History of Toastmasters in New Zealand

This page outlines the history of Toastmasters in New Zealand.

How Toastmasters began

Since Toastmasters began, more then four million men and women worldwide have benefited from the organisation's communication and leadership programmes.

In October 1924, a group of men assembled by Dr Ralph C. Smedley met in the basement of the YMCA in Santa Ana, California, USA, forming a club "to afford practice and training in the art of public speaking and in presiding over meetings, and to promote sociability and good fellowship among its members." 

The group took the name "Toastmasters." 

Soon men in other communities and states asked for permission and help to start their own Toastmasters clubs. By 1930, a federation was necessary to coordinate activities of the many clubs and to provide a standard programme. 

When a speaking club in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, expressed interest in forming a Toastmasters club, the group became known as Toastmasters International. 

See also

History of Toastmasters International

Humble Beginnings in New Zealand

In September 1961, a small group of Dunedin men attended the first open meeting which culminated in the establishment of the Dunedin Toastmasters Club. One of those present was Rob Hendry, an active Toastmaster until shortly before he passed away on 24 November 2010. This was the result of seeing an article entitled "I Do" in the Reader's Digest.

Although communication and remittance of funds between New Zealand and the United States was difficult in the 1960s because of distance and tight financial policies of the governments of the day, the Dunedin club finally had their Charter approved in July 1962 by World Headquarters.

Growth during the 1960s

By mid 1965 there were 11 clubs, and in May 1967 the first national convention was held in Hamilton, with 16 clubs in attendance. A formal resolution was passed to form the New Zealand Toastmasters Council and office bearers were elected for the 1967/68 year. By 1970 there were 24 clubs and 448 members in New Zealand, and subscriptions were just $2.70 a year. In order to gain District status, 35 clubs and 1000 members were needed - at that time it was considered to be an impossible dream.

Flying Squad in the 1970s

However a small group of dedicated Toastmasters formed a Flying Squad, and in September 1971 the team took off to fly around the country establishing clubs, backed up by a land-based team when weather conditions proved unsuitable. The enthusiasm created by the Flying Squad was so infectious that by the middle of 1972, club numbers had almost doubled from 24 to 43, and membership increased from 599 to 1120. Full District status was granted to Toastmasters New Zealand at the 1972 Convention in Auckland - and the dream came true!

Membership widens in the 1980s

When formed, the Toastmasters organisation was for men. In 1971 the Board of Directors opened membership to women. Here in New Zealand in 1973 Pat Francis made history when she joined the Takapuna Club and became the country's first woman Toastmaster. In 1976 the first women delegates attended the Timaru convention, and in 1981, Nancye Berryman from the Otumoetai Club became the first woman to achieve Distinguished Toastmaster status. Judith Bartlett, DTM was New Zealand's first woman District Governor for the 1983-84 term.

Steady growth to date

New Zealand Toastmasters continued to grow into the 21st century, with increasing formation of clubs for staff of one company. In 2015, with membership approaching 5,000, the number of clubs was approaching the limit of 300 that Toastmasters allowed before requiring two Districts to be formed. While it was clear that a simple split between New Zealand's North and South Islands would not work, the question of where the line between Districts would be drawn was the subject of much discussion. Agreement was finally reached that this line would be placed north of Greater Wellington, and from the 2016-2017 year preparations were made for the formation of a new District (112, or "eleventy-two" as some called it) on July 1, 2018. This was placed in the North Island, as traditionally the founding club (Dunedin) is always located in District in which it was founded.

Toastmaster magazine

The New Zealand Toastmaster magazine was first published in 1968 and in 1973 was awarded a prize in the "Top 10" magazine competition.

International honours for New Zealanders

There are many opportunities within Toastmasters including leadership, which can be experienced from the club through to district levels and internationally.

District 72 New Zealand is proud to have had two Toastmasters elected as International President. John Fauvel DTM achieved this honour in 1987, followed by Len Jury, DTM in 1997. Glen Murphy DTM was the third New Zealander to be elected to the International Board of Directors, serving the 1998-2000 term.

International winners of Speech Contests

Toastmasters hold four annual speech contests and one contest goes through from club to international level.

District 72 New Zealand takes pride in having had two World Champions of Public Speaking - David Nottage in 1996 and Brett Rutledge in 1998. David was the first New Zealander to win the World Championship, and has since established himself as a successful communication and public speaking trainer. When Brett joined a Toastmasters club he did not imagine that public speaking would provide him with a way of turning his unusual talent of imitating famous voices into a full-time career as a corporate speaker and entertainer.

In 2010, Robin Grieve was one of the nine finalists in the World Championship contest, although he was unplaced.

In 2011, Kingi Biddle repeated Robin's achievement as a World Championship finalist, but was also unplaced.

In 2013, Kingi Biddle was runner-up to the World Champion.

More Resources

Cover of 50 Years of Toastmasters in New Zealand.

Toastmasters New Zealand has published a book entitled "District 72 - 50 Years of Toastmasters in New Zealand 1962-2012", Price $25.00.

You can order this book from District Supplies, email supplies.d72@toastmasters.org.nz.

For more information about the History of Toastmasters in New Zealand, contact historian.d72@toastmasters.org.nz