The Story Behind RICON's Sustainable Convention in Melbourne

20 February 2019 –  On this date I was one of the Rotarians interviewed on Australian national TV, Channel 9 as we made a big announcement “Melbourne has just been chosen as the preferred location to host the Rotary International Convention in 2023.

Fast-forward to 2023. We have overcome bushfires, flooding, earthquakes and a global pandemic and yet we are still standing. Challenges came to us one after the other, but now we are proud to share with you the breakthrough sustainability features of RICON in Melbourne.

Photo: Vic Grosjean with RI President Jennifer Jones at the Rotary International Convention planning meeting in Melbourne in 2022. Vic has served on ESRAG's Board and is Past President of Melbourne City Rotaract Club.

This 4-year journey in the making started with ESRAG. At that time, ESRAG Board members and I were on a mission to challenge Rotary to make the environment Rotary’s seventh Area of Focus.

When we succeeded, I undertook to leverage this achievement to convince Rotary International to include Sustainability as part of the Rotary International Convention (RICON) planning in Melbourne. I took the role of Sustainability Director as part of the Hosting Organising Committee (HOC).

I set up two teams, often meeting every week, one to publish a “Green Event Handbook” to help Rotarians to run sustainable events. The other, the “RICON Working Group”, focused on plans to make the convention sustainable. The pandemic suddenly made my task a real challenge. As uncertainties cancelled each convention one after another, we could not help but see the budget to make the convention sustainable drying out in front of our eyes. Another challenge was to protect the Intellectual Property (IP) rights of our members. This required me to set up a third Working Group. Four years have passed, and I am extremely grateful for all the work performed by our three dedicated Working Groups.

The RICON Working Group (from left):  Transportation Coordinator Deniz Vural, Volunteer Coordinator Barb Sheehan, Communications Coordinator Fabienne Nichola, ESRAG Oceania Chair Ted Waghorne, and HOC Sustainability Director Vic Grosjean.

Unfortunately, in this article I am not able to list everyone who helped, but I would like to personally thank everyone: those who have been there since the beginning, those who joined us on the way ,and those that we sadly lost along the way, particularly honoring Dakota Stormer, Rotary Club of Memorial. Spring Branch, Texas USA – who, tragically, died in 2021, before seeing the publication of our Green Events Handbook to which he made vital contributions.