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Members of Grafton Rotary, Grafton Midday Rotary, the Clarence Valley Domestic Violence Committee and the Clarence Valley community joined Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons and Rotary District 9640 Governor Andy Rajapakse to launch a baton relay to celebrate 100 years of Rotary and raise awareness of domestic violence. Image: Emma Pritchard.

Milestone celebration with important community message

Emma Pritchard|
Rotary in Australia celebrated their 100th anniversary by launching a baton relay over 100 days to raise awareness of domestic violence.
The ceremonial handover of the baton from Rotary District 9640 Governor Andy Rajapakse to Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons took place on February 5 at Grafton’s Memorial Park in front of a small crowd which included members of Grafton Rotary, Grafton Midday Rotary and the Clarence Valley Domestic and Family Violence Committee.  
Holding the baton proudly in his hand, Mr Simmons stepped forward and the journey of celebration, inspiration and awareness commenced.
Between now and May 15, the baton will make its way to Tweed Heads, progressing through 57 clubs and continuing to spread the message that Rotary says no to domestic violence.
Describing himself as very excited to launch the baton relay in Grafton, Mr Rajapaske said the centenary celebration presented Rotary with an opportunity to raise awareness for a very worthy cause.
“It’s good to celebrate 100 years, but I think we need to look at the next 100 years, so that’s why we took up a cause that matters to all Australians and our message is Rotary says no to domestic violence,” he said.
“The idea of the baton relay is to create an awareness that a large organisation like Rotary, which has 1071 clubs across Australia and 25000 members, says no to domestic violence, we don’t accept it.”
Mr Rajapaske said by creating awareness and spreading the message through Rotary, he is hopeful of encouraging people affected by domestic violence to reach out to one of the 25000 rotarians as a first point of speaking.
“Most often, people who experience domestic violence have no one to speak to,” he said.
“When they know Rotary says no, and they know some rotarians, they can speak to them and tell them of their situation.
“We (Rotary) may be the ear that hears and can make a difference to the person who is experiencing domestic violence.” 
Helen Wright, secretary of the Clarence Valley Domestic Violence Committee said it is important to keep reiterating the message of saying no to domestic violence.
“People don’t necessarily take on board the information that is out there all the time, so to just keep it out there and to make some links with Rotary who are focusing on raising awareness of this message in their 100th year is just wonderful to see,” she said.
Robert Blanchard, president of Grafton Midday Rotary, carried the baton towards the Grafton Bridge and said he was proud to be involved with Rotary and the baton relay.
“I’ve been involved with Grafton Midday Rotary for eight years and I really enjoy the fellowship that we have and what we do in the community,” he said.
“Rotary is a great organisation to be a part of and there are in fact more rotary clubs in the world than McDonalds restaurants.
“It’s a great message we’re raising awareness of to celebrate 100 years.”