Rotary in Western Australia Podcast – Episode 2 – James McLeod
AMBER: Welcome to Rotary in Western Australia’s weekly podcast. Stay tuned to hear from people in Rotary who are making a difference in their communities and beyond. Rotary in WA has over 2 000 members of all ages, backgrounds and professions. Throughout this series, we’ll hear about their Rotary experience, the projects they are working on and what matters to them and their clubs.
So, this week I’ll be talking to James McLeod. Hey, James, how’s it going?
JAMES: Very well, thank you.
AMBER: Thank you for coming in today.
JAMES: My pleasure.
AMBER: So, you are involved in club development with Rotary.
AMBER: You did have an official, like, what was your —
JAMES: Title is Club Development Chair of Rotary district 9455.
AMBER: Ah, and because I’m quite new with Rotary, is that number—is that for a certain club or —
JAMES: Well, if you think about the whole of Western Australia, it’s, basically, split into two roughly around the Swan River and there’s a northern district and a southern district. Northern district is the district I’m in and it takes care of about—it oversees, I should say, about 40 different Rotary clubs. I sit on the board which helps those clubs, essentially.
AMBER: So, all of the northern clubs you kind of help develop?
JAMES: Yeah, everywhere from, say, Belmont all the way up to Broome.
JAMES: It’s a big district!
AMBER: I was going to say, size-wise I think you got a bit gypped there!You got the bigger one.
AMBER: Wow. I was originally thinking just the Perth region, but wow, all the way up to Broome. Do you ever have to —
JAMES: I’m fairly new to the role, so not quite. I need to go up to Geraldton fairly soon.
AMBER: I’m from Geraldton.
JAMES: I might pay your family visit! But, yeah, probably at some stage I will need to pop my head up there or get something happening where we can Skype and chat with them. I’m about six months into the role now so really just finding my feet.
AMBER: Yeah exactly. How long have you been in Rotary for?
JAMES: Well, I’ve been in Rotary now 10 years actually. This is my 10 years. You are right to say, you know, it was a bit deep-endish, but one good thing about Rotary is you get a lot of mentoring. I’ve had people who have sat beside me for a year to make sure that I’m ready to take on this role so it’s all fine.
AMBER: That’s what Jess Karlsson said. She said a big part of Rotary is that mentorship and learning, taking bits away from all the other members, which is something I don’t think, like, I didn’t realise a lot of young people realise is—like, I think we saw it like things to help the community, but she said, yeah, a big part is learning all different manner of skills from every member of Rotary, which I think is great. Have you had much of that yourself?
JAMES: Yeah, well, you know, I started out being a Rotary exchange student. What that means is after high school Rotary sent me away to another country for 12 months. I went to a little town in the northwest of the USA. At that point, there was a lot of personal development because you’re away from home for so long and under the wing of a couple of families who are Rotarians. But, I guess, more recently the biggest investment of leadership I’ve had is when I was a president at a local club. That was just a massive year of personal development and growth and, fortunately, I had a lot of people on my team who were willing to help me and guide me and mentor throughout that whole process.
AMBER: I love that you’ve used the word personal development as kind of a synonym for a lot of work, I’m guessing!
JAMES: Work is one thing, but I think it’s also being forced out of your comfort zone. You walk away from that experience knowing how to run a team, knowing—at that point we had about 80 members in that particular club so it was an organisation in its own right, so conflict resolution and how to influence and motivate people and public speaking. So, all of these awesome skills came through just one year of professional development and personal development.
AMBER: Wow, it’s a lot to develop in one year.
JAMES: But you’re right; it was a big year.
AMBER: I can imagine. I’ve kind of jumped the gun, a little bit, James, because also with this podcast we like to get to know a little bit about the people involved in Rotary, not just their life in Rotary but outside. Like I said, in the first episode we had Jess, and she is the CEO of Cahoots. So, what do you do for a living or we just like to know things like hobbies, jobs all that kind of stuff? Sorry to drop that on you.
JAMES: No, no way. So, in a nutshell I work as a financial adviser at a firm called Capital Partners. I personally look after about 50 families across Perth, Western Australia, and what we do is we make them really clear about what they want to achieve in life and then manage, you know, all the aspects their financial affairs, build a plan to make sure they achieve it over the long run. So, that’s really good. It is a great place to work and really nice clients, being an important part of their life. From a personal perspective, my hobbies, well, that’s a good question, because Rotary takes up a fair chunk of that.
AMBER: I can imagine.
JAMES: But I do have a little son who’s now three, next weekend. He would consume a fair bit of my time too. Add in friends and then maybe there’s—actually there is one thing, I am training for a marathon.
JAMES: So, that pretty well consumes 100 per cent of my time.
AMBER: Is sleep involved in that?
JAMES: Just a little bit.
AMBER: A marathon? Wow.
JAMES: So, that’s exciting. But, you know, the lead-up to that is obviously requiring a bit more of time —
AMBER: I was going to say, early morning runs, phewf! How big is the marathon?
JAMES: A marathon is 42 kilometres. So, it’s locked in and if I don’t get there, that’s okay.
AMBER: That’s fine. I think I could go about 500 metres before I need an ambulance or something like that. So, this podcast is just to bring awareness back to Rotary but also highlight what Rotary brings to the WA community and what it brings to its members. What would you say would be your highlight in Rotary in WA? Was there a certain project or even meeting or interaction that really sticks in your mind that’s related to Rotary?
JAMES: There’s so many, but probably the biggest one for me is helping to set up a new club. The club that I’m a member of, Rotary Club of Elizabeth Quay, its niche is young professionals. So, we meet in the city and the whole club is just tailored towards young people. The process to actually go away, set that up and grow it has just been amazing and something that really stands out in my life. If I think about projects and other events like that, through the club events we’ve had some really amazing guest speakers. I can think of Sam Walsh who was the former CEO of Rio Tinto, Warwick Hemsley, Fred Chaney, Dr Ric Charlesworth, Peter Klinken. We’ve had all these amazing people who I’ve met and some who I even consider friends now. There’s been that aspect of it as well. Rotary is particularly good at being able to expand people’s social network but also their business networks. Well, that’s the experience I’ve found at least. So, I guess, like, some amazing guest speakers.
And then I guess it’s the projects and the volunteering. For me, there’s been so many. The very first one that I was involved in was quite special. We were raising—my former club, it was our first project actually, but we put together an art exhibition and raised money for homeless people and with the money that we raised we bought street swags. It’s a bit of a band-aid solution, but it’s what we could have done at the time and it was really appreciated by the organisations that we were working with. So, that one was a really special one because it was the first one. Probably the biggest one I was involved with was my former club Crawley, where we put together a huge event. It was, basically, a charity ball called 1 in a Million and because of that event, they ended up raising about $500 000 for their particular charities so it was serious money. So, that was pretty special. My club now, though, are doing a similar kind of thing. It’s a catwalk event. Two years ago, we raised about $50 000 for gastric cancer research and that was different, but really, really fun.
AMBER: I was going to say it’s not something you think of as like a normal charity event is a catwalk.
JAMES: We’re running it again this year, so I’ll have to make sure you get the details so you can come along.
AMBER: I was going to say, yes, we’ll definitely spruik that. As you probably heard in the first episode, we are going to be putting out different events so people know what’s on in Rotary and if they want to come along. So, because you’ve been involved in all these projects, I ask this question even though I pretty much know the answer: Why do you think Rotary is essential in today’s world?
JAMES: Yeah, Rotary for me comes down to the desire to give back and for myself, growing up in Perth, and getting an education and being able to get a job and living in safety and comfort, you know, we are so privileged to live in this place and for me, there’s a little part of me that said, “What are we actually doing to make a difference?” For me that’s Rotary. Sure I make a difference in my job, but to actually help underprivileged people and to make a difference to other people’s lives who might not have as much of a head start as I’ve had, that’s why it’s essential for me. And I think probably for a lot of people in my club that’s why they do it. Being able to work with like-minded people to do things that are worthy and you get that feel-good factor, but it’s also important I feel to give back while you can, not wait until you’re old and have money to give away. I think people can do it now while they’re young and energetic. But that’s the story that I’m hearing anyway.
AMBER: It’s very similar to what I’ve heard from Jess as she said the exact same thing is when you’re involved in Rotary and these projects and seeing how Perth—all the different troubles we have personally, we are quite privileged here and to help someone who’s on, like, a completely different spectrum to us. She was, like, how grateful someone was that they were able to help build this $2 500 house on stilts that was not big, but it was better than their little shanties that they had that were getting washed away every year, and to see the absolute gratitude in something that is so different from what we’re used to. It’s helping the community too, but it’s also helping your own personal growth, getting to see that you’re more grateful for what you do have, you are more open to helping those who have less. So, it seems like such a worthy cause. It’s a very selfless cause. At the same time, it’s very good at helping people and individuals grow within themselves. Every time I’ve asked this question it seems that yes, it is essential in this day and age, and it’s something that is maybe not essentially Rotary, but it’s something that people—aspects people should strive to achieve.
JAMES: At a personal level that would be it, but if you think about the impact that Rotary makes around the world, it’s enormous. The fact that without Rotary, polio might still be an issue. The efforts that Rotary has put into eradicating polio, a disease which our generation probably doesn’t have much understanding of, but decades ago, it struck fear in people. Now there’s malaria. There’s water and sanitation in impoverished communities, there’s economic development, there’s peace and conflict resolution. There’re all these things that —
AMBER: Millions of people.
JAMES: As an international organisation, Rotary is doing, but at a club level, yes, we support that, but we also do other things at a more hands-on level.
AMBER: It might not be solving polio, fixing millions of people, but you’re striving to make people’s lives better in all different aspects. That seems to be the foundation of Rotary is just helping your fellow man in whatever capacity you can.
JAMES: Exactly. But even the polio eradication project, it started with an idea that someone had at a Rotary Club level and it has grown to billions and billions of dollars being put towards that cause. So, I think it’s there’s going to be other things like that where just you or me might have an idea and it grows and 30, 40 years later, it’s a massive thing.
AMBER: Yeah. We could eradicate a disease again, which is—it’s amazing when you put it at such a small level. Just one person had an idea and then later we’ve saved so many people. It’s very heart-warming. I guess that’s part of it. You want to feel good about your community and yourself and I know with Western Australia, it’s nice to know that there are lots of people and lots of different groups that are doing things to help make WA a greater compassionate place kind of thing. Like I said, it’s very heart-warming to see how many people are putting in the effort to do this. I’m sure since you’ve been in many different clubs, you’ve seen all manner of people who have all just come together, who they normally wouldn’t be interacting with in real life or wouldn’t have had the chance.
JAMES: That’s right. Each club and let’s say there’s 40 in just the top half of Western Australia, they’ve all got different personalities and styles and so there’s a lot of diversity in there. Rotary is also changing. A younger generation is coming through and they’re doing Rotary just a little bit differently. Same underlying principles, but they’ve just got a different style about it, the way they communicate, the way they run projects, all very different. So, I think it is diverse, but it’s also changing.
AMBER: Well, you kind of need to in this day and age. Everything changes so quickly. Excellent. Was there anything you wanted to add, bring up any events, anything like that? Is there one really good interesting fact that you want to talk about Rotary? I don’t mean to put you on the spot. As somebody who doesn’t know much about Rotary, I’d love to learn some little titbits.
JAMES: Look, maybe I’ll just leave it at this: Rotary is an amazing organisation, and it can be life-changing for people, like it’s been for me, but it can be whatever you want it to be. So, it could be just coming and volunteering at the occasional volunteer project or getting your hands dirty planting trees or something like that or even just widening your circle of friends or business contacts. On the other hands, though, it could be leading an organisation and learning to become an awesome public speaker and things like that. So, there’s such a wide range. It’s got so much to offer and all you need to do is really understand what you really want out of it. So, that’s probably my piece of advice or titbit.
AMBER: Wow. Excellent. Well, thank you very much, James. Was there anything final you wanted to add?
JAMES: No, it’s been great. Thank you very much.
AMBER: You’re welcome. Well, I’m sure you’ll be hearing from us in the next episode. Maybe James might pop back at some point, just drop that on you.
JAMES: I’d love to.
AMBER: Excellent. Thanks for your time today, James.
JAMES: Wonderful. Thank you.
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If you are interested in being part of a local Rotary project, event or club in Western Australia or being part of an international movement, which is creating positive lasting change, check out Rotary in Western Australia’s Facebook page or go to Rotarydistrict9455.org for more details.