MATTERS OF PUBLIC INTEREST;Scouts Australia – 22 Jun 2011

I rise today to speak in the matter of public interest discussion about Scouts Australia. In April I had the opportunity to visit the headquarters of Scouts Tasmania at the Lea, near Hobart. The Lea Scout Centre is located near Hobart’s Southern Outlet on the way to Kingston, on 137 hectares of bushland on a site that is a nationally listed conservation area. The site was purchased by Scouting in 1949. The centre is obscured by trees, so the large sprawling complex looks deceptively small at first glance. In fact, as you drive down the highway you do not realise how large it is.

The Lea Scout Centre incorporates branch headquarters and an administrative centre; the Tasmanian Scout Heritage Centre, which is a collection of memorabilia of Scouting that opened in 1997; the Rowallan hall complex and seminar rooms; an activity room; and a number of cabins with bunk-style accommodation for up to 86 people in an amazingly picturesque setting. There is also a games areas and plenty of parking for cars and coaches.

Two kilometres beyond the training ground is the Top of the Lea camping area, which covers an area of over 30 hectares of partially cleared ground with lots of suitable camp sites. In this area there is the Storm Hut, which has bunk accommodation for 22 people in two bunk rooms off the recreation hall plus a small kitchen. Nearby is a large shower and toilet block, which serves the northern end of the site, plus a rotunda suitable for barbecues and picnics. There is a large oval, a dam and surrounds suited to bush activities. Fresh water taps are placed strategically around the main camping area and there is ample parking for vehicles of all sizes as well as a coach turning circle.

These venues can be hired by organisations and members of the public when they are not in use by scouts. At the time of my visit part of the venue was being used by students from a local school while their boarding house was being refurbished. Another organisation that quite often uses the Lea is emergency services, which conducts lots of its training programs there, and to be able to do that is very important for them.

Scouts Australia is part of the worldwide movement that was established by Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell—also known as BP, probably for obvious reasons—later Lord Baden-Powell. Baden-Powell was educated at Charterhouse School and served in the British Army from 1876 until 1910. During his time in the army, he served in both India and Africa. In 1899, during the Second Boer War in South Africa, Baden-Powell successfully defended the town in the siege of Mafeking. He wrote a number of books on military reconnaissance and scout training while in Africa. He tested his ideas while on a camping trip on Brownsea Island with the local Boys’ Brigade and sons of his friends, which began on 1 August 1907. That date is now seen as the beginning of Scouting. His book Scouting for Boys was published in 1908 by Pearson, for the youth readership. Lord Baden-Powell’s sister Agnes Baden-Powell founded the Girl Guides movement in 1910. The siblings were joined in 1912 by Robert’s wife, Olave St Clair Soames, who continued to give guidance to the Scout and Girl Guides movements.

Lord Baden-Powell lived his last years in Kenya, where he died and was buried in 1941. The mission of Scouting is to contribute to the education of young people through a value system based on the Scout Promise and the Scout Law, to help build a world where people are self-fulfilled as individuals and play a constructive role in society. This is achieved by involving them throughout their formative years in a non-formal educational process, using a specific method that makes each individual the principal agent in his or her development as a self-reliant, supportive, responsible and committed person.

Scouts are also assisted to establish a value system based upon spiritual, social and person principles as expressed in the Scout Promise and the Scout Law. The aim of Scouts Australia, which began in 1908, is to encourage the physical, intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual development of young people so that they may play a constructive role in society as responsible citizens and as members of their local, national and international community. Acceptance of the promise is the only statutory requirement for membership, and the Scout Promise and the Scout Law give a clear framework for people to live by in today’s changing society. The Scout Law dictates that a Scout must be trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, cheerful, considerate, thrifty, courageous and respectful and care for the environment.

The Scouts movement includes different groupings: the Joey Scouts, for children aged six to eight years; the Cub Scouts, for children in the eight to 11 age group; the Scouts, for the 11 to 15 age group; the Venturer Scouts, for 14- to 17½-year-olds; and the Rover Scouts, for the 17- to 26-year-old age group. All members of the Scouting family are there to learn about themselves and each other, to acquire new skills and to have fun, and the activities are relevant to the specific age groups I have just mentioned.

The Scouting movement is open to both boys and girls and to people from all faiths, cultures and backgrounds. In Joey Scouts, children can earn badges for caring and sharing, for the buddy scheme and for the Environment Challenge. Cub Scouts aim to earn their bronze, silver and gold Boomerang badges. The Grey Wolf Award is the pinnacle award for Cub Scouts. Scouts can earn proficiency badges, special-interest badges, patrol activity badges and their cords. The Australian Scout Medallion is the pinnacle award for Scouts. The Venturer and Rover sections of Scouts also have awards schemes.

People who complete the Venturer Award are eligible to apply for two certificate II qualifications: Certificate II in Leadership Support and Certificate II in Business. They also may be eligible for VET recognition through completing their Queen’s Scout Award and/or the Endeavour Award. Rovers can earn their Rover Skills Badge as well as the Baden-Powell Scout Award.

The Gillard government has a vision of a socially inclusive society, and a Social Inclusion Agenda to help meet that vision. The Scouting movement, through its education, personal development and physical activity programs, has been developing social capital for over 100 years, bringing enormous benefits worldwide, including in my home state of Tasmania.

Another aspect of Scouting that has tremendous benefits for the participants is that they have the opportunity to learn leadership skills. For example, in Cub Scouts, the participants are divided into groups known as a ‘Six’ and one of the older, more experienced members is the ‘Sixer’. They have the responsibility of leading the other members of their ‘Six’ but still have the support of their Cub leader or leaders. This gives the older members the chance to develop their skills and allows the younger members to have a positive role model.

I would like to thank the Chief Commissioner of Scouts Tasmania, Mike Patten, and Graeme and Marion Blight and Jeannette Vogels for their hospitality on my visit to the Lea Scout Centre. Chief commissioner is a volunteer role, so Mike is certainly to be congratulated for his hard work and dedication in this organisation. In fact, Scouts Tasmania has only two people on the payroll, and those two people also volunteer many hours above and beyond those that they are paid for. I offer my sincere thanks to all the other volunteers at Scouts Tasmania for their involvement. Every volunteer is important, and obviously we congratulate them for their hard work.

However, there are some people who go well beyond helping out occasionally or giving a couple of years of service. I receive the regular newsletter from Scouts Tasmania, and there are a number of people who have received awards for many years of service. I will name some: Kelvin Hinds, for 20 years; Glenn Maddock, for 20 years; Ian Dickinson, for 25 years; Greg Boon, for 25 years; Kim Dudley, for 25 years; Jan Tuxworth, for 25 years; Robbie McKay, for 30 years; Michael Hovington, for 35 years; Stuart Sargant, for 40 years; Michael Wilson, for 40 years; and Suzanne Hill, for 40 years. That is just a minute sample, and that is a combined total of over 225 years of volunteering. I am currently looking forward to hosting some of the Scouting volunteers at a morning tea we have organised in my office—should I ever get back there!—as a way to thank them for their service.

I have been involved with the Blackmans Bay Scout Group for some time. My son, who is now 26, was previously a member of the Blackmans Bay Scout Group. More recently, my involvement has included regularly donating to the group’s annual Easter raffle and getting to draw the lucky winners of all that lovely—of course, at Easter time—chocolate.

I also attend the group’s annual general meeting when available, and early this week the Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout movement, Mr Luc Panissod, visited Parliament House here in Canberra and met with the Minister for Youth, the Hon. Peter Garrett. They discussed a number of issues, including the growth in demand for Scouting across the globe and the role the organisation plays in developing leadership skills.

Scouting is the largest youth organisation in the world, with over 30 million members across 161 nations. It is also the largest youth organisation in Australia, with some 70,000 members. The Labor government has provided support to Scouts Australia for programs that develop and support young people in their formative years, and I am very proud to be part of a government that does that sort of thing.