In January 1919, in Buffalo New York USA,  five women conceived of a new service club composed of women who were recognised leaders in business and the professions. The purpose was to network and share the professional experiences of women, and to provide services to women through cooperative efforts.

Other clubs began to be established and the confederation of Zonta clubs was founded on November 8, 1919. Its first focus was the education of girls and young women. A constitution, bylaws and criteria for membership and classification were developed and the official colours of mahogany and gold were selected.The name  Zonta, a Sioux Indian word meaning “honest and trustworthy”, was adopted at the 1930 convention in Seattle. By then there were clubs in Canada, and in 1931 Zonta was introduced to European women.

From these early beginnings Zonta International now has 1,100 clubs in 63 countries. Zonta International has consultative status with the United Nations UNICEF, UNIFEM, UNESCO, ILO and ECOSOC organisations.


Zonta Club Of Adelaide Inc

The Zonta Club of Adelaide is part of Zonta International and as with all clubs aligns its objectives with Zonta International in:

  • improving the legal, political, economic, educational, health and professional status of women through service and advocacy
  • working for the advancement of understanding, goodwill and peace through a world fellowship of executives in business and the professions
  • promoting justice and universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • uniting internationally to foster high ethical standards, to implement service programs and to provide mutual supports and fellowship for members who service their communities, their nations and the world.

Zonta International was introduced to Adelaide in March 1969 by Dorothy Thompson, a Zontian from Toronto, Canada and sponsored by District 4 in Canada.  Dorothy met with a group of women who later became the charter members of a new Zonta Club.The 20 names necessary to apply for charter were submitted in April of that year and, as a result, on 11 April 1969 the Zonta Club of Adelaide was formed at a dinner at the South Australian Hotel, with 26 members and was subsequently chartered on 17 April 1969.  The formal charter presentation was carried out by the International President, Helvi Sipila, on 21 February 1970. The Club Charter Number is 0627 and the club is now in Area 2 of District 23.

Allthea Tebbutt, was elected President, supported by a Board comprised of Irene Jeffries, Dr Catherine Ellis, Geraldine Little, Joyce Cupples, Brenda Coulter and Judith Hay.


The picture above was taken at the inaugural dinner held at the South Australia Hotel. Members of the newly elected executive seated in front are: (from left) June Gill, Brenda Coulter (Directors); Geraldine Little (Treasurer); Dr Catherine Ellis (Vice President); Althea Tebbutt (President); Irene Jeffries (Secretary); Joyce Cupples, Dr Judith Rees (Directors). Standing: Elaine Royce, Pamela Cleland, Dr Elma Sandford-Morgan, Margaret Norton, Gwendoline Puodzius, Cherry Jeanes, Sister Mary Campion, Dorothy Thompson, Irene Holloway, P Fieldman (President of the Melbourne Club)

At that time Australia and New Zealand were not yet a District but were part of Region 3 of Zonta International. Adelaide was the fifth club to be formed in the Region and the first in South Australia. By 1974, there were 18 clubs in Australia and New Zealand and a new district, District 16 of Zonta International was formed. The focus of the clubs was service and in particular the improvement of the status of women.

The first committee set up in the Zonta Club of Adelaide was the Status of Women committee which over the years contributed to many major government policy initiatives. At this stage there were no fundraising activities and individual women donated money for major projects such as building wells in Sri Lanka, providing education for Arabic girls in Israel, and, providing paediatric ambulances in South America.

Over the years, club members also served on International Committees:

Name and YearsPosition
Joyce Cupples

Status of Women
Judith Hay

Public Affairs
Heide Taylor

Status of Women
Chair International Organisation and Extension
Consultant for Organisation and Expansion with responsibility for Europe, Africa,
India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh
Neila Foggo

Nominating Committee representing District 16
Millicent Hughes

Amelia Earhart Committee
Elizabeth Harris

Membership and Classification
International Public Relations
Erica Majba

Membership Committee


Members have also held leadership positions at Area and District levels:

Name and YearsPosition
Heide Taylor

Director Area 2
District 16 Chair Organisation & Extension Committee
Chair Open House Hospitality Sydney Convention
Neila Foggo

District Chair Public Relations Committee
Chair International Conference Newsletter Committee
Chair District 23 International Committee
Elizabeth Harris

District 16 Treasurer
District 16 Lt Governor
District 23 Governor
Millicent Hughes

Vice Director Area 2
Co-chair District 16 Conference
Area 2 Director
Margaret Coles

Co-chair District 16 Conference
Erica Majba

Lt Governor District 23
Governor District 23


The 1970s

By 1974, there were 18 clubs in Australia and New Zealand and District 16 of Zonta International encompassing the two countries was formed. The main focus of the clubs was service and, in particular, the improvement of the status of women.

The club’s advocacy and service projects were:

  • support for the establishment of the Aboriginal Women’s Council – setting up a secretariat with practical and financial assistance
  • a seminar The Reality of Equality launching the International Year of Women in South Australia with 250 participants and opened by the governor, Sir Mark Oliphant
  • support for Service to Youth
  • support for the Prisoners’ Aid Council
  • assistance in the organisation of annual festivities for the SA Council for the Ageing
  • support for the Elsie Women’s Shelter
  • support for the development of posters and pamphlets for the Child and Home Safety Council
  • sponsorship of the YMCA Christmas camps
  • provision of a mechanical bed at St Lawrence Home
  • donated musical instruments to Townsend House. a school for blind and mute children
  •  donation of four wheelchairs for the Spinda Bifida Association
  • provision of books and money for a project on Groote Eylandt to translate English literature into the local Aboriginal language
  • donation of $1,000 to the UNICEF Kampuchean Appeal
  • submissions to:
    • the Premier of South Australia regarding the establishment of a Women’s Adviser
    • the Minister for Labour and Industry on the Rehabilitation Centre for Women
    • the Equal Opportunity Commission regarding simplifying and translating the Equal Opportunity Act into major languages in Australia
    • the Prime Minister regarding the appointment of a woman delegate to the UN Sessions on disarmament.

In 1977, Areas were established in District 16 and Heide Taylor from our club was elected as the first Area 2 Director. Area 2 covered what is now District 23, South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern TerritorySouth Australia, Victoria, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory.

Other significant events that occurred were:              

  • an invitation to join the United Nations committee on the Status of Women in South Australia
  • the chartering of two new clubs in 1978  in the Adelaide metropolitan area: Para Districts Area and Fleurieu Peninsula Area
  • establishing an annual Citizens Award for primary school students

Club Presidents during this decade were: Althea Tebbutt. Irene Jeffries, Judith Hay, Heidi Taylor, Suzanne Dixon and Neila Foggo.

The 1980s

During this decade the club:

  • organised a seminar ‘Women in the Workforce’ with speakers Justice Kemeri Murray, Judith Roberts,
    Rosemary Wighton and Jean Wenham
  • established the annual Women of Achievement awards in 1984
  •  sponsored the Zonta Club of Riverland in 1985 and supported the formation of the Zonta Club of Adelaide West in 1988
  • combined with the Zonta Club of Texas in 1986 to fund a complete Amelia Earhart Fellowship which was presented by Phyllis Ward and Neila Foggo at the International Convention in Toronto, Canada
  • established the Isobel Williams Community Service Award for secondary school students
  •  provided soft furnishings for the Disability and Information Resource Centre
  • presented a van equipped with wheelchair access to the Red Cross Society
  • donated a wheelchair to Tea Tree Plaza Shopping Centre for use by people with disabilities
  • commented on the government publication A say, a choice, a fair go, following the National Agenda for Women
  • submitted proposals for income security for women,  portable superannuation for women,  tax-deductible
    24 hour quality child care, and tax-deductible retraining schemes for women
  •  established a playground in the form of a fort, with cubby houses, swing bridges and other adventure equipment for the Autistic Children’s Association
  • participated in a youth exchange program with service clubs in Texas and Arkansas with the Association of Community Service Organisations as part of the South Australian sesqui-centenary celebrations with 120 young
    South Australians visiting the USA and in return hosting 160 young Americans.

Millicent Hughes was elected Area 2 Director in 1986-1988, covering South Australia, Northern Territory and
South Australia. District 23 was established in 1990 and Elizabeth Harris from our club was elected as Governor.

The club was awarded the International President’s Leadership Award for 1984 and 1985.

Club Presidents during this decade were: Edith Von Shramek, Margaret Coles, Millicent Hughes, Phyllis Ward and
Delia Kennett.

The 1990s

During this decade the club:

  • supported St Luke’s Mission
  • contributed to the Flinders University Law Library
  • established an open Fellowship Award granted to women to enable them to continue in an aspect of their chosen profession
  • supported the Women’s International Playwrights’ Conference
  • donated a park bench to the Adelaide City Council and placed it in Peace Park opposite the Women’s and Children’s Hospital
  • sponsored the small clawed otter at the Adelaide Zoo
  • fundraised for the Oncology Unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital to provide technology gaining the club a Premier’s Award
  • celebrated the club’s 25th anniversary at the Adelaide Oval
  • supported Hope Haven and Irene Shelters for Women
  •  established a twin club program with Dakar in Senegal, Africa
  • supported Riding for the Disabled
  • supported Bedford Industries, a sheltered work environment for  people with disabilities
  • supported two local young women sculptors’ exhibition ‘Undies’ organised a Seminar Strength through Adversity in 1992.

Four of our members: Deidre Jordan, Aileen Connon, Irene Jeffries and Heide Taylor were honoured in the Centenary of Women’s Suffrage SA 1884-1994, as women whose lives and achievements reflected the hopes and struggles of the early suffragists.

Club Presidents during this decade were: Loueen Scott, Jillian Fairchild, May McPhail, Aileen Connon and
Barbara Dennis.

The 2000s

During this decade the club:

  • supported students who were studying hospitality in vocational education at the Daly River Community
  • established a scholarship of $2,500 for a female graduate of The University of Adelaide School of Science and Engineering in lieu of the Fellowship Award
  • established a $300 2nd Year Gender Studies prize at The University of Adelaide
  • supported Catherine House a shelter for homeless women
  • established two Adelaide High School scholarships of $500 for female students who have showed initiative and determination to complete their education but may not have the financial backing to support this endeavour
  • developed the breast care cushions project  for patients at St Andrews Hospital, Adelaide.
  • supported carers of children with autism spectrum disorder by providing respite care
  • assembled Birthing Kits for use in developing countries involving students from Adelaide High School and
    Seymour College.

Club Presidents during this decade were:  Indra Jury, Anna Muller, Erica Majba and Val Baldwin.

The 2010s

During this decade the club:

  • continued support for the breast care cushions project
  • continued support for the Birthing Kit Foundation
  • supported the Eastern Adelaide Domestic Violence Service with workshops for women at the centre, fundraising, maintaining a garden area, providing and packing Christmas presents for women and children, managing the donations sheds, delivering bread and food parcels, and providing household and linen materials for women leaving the shelter
  • developed a campaign Walk in My Shoes focussing on violence against women and published a book of women’s stories
  • increased the Adelaide High School scholarships from $500 to $1,000 and awarded two new scholarships of $1,000 for Mitcham Girls High School and an Aboriginal Girls scholarship
  • increased the scholarship for a female graduate of The University of Adelaide School of Science and Engineering to $3,000 and the Gender Studies Prize to $500
  • supported the St Peter’s Women’s Community Centre with a grant to run courses,  provided support in management and planning, assisted in the running of the Op Shop and co hosted a series of speaker evenings.
  • received a Service Award from Zonta International for our work with victims of domestic violence
  • established a $3,000 Award for a female student at the University of South Australia to undertake a community service project.

Club Presidents during this decade were:  Louise Temlett, Lynn Oxlad, Millicent Hughes, Raema Mahony, Bev Gum and Wendy Bruce.