WATCH: Centenary celebration launches in Grafton
Local Rotary clubs used the launch of the Rotary 100 Baton Relay in Grafton on Friday to shine the torch on domestic violence.
Districts across Australia are participating in a 100-day relay to celebrate Rotary International's centenary in Australia.
As the southernmost location, Grafton hosted the launch of one of two relays for District 9640, which extends north to Coomera and west to the other starting location at Goondiwindi, with the batons visiting all 56 clubs in the district before converging on Tweed Heads for the district conference on May 15.
Rotarians, school leaders and members of the community walked a 4km loop which included both Grafton bridges to kickstart the relay.
The district's chosen theme of 'Rotary Says No to Domestic Violence' stemmed from a campaign ignited by Rotary in Ballina two years ago.
"A group of Rotarians in Ballina highlighted domestic violence as a major issue in our towns and we then took a three-stage approach into addressing domestic violence in our town," Ballina on Richmond Rotary president David Harmon said.
"One is raising awareness of domestic violence and telling our towns that we don't approve of domestic violence.
"The second is educating our youth in our high schools about respectful relationships. That program is called Love Bites and we so far have six schools in our district running it.
"The third is we provide financial support to women and children escaping domestic violence.
"Domestic violence for many, many years has been swept under the carpet. I think it's critical men especially say no, that it's not acceptable."
District Governor Andy Rajapakse handed the baton over to Clarence Valley Mayor Jim Simmons to get the relay underway at Memorial Park this morning.
"'Rotary says No to Domestic Violence' means we are serious about this, we want to create a huge impact," Mr Rajapakse said.
"Right across Australia we bring people together, that's what Rotary does, connecting people, of friendship first, and then to be useful, to be tolerant and to be compassionate, and rebuild communities.
"People decide to take an issue in their community and say this is what we want to do, or take a bigger cause, and one of the global causes that Rotary took up 30 years ago was the eradication of polio. It was killing millions of children, and now only two countries - Afghanistan and Pakistan - have polio."
The first Rotary club in Australia formed in Melbourne in April 1921, shortly followed by Sydney and two years later Adelaide, whose former presidents include Sir Donald Bradman. There are now 1071 clubs in Australia with 25,000 members.
"Every district of Rotary in Australia has a baton going through that district, so every Rotarian is able to celebrate a huge milestone of having a worldwide organisation in Australia for 100 years," Grafton Midday Rotary president Robert Blanchard said.
Grafton has two Rotary clubs - Grafton and Grafton Midday, and the other Clarence Valley clubs include Maclean, Yamba and Iluka-Woombah.
"We meet at different times, so it suits different people and at the end of the day it doesn't matter which Rotary club you're a member of, you're a member of Rotary in the world," Mr Blanchard said.