By Kathryn McClelland

The inaugural meeting of Wollongong Toastmasters was held on the 1st November 1956 in the California Apartments in Burelli Street.  

The club was initiated by a gentleman who had attended Toastmasters in Canada where his best friend was President of the first club to be started in that country.  

He brought the principals of Toastmasters to Wollongong and after holding discussions with a number of business men in the town it was decided to form a club using the structure and under the umbrella of Toastmasters International.  Permission was sort from TI headquarters to do this, permission was given and so the inaugural meeting was held on the 1st November.

This meeting was a hugh success and the club chartered on the 1st August 1957 making it the first Toastmasters Club to charter in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere.  The club has operated continuously since that day. 

After the inaugural meeting, weekly meetings were held at the Grand Hotel, these meetings were a Friday night meeting where dinner and alcohol were served leading to a number of humorous motions being put forward and later rescinded.  Smoking was also allowed, this lead to a number of complaints from members concerning a particular members insistence on smoking cigars.

The clubs Charter President, Mr Graham Morton went onto be the President of the Territorial Council of Australia.  

In 1960 the club hosted the annual conference, for which a trophy was donated by a member that was to be given to the winner of the International Speech contest, the trophy is still presented to this day and is known as the Wollongong Trophy.  The first winner being a Mr Jim Player from the Sydney Toastmasters Club.

Toastmasters is a great organization and 60 years in Australia is something to be proud of, culminating on the 5th August 2017 with a 60th Anniversary of Toastmasters in Australia Dinner and the anniversary of Wollongong Toastmasters. 

A night of great speeches,entertainment, dancing and a 3 course sit down meal helped celebrate this milestone.  

Amongst the special guests was the President of Toastmasters International Mr Mike Storkey and Mrs Storkey (this is only the second time an International President has visited the Wollongong club, the first being in 1962). The Lord Mayor of Wollongong and a charter member of our club was also be amongst our special guests.

There were speeches from Mr Mike Storkey and Mr Matt Tonkiss, 2017 winner of the D70 International Speech contest and the Wollongong Trophy.

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