Touchstone Story #39–Expanding to Australia

Australian William R. Tresise was about to exceed the age limit of his national volunteer organization in the mid-1940s when he stumbled upon the opportunity to bring the service programs and international friendship of Lions Clubs International to his home country.

A builder with a keen interest in volunteering, Tresise, for many years, had been an active member of Apex, a young people’s service organization in Australia. But Apex had a strict age limit of 40. In 1946, as Tresise neared the milestone birthday, he tried unsuccessfully to form a senior organization for former members. Soon, he would be forced to retire from the group, even though he was eager to continue serving his community.

In his last year with Apex, Tresise traveled to San Francisco to represent the organization and his country at a 1946 service clubs conference. A chance meeting in California with Fred W. Smith, a Lion who went on to serve as international president from 1947 to 1948, couldn’t have been better timed.

Lions Clubs, Tresise discovered, had no age limit. The organization was dedicated to service, and it was expanding around the world. Both men saw an opportunity that shouldn’t be missed. Tresise spoke with other Lions leaders—including Melvin Jones, the organization’s founder and secretary-general, and soon found himself appointed a provisional district governor of Lions Clubs charged with founding a Lions club in Australia.

Tresise went home to Lismore, New South Wales. Although the city was small, he had plenty of business contacts in his hometown, and he invited many of them to hear about the Lions organization. His enthusiasm for Lions and its mission was infectious. Within a year, the Lismore Lions Club organized, and on September 29, 1947, the club received its charter, making Australia the 18th nation to join Lions Clubs.

Tresise continued to spread the news about Lions, serving as a Lions district governor and in other positions. “There was the satisfaction of seeing the result,” Tresise said, “together with meeting and working with kindred spirits: men and women of such a high caliber.” At the time of Tresise’s death in 1975, almost 1,000 clubs could be found all over Australia. 

Explore the exciting history of Lions Clubs International with our exclusive Touchstone Stories series. Don’t forget to share these stories with new members so they gain an understanding of Lions history!