HELPING OUT: Butcher apprentice Angus Ririnui Tioke is delighted with the opportunity to help out his community through Rotary. Photo Troy Baker D8812-12

TWENTY-FOUR-year-old Angus Ririnui-Tioke has broken tradition in the Kawerau Rotary Club by becoming not only the organisation’s first Maori president, but also, its youngest.

Officially taking over the position last month, Angus, a butcher’s apprentice at New World in Kawerau, says it’s an achievement he’s proud of, and an opportunity that he is humbled by.

“I’ve had a lot of support from Rotary members,” Angus says. “Both in preparing to take over the position, and now, with actually being in the role. I’m really grateful for that.”

The young Kawerau man had been a member of Rotary since taking part in a leadership programme run by the organisation two years ago.

Working at New World, he says his employer had put his name forward when the Kawerau Rotary Club was calling for applications for individuals to be considered for the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards. Known as RYLA, the week-long Rotary-run programme targets people 20 to 28 years old who display potential leadership, drawing entries from throughout New Zealand and the Pacific.

The course is designed to foster and enhance communication and teamwork skills and assist participants to discover and fulfil their individual potential.

Angus attended the programme in 2017 along with 34 other participants and says the event was a turning point for him.

“It was awesome,” he says. “I’d been undecided on what I really wanted to do in life at that stage. I didn’t really know who I was. It was an amazing week. It was really helpful, and I learned so much.”

One of the things he says he was very clear about afterwards, was his decision to become involved with Rotary.

“Rotary clubs try to find ways to help in their communities. They look for where the need is and try to get new initiatives going in the community, and then support those. And they provide sponsorship where they can, to support people to reach their goals.

“It’s a good feeling to be part of that sort of work,” he says. “I’m proud to be part of the organisation. Our motto of ‘Service above Self’ sits well with me.”

Angus’ appointment to president follows his earlier position as president-elect. With Rotary presidencies changing annually, he says he knew inevitably, his time would come.

As well as development on a professional level, attending workshops and training to prepare him for the role, Angus says his involvement with the organisation has also opened other doors.

“I’ve met so many people through Rotary and it’s great to be part of something which is actually an international network. Everyone has been so welcoming and supportive.”

“Maori membership of the club is not common, he says. “I don’t know why. I think Rotary has been seen as being a kind of elitist club in the past, but it really isn’t at all.

“They’re good people doing good things in the community and it’s a lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead.”

Angus is believed to be one of the youngest Rotary presidents in the country, though this is yet to be officially confirmed.

Rotary district governor Peter Maxwell, who governs the organisation’s central North Island region that includes the Bay of Plenty, Hawkes Bay, the Coromandel, and Hamilton, says Angus is definitely one of the youngest presidents any club within the region has had.

“I’m excited at the prospect of having such a young president in Kawerau and do hope he will be able to encourage his peers to become involved in Rotary, too.”