Global award for Anglican Rotarian
From the parishes
By Stephen Cauchi
Ian Knight OAM, a parishioner at the Anglican Parish of the Parks in Albert Park, has been given the highest possible global recognition from Rotary International by receiving a Service Above Self award – one of only 150 given out worldwide each year.
And, given Mr Knight’s achievements in Rotary, Service Above Self is an apt name for the award. From his beginnings in Rotary as a founding member of the Werribee club in 1968, Mr Knight has amassed an outstanding list of service projects, including providing clean water for a Ugandan village, educating midwives in East Timor, building a school in Samoa, and leading student exchange programs with developing countries and Japan.
“I was thrilled to get the award … it’s the highest award you can get in Rotary,” Mr Knight, 83, told TMA. “It’s got to be approved by the Rotary International president and the Rotary International board.”
Mr Knight belongs to Rotary District 9800, which covers parts of Melbourne and regional Victoria, and was district governor in 1987-88. “The district would have put me up for that…they would have put me up for this award and recognition.
“But it wouldn’t be just work I did in Rotary, it was other community service work and I guess even church work. I taught Sunday school for a number of years too.”
Mr Knight said it was a natural decision to get involved in Rotary. “I’d been involved in service work all my life, particularly in the early days teaching Sunday school and running a youth group at St Faith’s Burwood.”
Ian Knight, recipient of Rotary International's Service Above Self award.
In a recent article he wrote for a Rotary publication, Mr Knight stated that “if Rotary encourages us to be more kindly in our outlook on life and people and taught us greater tolerance, a desire to see the best in others … then Rotary has brought us all fulfilment.
“Although we cannot do everything, Rotary International’s unique organisation provides us a network to engage in ideas and take action so together we can do many things.”
In East Timor, one in 35 mothers was dying in childbirth. Mr Knight received a Rotary foundation grant to fund a program, which is still going, to address this. He, a professor of obstetrics and a professor of midwifery were able to visit East Timor a couple of times a year.
“My background was newsagency but I looked after and raised the money and I looked after the logistics of that program for six or seven years,” he said.
“We were able to upskill the midwives in Timor and I think make a difference in saving a few lives. From a Christian point of view, it’s practical Christianity.”
In Uganda, Mr Knight worked with his brother Michael, a professor of underground water at University of Technology Sydney, to improve the water supply in a local village. A Rotary grant of $100,000 was able to pay for a water well that brought water to 2000 people and 400 school students.
He’s also been involved in a number of Rotary scholarships, including one where trainees from developing countries are brought to Australia and taught agriculture.
Under the program, a Ugandan student was hosted by Werribee Rotary and was taught market gardening, egg growing and, at Otway Pork, pig farming.
Another scholarship program involved a student exchange to Japan, which led to a sister-club relationship with the Sapporo North Rotary Club in that country. A Japanese garden at the City of Wyndham offices in Werribee was constructed as a result.
Mr Knight bought a business in Werribee and was the president of the Chamber of Commerce in that suburb for many years.
In 1972, with no aged care in the suburb, he initiated the building of a not-for-profit aged care facility, Manor Court (nearly 50 years later, he’s still on the board). He was also involved in starting Little Athletics in Werribee.
Unsurprisingly, in 1996, he was awarded citizen of the year in Werribee. In 2006, he received a Medal of the Order of Australia. The citation said: “Service to the community of the City of Wyndham, particularly through aged care services and Rotary international”.
His sister Rosemary Brown also has a Medal of the Order of Australia – for community service work in Australia and Malaysia – while his brother Michael, a Sydney Anglican, is a Member of the Order of Australia.
His other brother Neville is a lecturer and a Doctor of Divinity.
“I’m one of four children. I’m the eldest and three of us in the family have Order of Australias,” said Mr Knight.
“I think mother, who’s been dead for a while, would be quite proud of that situation.”
He has been an Anglican his whole life, beginning with St Faith’s Burwood where he was youth leader. He also assisted with building the present-day church building.
“It was the first modern church built after the Second World War. I was on the vestry that built that church, I was only about 21 at the time.”
At St Mark’s Golden Square, he assisted with training Sunday School teachers. At St Thomas’ Werribee he helped to expand the church and taught Sunday School.
Now living in inner-city Melbourne, he has worshipped at the Parish of the Parks in Albert Park for over 20 years, serving on the vestry and in other capacities.
In all of this has been his wife of 61 years, Genny (Genevieve). “She’s been an enormous assistance to me and all the programs, whether it be at church or rotary.”
Mr Knight said that the church could learn some lessons from Rotary.
“I find satisfaction out of helping others and doing things in a grassroots way and I think sometimes if the church got involved in more hands-on projects locally and internationally, they would get more people involved in the church,” he said.
“Faith is important but I think it’s got to be coupled with actions.
“In the early days I was running a youth group and being involved in Sunday School but probably in later years I’ve found more satisfaction through Rotary and bringing community service and help to people at the coalface like that program I’ve been involved in in Timor-Leste.
“I feel I’ve gained more from Rotary than I’ve given.”
COVID-19 unfortunately denied him a proper award ceremony. Mr Knight declined to travel to the Rotary world convention in Hawaii to receive the award. Instead, it was going to be presented in March at the district conference in Bendigo in front of 800 people.
Of course, that had to cancelled. “They put on a special meeting on Zoom,” he said.