About Rotary

What is Rotary?

Rotary is an international fellowship for community service.

When Paul Harris founded Rotary in 1905, he conceived of community leaders with different and varied responsibilities coming together frequently to share their views. By gathering those of different professions, the individuals, their businesses and the community benefited from the balanced discussions that took place. His stated concept was to create an intimate professional organization in which professionals could share ‘mutual cooperation and informal friendship such as all had once known in our villages’.

From that humble beginning, Rotary has grown to not only help us become more aware of our community, but of our nation and of the world. We have also become participants in the process by proclaiming the motto Service Above Self and learning to serve the world we used to just observe.

A key component was the fact that each member of Paul Harris’ original group was from a different business, providing well rounded input. As the group grew, the members learned it was important to also include educators, key members of the government, both political and professional, clergy and those professionally involved in community service. By doing so, the organisation, or club, met the original test of bringing in those who saw the community from a different viewpoint to provide excellent interaction and balanced discussion.

As Rotary continued to grow to over a million members, many members began to realise that they shared more than they thought, despite their different backgrounds and different approaches. Although they operated very different businesses, Rotarians shared a common belief in the inherent good of their fellow men and women, and ran their enterprises in an ethical fashion.

Past Rotary International President (and past club president and PDG) Herbert Taylor realised this commonality of business ethics, and in 1932 created the 4 Way Test of the Things We Think, Say and Do, expressing how the lives of so many in our communities are intertwined as they try to do things well for the betterment of all. It has, for many, become a concise guide to ethical behaviour.

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

The Paul Harris Fellowship was formed to recognise people of all walks of life who have made achievements toward mutual understanding amongst people thus fostering World peace.

Stephen Brown
RCW President 2009–2010

Guiding principles

These principles have been developed over the years to provide Rotarians with a strong, common purpose and direction. They serve as a foundation for our relationships with each other and the action we take in the world.

Object of Rotary

Service Above Self

The object of Rotary is to encourage and foster the ideal of service as a basis of worthy enterprise and, in particular, to encourage and foster:

FIRST – The development of acquaintance as an opportunity for service.

SECOND – High ethical standards in business and professions; the recognition of the worthiness of all useful occupations; and the dignifying by each Rotarian of their occupation as an opportunity to serve society.

THIRD – The application of the ideal of service by every Rotarian to their personal, business and community life.

FOURTH – The advancement of international understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of business and professional persons united in the ideal of service.

The Four Way Test

The Four Way Test, as a means of evaluating the things we think, say or do, is a test adopted by Rotary International and used by Rotarians world-wide as a moral code for personal and business relationships.

1. Is it the Truth?

2. Is it fair to all concerned?

3. Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?

4. Will it be beneficial to all concerned?


For further information visit the Rotary International website.

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