Program History

Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) is a leadership program coordinated by Rotary Clubs around the globe.

Back in 1959, the state government of Queensland, Australia, invited local Rotary Clubs to help plan an event to help celebrate the upcoming centennial of the state. Princess Alexandra, who was in her early 20s was due to attend the celebrations, so activities were planned specifically for the princess’s age group. The gundoo, an aboriginal word meaning “festival” or “fun together,” was deemed successful with more than 300 men and women between the ages of 17 and 23 attending. Encouraged by the event’s popularity with the young attendees, Rotary saw potential to create an annual youth program based on Gundoo. The governor of the then District 260, Art Brand, approved the project and on 2 May 1960, RYLA was an official Rotary project.

Australian districts 258 and 260 established a committee together that developed the official framework of RYLA:

To train youth ages 14-30 in character, leadership, personal development, and good citizenship.

These guidelines helped RYLA expand to all Rotary districts in Australia and led to its approval as a Rotary International program by the RI Board at the 1971 Convention in Sydney, Australia.

Each year, thousands of young people participate in this program. Young people ages 14–30 (In our district ages are from 18-25) are sponsored by Rotary Clubs to attend the event run by the club’s district committee. Participants are chosen for their leadership potential. Rotary Clubs and the Rotary District cover all expenses for the participants. The format of the event vary from district to district, but commonly take the form of a seminar, camp, or workshop to discuss leadership skills and to learn those skills through practice. Rotary clubs and districts select participants and facilitate the event’s curriculum.

RYLA has been running in District 9780 since 1983, and have been using our host site/location of Kangaroobie, Princetown since 1994.