Many readers will be familiar with community groups such as Rotary, Probus, Lions and Scouts, but few probably know anything about Zonta International.
This name seems to slip under the radar, but it certainly isn’t for the organisation’s lack of commitment to community. Zonta International is a worldwide organisation of professionals that empowers women globally through service and advocacy. It was founded in 1919 in the USA, and today there are more than 1,200 clubs in 67 countries.
The Zonta Club of Sydney Hills meets monthly and currently has 15 members; three have been members since the club was chartered in 1979. Shirley Purser, a charter member, said, “Times have certainly been interesting during my 36 years of service in the club. Society has changed a lot and so has the role of women.”
All members of this club are female but men are welcomed and accepted. The club’s core focus is to support the local community, and its track record with women’s support groups such as the recently closed St Michael’s women’s refuge and the newly established Lisa Harnum Foundation is testimony to that.
Domestic violence in the Hills area is an issue presently gaining increased media attention, and rightly so. “Zonta Says NO” is a Zonta International campaign to raise awareness and increase action to end violence against women and girls worldwide.
The Zonta Club of Sydney Hills raises funds to support women suffering from violence, including manning a stall in Castle Towers for seven days from White Ribbon Day.
The club runs award programs for women in local schools, universities and TAFES, and has also raised funds for Australia’s only safe house, a refuge for people who have experienced human trafficking and slavery, managed by the Salvation Army.

Zonta’s small packages make a huge difference

Some Zonta initiatives that cost just a few dollars make a big difference to people’s lives in Australia and overseas.
The Zonta Breast Cancer Cushion is one of them. This horseshoe-shaped cushion has soft stuffing and is covered in a satin like fabric. The cushion helps women (and men) be more comfortable when sitting and sleeping, post breast surgery. Zonta members sew and pack the cushions and thousands have been distributed to women in Australian hospitals.
A second project is the Zonta Birthing Kit. These small packs are distributed to mothers in parts of Africa and Asia where birthing conditions are not clinically ideal. Kit contents include staple hygiene items such as rubber gloves, a plastic ground sheet and a bar of soap. These simple kits have made a significant difference to infant mortality rates in unsanitary areas.
I caught up with these energetic and proactive leaders recently at an awards night at TAFE — The Hills College, Baulkham Hills, where they were distributing awards to students. They had just returned from a district conference in Orange, and one member smiled as she told me gaily, “The club is about service and advocacy, but we have so much fun!”
A win-win for all — club members make solid friendships and have fun, and women in the Hills while overseas receive encouragement and support in every stage of their lives. ☐

Zonta International in brief

1919 — Founded in the USA, the vision of 600 women
1929 — First Zonta Club in Sydney; Dorothea Mackellar, Australian poet, a member – (club disbanded in 1935)
1965 — Canadian Zontian, Dorothy Thompson, reintroduced Zonta International to Australia
2006 — Melbourne hosted Zonta International Convention.