Lions Clubs originated in the United States in 1917, when Melvin Jones, a Chicago insurance agent, suggested that a group perform service to its fellow men, without regard to politics, race or the personal interests of members. Lions reached Australia in 1947 when a club was formed at Lismore, New South Wales. A group of 26 businessmen, led by Geoff Finney, formed the first Tasmanian Lions Club in Launceston in 1957. Their first major project was a race meeting to aid the Launceston Girls' Home. In 2004 there were 54 Lions Clubs (with both male and female members), two Branch Clubs, two Leos Clubs for young people, and one Lioness Club (auxiliary women's branch), with about 1250 members.
Lions provides such items as parks and playgrounds, medical care and programmes for young people and senior citizens, and help in emergencies like floods. Members enjoy social activities, but care for others – both local and overseas – remains paramount. The Youth of the Year Quest aims to foster leadership and citizenship in youth. Well-known fundraisers are Lions Mints and Lions Christmas Cakes, with 650,000 sold annually in Australia.
Specific Tasmanian activities include the Tasmanian Lions Foundation, which provides capital to respond immediately to any disaster in the state. The interest is used to help Clubs fund community projects. Lions funded the Lions Eye Clinic in Hobart, which carried out research and eye surgery with the only laser in Tasmania. The clinic closed when lasers became common in Tasmanian hospitals. Lions also helps fund the Familial Tasmanian Bowel Cancer Registry.
Further reading: H Moir, City of Launceston Lions Club, Launceston, 1997.