1. The Early Days of Toastmasters in Australia, 1957 - 1971

The first Toastmasters Club to be formed in Australia was Wollongong Toastmasters Club. This Club received its charter in August 1957.

Whilst Wollongong was the first Club to be chartered in Australia, a Toastmasters group had met earlier in Melbourne but it did not charter. The second Club in NSW, Sydney Toastmasters, followed in October 1958. The third Club to be established in NSW was Cronulla, which was formed in July 1960.

Australian clubs listed with Toastmasters - January 1959

Australian clubs listed with Toastmasters - January 1959

Meanwhile in Queensland Toowoomba Toastmasters had received their Charter in February 1958, being followed by Coolabah in September 1961 and Brisbane Central in June 1962.

Toastmasters in the other States started with Naracoorte Club, South Australia in December 1961, Tasmanian Club (Launceston), Tasmania in January 1962 and Melbourne Club, Victoria in December 1962.

All these early Clubs were formed quite separately to each other, generally by people who had gained Toastmasters experience in the USA.

1962 saw a major expansion of Clubs in the Sydney area when Cronulla RSL, Port Hacking, Bankstown, Concord West, Keira, North Shore and Miranda were chartered.

Even in these early days, a need for an umbrella organisation covering all Clubs was recognised. In 1959 the Toastmasters Territorial Council of Australia (TCA) was established, although it was not officially recognised by Toastmasters International (TI) until 23rd August 1963 when there were 18 Clubs.

TCA covered all Clubs in Australia, but the Clubs in NSW, being concentrated in the Sutherland Shire played an important role in the running of TCA.

from The Toastmaster magazine, August 1963

from The Toastmaster magazine, August 1963

By 1964 there were 22 Clubs in Australia and 13 in what is now District 70. In that year we received our first official visit from an International President, Alex P. Smekta. New Club formation continued steadily during the rest of the 1960's and 1966 was a particularly spectacular year with 7 Clubs being chartered in NSW alone.

By the end of 1968, Clubs had been established in many parts of Sydney as well as in Wollongong, Newcastle, Tamworth, Gosford and Taree.

The election of the first TCA National President, Graham Morton in 1959 preceded the first TCA Convention in Wollongong in 1960. Jim Player of Sydney Club was the winner of the first TCA Speech Contest that year and the first recipient of the Wollongong Trophy.

By 1969 a program of annual Conventions had become well established. The 10th Convention was held at the Hotel Manly, being hosted by Karingal Club. A total of 186 Toastmasters attended, representing 46 Clubs in 6 States. Also attending the Convention was the 2nd International President to visit Australia, Earl M. Potter and his wife Helen, while Manly featured on the front cover of the May issue of The Toastmaster magazine as "Town of the Month".

In 1969 TCA formed the Clubs into Areas in all States of Australia, with the Clubs in NSW being grouped into 9 Areas numbered 201 to 209. The Areas in the other States were also given 3 digit numbers, the first digit in each case corresponding to the first digit in the State's postcode. In addition to a National President, a Senior Vice-President and Divisional Vice Presidents for Northern NSW, Southern NSW, Queensland and the Southern States were elected by TCA members.

However, despite the sterling efforts of these office bearers and the Area Governors, administration by TCA was becoming increasingly difficult because of the huge geographical distances involved. Imagine the logistics of attending Conventions at such varied venues as Sylvania, Brampton Island, Melbourne, Newport and Launceston in the years between 1963 to 1971!

In 1970 the TCA Semi-Annual Meeting passed a resolution asking Toastmasters International to approve the division of Australia into 2 Councils. Fortunately at the same time, changes were occurring within Toastmasters that opened up the way for Districts to be formed outside North America.

So the 1971 Convention at Surfers Paradise was the final meeting of the Toastmasters Council of Australia before Districts 69 and 70 were formed. District 69 covered Australia north of the 30th parallel (in effect Queensland and Northern NSW) and District 70 covered the rest of Australia south of the 30th parallel.

At the time of their formation in 1971, District 70 had 45 Clubs and District 69 had 32 Clubs.

The area covered by District 70 was still huge, comprising most of NSW, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania but Toastmasters in Australia had taken a giant step forward.