Club History

By July 1st. 1957, there were in the world, 9,507 Rotary Clubs with 450,000 Rotarians. During that year 376 new Rotary Clubs in 376 countries received Charters.

One of these clubs was the Rotary Club of Port Moresby and thus Rotary came to, as it then was, Papua.

2 years later, and odd as it may seem to us, on Boxing Day, 26th December 1959, Rotary first came to the Territory of New Guinea, when both the Rotary Clubs of Lae and Goroka received Charters on the same day.

Largely instrumental in the beginnings of Rotary in what is now Papua New Guinea, and certainly in the formation of the Rotary Club of Lae, was a North Queensland Rotarian, Past District Governor Lex Fraser of Ingham.

PDG Lex’s report on Rotary in Papua and New Guinea tells of the first talk being with the then R.I. President during a visit of his to North Queenlsand when lex told him that he would like to investigate the possibility of extending into that area. The President, Cliff Randall, told Lex if he got to Port Moresby, a personal note would be appreciated on his findings.

Lex did in fact visit Port Moresby to fins that a Club of sorts had been formed which by direct petition to Rotary international eventually received its Charter and their “enthusiasm was of the highest order”.

But while there he was, in his own terms “shanghaied” by Tom Abberton and taken to Goroka on a Charter flight of a Rugby League team. Tom rapidly rounded-up a group of professional and business men in Goroka and held a meeting with Lex lasting 4-5 hours.

We presume this Charter took place, as used to be the fashion, as a weekend trip and Lex after his return to Port Moresby was phoned by Tom on Wednesday to say a Provisional Club had been formed in Goroka on Monday.

From Port Moresby, Lex traveled again to Lae, where with the help of the “Lik-Lik Administrator” Horrie Niall a further Club was formed with David Dickie as Charter President.

He further traveled on to other centers and as a Special Representative was over other trips to PNG, responsible for the extension of Rotary not only into Goroka and Lae but also into Rabaul, Madang, Mount Hagen, Wewak, and for the second Port Moresby Club, Boroko.

At the time of receiving its Charter, the Rotary Club of Lae had 20 Charter members in the persons and Classifications as follow:

LEA ASHTON (Motor Freight Transpotation), JIM BIRRELL (Garage and Service Station), JOHN BAKER (Department Stores), KEITH BRYANT (Government Banking), DAVID DICKIE (Baking Retail), JACK FELL (Building Construction), JIM JACOBSEN (Farming), TED LYLE (Customs Brokerage), PHIL LUCAS (Logging), JOHN McKENNARIEY (Agricultural Extension), HORRIE NIALL (Government Administration), TOM PASSMORE (Department of Works), BRIAN SEALY (Insurance Life), ERIC STENE (Banking Private), DICK TEBB (Ocean Shipping), BILL STUART (Plumbing), TONY TONAKIE (Physician & Surgeon), DES WEST (Brewing), KEN WORRALL (Drugs Retailing), DON WILLIAMS (Oil Refined Products Distributing).

It was not possible to hold the Charter Dinner over the Christmas break or soon after (there being an even greater exodus of people to Australia in those days than there is now), and due to the need to have Lex Fraser travel again for this Dinner, the actual Charter Night was held back until 25 May, 1960. By this time the continuing enthusiasm had brought in further new members, who although not recognized as Charter members, were present on the night.

They were:

DES ASHTON (Native Affairs), JIM BLAIR (Publishing), GREG GOUDIE (Hardware Retailing), DICK LOWE (Electric Light and Power), REA OBERG (Trade Schools), TOM RICHARDS (Surveying), BRIAN TODD (Physician and Surgeon), ERIC WILSON (Department of Agriculture), PHIL MILLER (Air transportation), TOM GLASSON (Government Banking), DICK DAVIS (Accounting Service), KEITH BRADFORD (Logging), JIM HOLLAND (Agricultural Equipment Retailing), HARRY STARR (Motion Picture Theatres).

The Rotary Club met in the early years at the Huon Gulf Motel where a very pleasant small function room was located where the “pokies” room is now. This room comfortably seated numbers of around 40-45, had privacy and a piano which got regular and extensive use during the Club Assemblies held quarterly which extended well into the night (or morning).

As numbers continued to grow it became necessary to move to the “Lae Lodge” which had been extended and renovated. This venue was originally the Qantas Crew and Visitor Accommodation in Lae, had later become the TAA Lodge and subsequently the Lae Lodge.

It was demolished and re-built as the Lae International Hotel on the same site where the Club now continues to meet.

The Club continued its growth from this beginning and membership peaked in 1981-82 with 64 active members but this was in the era where a large number of Lae Business managers were expatriates of long term residence who considered Lae to be home.

The time of the departure of these people and their replacement with 2 or 3 year Contract Managers, resulted in a decline of commitment of such people to the Community and a subsequent loss of members over the years.

The localization of senior positions has also had its effect with those taking senior positions having no background of such organizations and work pressures on those promoted considerable enough without further involvement in Service Clubs. There are now signs that this is under change and the more relaxed senior staff now appointed are both able and interested in serving the Community.

All Clubs in Papua New Guinea have felt the same pressures in recent years, some are now history and some have almost reached extinction before being resurrected and reconstructed.

Let us sincerely hope so since the future of Rotary in Lae, and indeed throughout Papua New Guinea depends on such members being attracted to, and taking a leadership role, in Community Service.


After the initial involvement of PDG Lex Fraser, a period of stabilization saw no further chartering of Clubs in PNG for some years, but when some growth did occur again, the Lae Club was to the fore in the extension to 4 new Clubs.

There has been some misunderstanding of Lae’s role in these and we have been wrongly cited as “starting” those Clubs. This is simply not true and the record may now be straightened.

While Rotary in Papua and the Territory of New Guinea had been originally attached to North Queensland, it soon became apparent in Australia that our Rotarians in fact had more and more useful contact with Rotary in Brisbane. In those days regular air services did not operate to Cairns but all flights were to Brisbane or Sydney.

It was decided to link what had since become, at the instigation of the Australian Government under Foreign Minister Ceb Barnes, the Territory of Papua & New Guinea (TPNG), to Brisbane and to District 560, later to become 960 and now 9600. So our District Governor’s were from Brisbane and made the trip to PNG, usually for the Annual PNG Forum of Rotary and again for the Official District Governor’s Club Visit.


In 1981, the then District Governor (late) Ken Campbell had received an approach directly from Paul Coffey of Bulolo with a proposal to form a club in Bulolo and/or Wau. Paul had already had discussions with a number of residents of these two towns some 25 Km apart, and had the nucleus of an interested group ready to go.

During his visit to Lae and in his meeting with the Board of the Club, Ken suggested that, as required by Rotary International, there should be a sponsoring Club and that Lae was the most obvious sponsor.

The Club delightedly accepted the responsibility for the guidance and direction of the new Club, but, to repeat, were not the instigators in the formation. The Provisional Rotary Club of Bulolo-Wau became a reality and D.G. Ken asked Lae Rotarian Dennis Bradney, again in accordance with R.I. requirements of the time, to act as his Special Representative in guidance and formation of the new Club.

This involved the attendance of the Special Rep at formative meetings over a period of a minimum of 5-6 weeks, imparting to the Club knowledge of the rules and objectives of Rotary, the acceptance of Classifications to R.I.’s approval, the format and formality of meetings, etc..

The entire Rotary Club of Lae got behind the Special Rep and for the period of the Provisional Club’s existence Lae Rotarians weekly traveled to Bulolo or Wau in numbers ranging from 5-12 to attend and support the meetings. They travelled sometimes by road and on a number of occasions by Chartered Flight, arriving in either Bulolo or Wau at around 11.30am and departing again around 1.30pm.

The new Club received its Charter on 22nd March 1982 and one of Rotary’s most memorable occasions in PNG was the Charter Night of the Club at the Bulolo Golf Club on 17th April, 1982, attended by well over 100 people and almost a very strong contingent from Lae as well as Rotarians from other PNG centers.

D.G. Ken Campbell came from Brisbane to present the Charter to the Club and the then Governor General of Papua New Guinea, Sir Tore Lokoloko travelled specially to Bulolo for the occasion.


While the formation of the Bulolo-Wau was still under way, early in 1982 the Rotary Club of Mount Hagen, through John Farmer, one of its former members now based in Kundiawa, agreed to sponsor a club in Kundiawa and District Governor Ken readily agreed.

As a result D.G. Ken asked Lae Rotarian Dennis, to continue to act as Special representative for this Club also, and once again the Lae club collectively and universally got involved in this Club, even though this time the impetus sprang from John Farmer and sponsorship came from Mount Hagen.

The same process was followed in the Club’s formation and Lae Rotarians again assisted the Special Rep by traveling to attend the Provisional Club’s meetings as well as traveling in numbers to attend yet another memorable Charter Night in the second half of 1982 in the Chimbu Lodge – this time for Charter presentation by 9600 District Governor Ray Skilbeck who had succeeded D.G. Ken in that position.

Sadly this Club has lapsed some years ago through lack of interest of businessmen and professionals in Kundiawa as times changed.


The news of the new Clubs had got around the country and had raised the interest and enthusiasm levels elsewhere. The next to look at forming a club was the then thriving centre of Arawa, the then capital of Bougainville.

Hank de Smit, a company manager in Kieta had got together an interested group and directly approached District Governor Alan Millard in Brisbane about the possibility of acceptance.

D.G. Alan contacted the Lae Club again due to the previous experience of the Club and asked the Club to accept sponsorship of the Provisional Club of Arawa. Although the Rotary Club of Rabaul was possibly better located geographically for this, the numerically stronger and more experienced Club of Lae was chosen by Alan.

This also had considerable sense since many of those interested in Arawa, Kieta, Toniva, etc. were attached to companies based in Lae rather than Rabaul and much of their contact both physically and otherwise was with their Lae managers. This was in fact the case with Hank de Smit himself.

The Rotary Club of Lae readily agreed and once again the Special Rep was Lae Rotarian Dennis. However for this Club, and due to the cost of traveling from Lae to Arawa as well as the time consumed, other senior Lae Rotarians timed their business visits to Arawa and attended some of the Provisional meetings on behalf of the Special Rep and shared the load.

Arawa was admitted to Rotary international on January 3rd 1984 and received its Charter from D.G. Alan Millard on 12th April 1984 at a smaller but very pleasant Dinner at the Davara Hotel, Toniva. Again, this Club no longer exists, not through lack of interest, but due to the political upheavals in the North Solomons and the continuing troubles which are not yet resolved.

Let us hope that at some time in the future the club may be resurrected and may be able to again assist the Community in this area.


After the previous efforts the Rotary Club of Lae approached its 25th Anniversary in 1985 with a wish to achieve something of note to mark the occasion.

The proposal to form a second Club in the City, meeting as an alternate club at night, was put to the Club by Past-President Dennis and accepted.

This Club is the only one of the four truly commenced at the instigation of Lae Rotarians.

By this time there was yet another District Governor involved, the Rev. Alan Male, well known in Rotary for his considerable personal involvement in the instigation of the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards and in the continued running of its annual programme.

Alan, ever a Methodist minister, but a worldly one, was happy to accept the proposal and the Sponsorship of the Rotary Club of Lae for the Provisional Club. This time however he asked Past-President Kelvin Aldred to become his Special Representative and to ferry the new Club through to chartering.

Kelvin accepted this task and began the process with the new Club with help of course from the now experienced earlier representative. Unfortunately Kelvin was not to see the period out in this task, moving away from PNG and the major part of the Club’s guidance was again undertaken by P.P. Dennis.

Obviously Lae Rotarians found involvement with this new club a much easier duty than previously, with no travel involved. The Club was successfully introduced to Rotary on 28th August 1985 and on 3rd September 1985 received its Charter from D.G. Alan Male at a combined Dinner of the two Clubs at the Melanesian Hotel.

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