through challenges and the discomfort associated with them. He is the director of Uncomfortable Media which aims to make it easier for people to get out of their comfort zones through conversation, community, and challenge. At the Rotaract conference her presented his talk "What's on the Other Side of Fear - and How to Get There". This presentation was hugely impactful for the conference attendees as being in Rotaract it can require you to push into the other side of fear, whether that is leading a project or simply speaking at a meeting. Chris gave un inspirational insight into how we grow in our panic zone rather than our comfort zone and he encouraged us to keep excelling in the uncomfortable.
Finally, we had a local wellington interact club come and do a slight presentation about what interact is. This was great as a proportion of conference attendees hadn’t heard of interact and it was awesome to have an opportunity to meet the next generation of Rotaractors. However, in having the Interactors come it did highlight the absence of Rotary. In future years it was acknowledged that it would be great to have a greater Rotary influence as technically we are the future generation of Rotarians.
And then it came time to say goodbye…it had been a great weekend. A conference where friends were made, things were learnt, ideas generated, and inspiration hatched. Many bids were made by the other Rotaract clubs regarding hosting next year’s conference.
Concluding thoughts
A great first conference, many things learnt and gained, and for all involved looking forward to next years.