Community groups come together in the digital sphere

Rotary's Ian Docker prepares to take part in a Zoom meeting.
Rotary's Ian Docker prepares to take part in a Zoom meeting.

While some restrictions, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, have eased, it will be sometime before the community groups ubiquitous with country communities are able to meet again in person.

But that hasn't seemed to trouble them.

As social distancing and gathering restrictions were introduced, organisations like Rotary, Inner Wheel and the CWA headed into the digital sphere to keep in touch and conduct their meetings.

Cowra Rotary Treasurer, Bob Griffiths, said members had taken to the world of Zoom "really well".

"It's been well received, there were some reservations early on with some of the retired members who have not been exposed to this sort of thing before," he said.

"It was a bit of a challenge for some of us as you might imagine but it's gone very well, our attendance at the online meeting was much better than we'd expected.

"We've had up to 20 odd members on at the one time, which lets people get to see their friends."

Mr Griffiths said, with the shutdowns, members had missed seeing friends and the introduction of Zoom meetings had brought members back together.

"Part of the appeal of Rotary, not only being a service club and helping the community, is the camaraderie you get by meeting once a week and having a beer and sharing a meal," he said.

"So it's quite nice to see all your friends on Zoom and get through a bit of business.

"It certainly has its positives, one of members at the last meeting, who was away on work commitments, came in on his phone from the side of a highway up near Gunnedah."

He said there was a lot of potential for organisations in the digital world.

"It does work very well and I know out president Brian Marsh has been very pleased with the response," he said.

"So I suspect we'll be using it a little bit more in the future as well.

"It gives the opportunity for people to come in and talk to us without travelling and that's something we'll consider.

"Certainly with our board meetings, we have seven or eight members on a board and it's often hard to get everyone together for a board meeting, where as when you have the Zoom capacity it makes it so much easier.

"So I'd be recommending it to anybody, it's a great idea, it's not quite the same as sitting and sharing a beer with your mates but it's nice to see and talk to your friends during this isolation," he said.

Inner Wheel Publicity Officer Sue Brown echoed these sentiments, saying she has had assistance from Rotary in running a Zoom meeting, which has enabled the group to tick off agenda items.

"It's fun, seeing peoples' faces and hearing them all laugh and this way we were able to get approval for the donations that we give," she said.

"Getting the members contributing to business that needed to be done.

"I think you feed off one another, there were comments we were not expecting and they could be made," she said.

Mrs Brown said that while the group would prefer to meet in person, they were enjoying the tool at their disposal.

"We only meet monthly, but this is now a tool we've got, so if there is something that comes up we all need to discuss openly it could be done," she said.

Mr Griffiths said the only draw back to the Zoom meetings was the lack of a personal approach.

"It's difficult to introduce new members to a club in that scenario, the personal approach is much better," he said.

"Likewise quest speakers, we haven't gone down that path, other than Rotary officials from district talking to us.

"But normally we'd have a guest speaker from the community talking about any subject of interest, that's a little more difficult (in Zoom).

"If this situation extends too much longer we may look at that option, which will get us back to a bit of normality."

Mr Griffiths said despite the difficulties with introducing a new member, now is a good time to consider joining a service club.

He said there wasn't the expectation on new members there may have been in the past.

"All services clubs, be it Rotary, Lions, you name it are all struggling for members Australia wide and worldwide," he said.

"The number of people volunteering for service clubs is declining year on year sadly, young people today have other priorities I guess.

"There is a time commitment sure but the rules are more relaxed to what they were. We may meet weekly but there's no requirement to attend every week like there may have been in the old days.

"Rotary does some marvelous work around the world and Australia, that's the beauty of Rotary we get the opportunity to assist our local communities in various projects right through to safe water projects in disadvantaged countries.

"So we are always on the look out for members, men or women, any age and any commitment you can make.

"There's no hard and set rules now as to attendance or expectations, whatever you can contribute in anyway is most welcome," he said.