Former president of Combined Probus Club of Whittlesea Inc Rita Miller presents current president Keith Mason with the president’s collar after inducting him into the chair, as other committee members look on.

By Aleksandra Bliszczyk

MEMBERS of the Combined Probus Club of Whittlesea Inc met in person earlier this month for the first time in almost a year, after lockdown halted its regular agenda in March 2020.

As an added cause for celebration, the meeting was held in the new function room at the newly-refurbished Whittlesea Bowls Club. 

The club’s publicity officer Mary Wood said the first meeting was ‘terrific’, and the new space offered a lot of potential. 

“They used COVID last year to rebuild and put an addition on, and the club’s fantastic now. With all the mod cons of equipment and tech gear they’ve got, I don’t have to take a projector or laptop or anything,” she said.

“All the IT equipment is new, they’ve got TV screens around the walls plus the pulldown screen … nice big tables, new chairs, it’s just a beautiful venue really.”

Meeting in a renovated space is a dramatic change from lockdown, during which all of the club’s events, including interstate trips, were cancelled or postponed. 

To stay connected, Ms Wood continued the club’s monthly newsletters, although in a condensed format, and started a phone tree for members to stay in touch. 

“It was good, but it’s nothing like meeting together,” she said. 

Whittlesea Probus Club’s guest speaker officer Teresa Carlin, right, and speakers David Ovenden and Tanya Gook at the club’s first meeting since March 2020.

Probus is a global organisation in 23 countries, with 125,000 active members in Australia and New Zealand. Founded in the UK in the 1960s, groups offer retired members of their communities events, trips and other opportunities to meet for social and outdoor activities. 

“We have a meeting on the first Monday of each month, luncheons on the third Friday of every month, card games every Wednesday, a gardening club … a walking group,” Ms Wood said.

The Whittlesea branch, which welcomes members from across the municipality as well as Upper Plenty and Kinglake, will celebrate its 20th birthday in May. 

Though the members were thrilled to resume their meetings, Ms Wood said ageing in the community and the health risks of COVID-19 had taken a toll on memberships.

“Age, attrition et cetera has diminished our club from 120 back in the early days down to 68,” she said.

“And they’re still struggling – some of the older members and those that are not too outgoing are hesitant about coming out again.

“It’ll take probably a fair whack of time to gain their confidence again, to venture into groups and to put themselves out there.”

With eased restrictions, Ms Wood said the club was looking forward to many upcoming events, including a high tea on March 4, and a week-long trip to the Snowy Mountains on March 20. 

The club’s annual general meeting is also coming up on March 1, which Ms Wood said was a good time to join as it was when existing annual memberships would renew.

To enquire about joining the Combined Probus Club of Whittlesea Inc, call membership officer Andrew McCormick on 9716 2429.