Zonta International was founded in Buffalo, New York in 1919. Five women attended a social meeting of Kiwanis, an established all male service club, and conceived the formation of a new service club, to be composed of women who were recognised leaders in their businesses and professions. The primary purpose of the club was to standardise and disseminate business principles and practices and to provide service to humanity. 

Zonta first started in Australia in 1929 with the establishment of a club in Sydney, one of the first to come into existence outside the United States and Canada, but by 1935 this club had disappeared and it was not until 1965 that Dorothy Thompson was asked to re-introduce Zonta in Australia and New Zealand. New clubs were formed in Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland. Between 1965 and 1971, this remarkable woman organised clubs in all the capital cities in Australia, and in five cities in New Zealand. 

What was originally District 16, covering Australia and New Zealand is now divided into four districts –

  • District 16 – New Zealand,
  • District 24 – New South Wales and ACT,
  • District 22 – Queensland, and
  • District 23, covering South Australia and the Northern Territory, Western Australia, Victoria, Tasmania.

Three Australians have held the highest office as International Presidents, Leneen Forde (1990-92), Val Sarah (1998-2000) and Mary Magee (2000-2002).

Find out more about how Zonta started in Australia from this District 23 History in Brief.