By Henry Drury

In 1839 a punt was the crossing from Melbourne Town to the fledgling village of Saltwater on the western bank of the Maribyrnong, then known as the Saltwater River. In 1848 the locality took the name Foots Cray after the village on the river Cray in south-east London (which resonates somewhat with Franco Cozzo’s “Foot-is-cray” memorable 1980s TV ads).                                                                                                           

In 1859, the municipality of Footscray was officially proclaimed and became a working-class suburb with varied industries including quarrying, and particularly the noxious industries of slaughtering, rendering for tallow, tanneries, wool scouring and, as some would suggest, the Bulldogs football team.

The noxious industry has gone, the football team prospers and the Rotary Club of West Footscray, chartered on 23 January 1978, now proudly serves a younger, vibrant and ethnically varied community in a rapidly regenerating built environment.

Sporting clubs for young people have re-emerged, which delights President Warwick Burnham, who has a particular interest in those activities, and is actively promoting Rotary involvement including a possible satellite Club for younger people.

Secretary Gabrielle Morgan relates how the Club, with the usual teething hiccups, embraced Zoom technology for its regular meetings, which enabled a wider range of guest speakers; a wider range of participants, including past overseas exchange students and, in fact, has made it easier for some members to attend more regularly. Fellowship meetings such as trivia nights and discussion groups have all contributed greatly to the aim of “keeping the Club together”.

The primary International Service project is Donations in Kind, originally founded by West Footscray in 1988 by the late Fred Wright, who, on his return from his first International Service trip to the Solomon Islands, saw a need and set about establishing the DIK store. First located at the old drill hall on the corner of Gordon and Barkly Streets, Footscray, the DIK store has moved a number of times until settling in its current location at 400 Somerville Road, West Footscray.

Over the years many West Footscray members have volunteered at the store in various capacities and it is now under the committed stewardship of member Laurie Fisher. Since its foundation, some 217 containers and about AUD$11 million in goods have been shipped from the store. Today, DIK is a prime District program open to all Clubs for contributions both in kind and hands-on service in accepting, sorting, packing and despatching those donated goods.

Rotary West Footscray’s face-to-face fund-raising has been limited this last year, but the Christmas cakes and puddings sales have successfully continued and to universal jubilation, the Bunnings sausage sizzle has now re-commenced.

The Club centenary project is to provide a swing for disabled children in a local playground. The Club is currently in discussions with the council on gaining approval for the proposal. This is much-needed equipment to enable the disabled of all ages and abilities to enjoy the simple pleasure of having a swing in the park.