I’m an Australian Scout!

For thirty years I have been a scout.
I was a brownie and a guide and a ranger guide for the eight years before that but when I was 15 and old enough to become a Venturer I moved across as fast as I could!
And I was one of the first 5 female Venturers in Victoria.
Left hand on the flag and the right in the scout sign; before the Victorian State Governor; we made our life long pledge.

On my honour I promised to do my best
To do my duty to my god and to the Queen of Australia,
To help other people and to live by the scout law

The scout law is:

A scout is loyal
A scout is courageous
A scout is trustworthy
A scout is responsible
A scout is considerate
A scout is friendly
A scout is cheerful
A scout is helpful
A scout is thrifty
A scout cares for the environment

Who wouldn’t want to promise to do your best to live in this style?

In those days it was hard for a girl to be in scouting. Not only were there ratios – a unit needed a female leader and then six boys to each girl joining and they usually preferred you to have at least 2 girls in a unit. [I don’t know why I couldn’t stand my fellow female Venturer and come to think of it I wasn’t too friendly with her mother the female leader either! I guess my laws came into play with them first, teaching me to really live by my promise and proved I was a nice person and a good scout. Pity theirs didn’t.]

Scouting began a hundred and one years ago when Sir Baden-Powel returned from Maffaking in Africa full of all the astonishments of the Zulu’s there and their use of scouts. Youth who used their bushcraft and looked out for the main army. BP was fortunate enough to meet a Zulu chief and be accepted into a Zulu tribe and learn their ways.
When BP returned to England he noticed all the young boys forming gangs and looking for things to do … usually making strife for themselves more than being useful. A lot of them had no father at all either lost to the wars or just never had been around. And of those who did have fathers there were a high percentage who may have been better off without. He decided to organise a few of them into a group and teach them some of the bushcraft of the Zulu tribesmen. And after a while he took them on a camp to Brown Sea Island off the southern coast. It wasn’t long before boys were begging to join him and then he needed help with other adults whom he taught how to lead.

He developed the Patrol system based on the boys own natural gang system. Each troop was made up of patrols of at most 6 boys. Each patrol had a PL [patrol leader] and an APL [assistant PL]. These Pls & APLs would then also meet away from the troops in a Troop Council and decide the activities of the troop for the night, month, year. They also dealt with the discipline of their peers and with the directives of the scout group they were forming.

To help the troop council BP began the award system basing it on programming and badgework. He set the boys simple tasks of skill and created games and activities to train them how to achieve these skills. When a boy achieved his task BP would award him with a badge. The levels were created and set so that each boy could challenge himself and improve finally show his ability by helping the others younger and less skilled.

The Zulu’s would show their achievements as scars or tattoos on their skin. Now BP couldn’t advocate the boys mark their skin for life like a worrier so he asked his wife if she could sew badges for them to then sew on to their shirts. And then the boys would wear these shirts next to their skin and parade their achievements at the beginning of the night and at the end.

The boys wanted to look like soldiers and the army supplied BP with all the excess small khaki shirts it had. Teamed with the boys own shorts and a scarf made from their father’s handkerchiefs; a good sturdy belt to hang things off and good sturdy shoes and warm socks; and to top it off strong felt hats with four dints to show the compass points [we affectionately call them lemon squeezers now]; and thus the uniform was created.

BP wanted the boys to be community conscious and helpful. He wanted them to understand and promote the fundamental desire to protect not only his own life and belongings but the collective lives and belongings of the people he lived with. He also wanted the scouts to be seen as to look after their world so he created a fundamental lore that scouts leave the places they’ve been in better shape than when they arrived.

BP did not want to bring politics or religion or financial issues into the movement. He did want the boys to have faith in a higher power and he did want the boys to find legal ways to fund their adventures for themselves. He promoted a “bob-a-job” scheme where boys did odd jobs for people – family friends neighbours – for a bob [about 10 cents] or whatever the person could afford to pay him. And this money went to his scouting ventures.

To promote the faith in a higher power he brought in “scouts own” a time to meditate and reflect on the wonder and goodness of the world. On camp it is done on a Sunday morning collectively, but a scouts own could be private whenever a scout needed time to reflect, or collectively whenever a moment arises; the sudden landing of a butterfly in the sunshine on the billy handle; the spray of stars seen on a scouts first night camping. Faith to a scout is the fundamental belief that if they stop and correct a mistake or just took time out that the world will go on; that the sun will rise and set; that the rivers will flow; the tide will turn; the rain will fall; and the plants will grow.

He also promoted the fun of entertainment. The way the natives of Africa would tell stories around the campfires to retell an event, pass on the learnings of the past, teach a moral or just have fun. So he too promoted campfire stories and songs and skits. From that theatre productions occur – State Gang Shows and District Show Times evolved and have been the roots of the careers of many of our entertainers of today.

He soon had scouts too old to stay in the boys group and so based on the boys natural group breaking age [around 15yo] created senior scouts and encouraged them to do more serious community work and lead other young boys. And then he began bringing in younger boys [under 10yo] and using Rudyard Kipling’s jungle book and an old fable of a boy being brought up in a wolf pack, he created the Cub Scouts. Their green woolen caps have the latitude lines of the world coming to the north pole on the top of their hat to celebrate that scouting was then all over the world. [We now have Joeys (thanks to Australia) and Venturers and Rovers. The idea is you turn 6 in Joeys, 7 in Cubs, 11 in Scouts, 15 in Venturers & 18 in Rovers and then get the golden youth boot at 26! So we take youth from the age of 6 right through to the age of 26 and promote good citizens.

You can start leading at 18 but from 15 we also encourage assistant leaders within the movement. A scout who has turned 14 and has achieved all his badgework but is just that bit young for Venturers can be awarded Troop Leader and assist in the running of the troop as an assistant leader. Leadership in the different sections differ slightly only in their hands on approach.
Joey Scout Leaders are all teacher and not a lot of input from the youth. They focus on games and craftwork and stories. Their promise is simplified to “Help Other People” making their motto HOP and thus the Joey Hop.
Cub Scout Leaders show how to and allow the cubs to have a go for themselves. There is a pack system [like the patrol system] with Sixes and Sixers & Seconds meeting for pack council. Cub Scout Leaders have a “Name” usually a character from “the Jungle book” that, for respect sake, the youth refer to them as and the head leader [male or female] is always referred to as Akela [the leader of the wolf pack]. Their award scheme is the beginning of the badgework and Australian Cub Scouts earn levels of Boomerangs – bronze silver and then gold, and finally their silver wolf badge and gold lanyard chord.
Scouts pretty much do it all for themselves with guidance from leaders. They have a badgework award scheme in three levels also Pioneer, Explorer, and Adventurer. Then their green chord and their Australian Scout Medal. Pioneer level they learn, Explorer level they go out and do and Adventurer level they show what they have achieved and help teach the others. The green chord is like their initiation into adulthood and their Australian Medal is highly coveted and presented by the State Governor.
Venturers rule themselves with a Unit Council. Their Leaders are advisors only and are there to help the unit council to make sure the teenagers are being scouts and not just hanging out together for the fun of it. The award scheme is simpler but more intensified. They have a Venturer award and then there is the Queen Scout award which is presented by the Governor General [the highest Queen’s representative in Australia]!
Rovers also govern them selves with a crew council. It is very loosely based on Knights with the first year Rovers referred to as Squires until they prove themselves worthy of Rover status. Their role is to give back to the movement and to the community. They assist the other levels with leadership and whatever else they can including assisting in fund-raising and maintenance. And they seriously contribute to the community – assisting elderly homes, muscle power for schools and other community bodies, and very focussed on assisting the Native Parks Rangers with muscle power in Park maintenance. And they party hard too, [have the most adventurous of fun] but safely; gaining skills and qualifications and expertise, teaching these young adults how to actually function in the world as responsible adults.

And then there are Group Leaders who look after the sections within one group and they report to the group’s parent committee and then upline to the District Commissioner who then reports to a Regional Commissioner who reports to a Branch [state] Commissioner who then reports to the Australian Commissioner
And as a side safety line the leaders themselves meet at district level with their District section leader who then reports to the regional section leader and then the branch section leader who then goes to the Aussie Commissioner again
This enables information to be easily communicated up and down these lines of hierarchy and keep everyone in the know

We are youth focussed, youth orientated and youth driven. The troop councils also meet in a district and elect a district representative to meet at region and then a region rep to meet at branch and a branch rep to meet with the Country’s Commissioner. And at world jamboree there are also country representatives to meet in a world youth forum. There are other forums for the youth and also for the leaders and through these and the every day troop council decisions filtering up and the leader meetings, changes are made and evolved to keep the movement alive. That’s as political as it gets.

Girls weren’t all that keen to be excluded and so Lady Baden-Powel began the guiding movement for girls with similar fundamental structure to scouting but the activities were more domestic and gentile than boisterous bushcraft.

Finally he had to write a book so the parents and authorities would understand what he was doing and why and this book took scouting around the world. It came to Australia first and we have helped develop the movement and the structures ever since.

Today you can meet friends in almost every country in the world if you travel roll your uniform up into the corner of your bag and be welcomed in any scout hall and instant friends. We have world Jamborees and individual country jamborees where all the scouts meet for a 2-week camp to have fun together. We claim that we take children away on camp and bring back independent young men and women.

Now days we have improved upon BP’s beginnings to the point that the education system has adopted our programming styles – keep a child busy and they can’t get bored and make their own, more mischievous fun. Step by step set a child expectations and they will take on the challenge and rise to meet them. Even the patrol system is included in that there are small groups within the classroom. And one of the first things told to Student Teachers is to go join scouting or guiding as a leader. The training scouting gives their leaders – whether you have gone through the movement as a youth member or not – is more comprehensive than teaching is more hands on than teaching and usually more challenging than teaching. [And way more fun than teaching!] Australia is now having their scout leadership training recognised as a teaching qualification to diploma level. We are the most comprehensive of our police checking and the first education system to promote and use the working with children [license] card. And our group structure includes parents and other family members to help and have our ways rub off on. Parent helps also need a working with children card and police check and our rules and policies give no allowances to any wayward behavior.

So why not put your kids in scouts?
Why not join yourself as a leader a committee member or even just in the fellowship of scouting to help out wherever needed. Fees are minimal and usually only just cover insurance and running costs. And as a leader the youth parents usually shoulder your leadership fees by way of thanking you for your time.

Go on have a go we have the best fun and we learn how to be the best we can be!

I have been a scout now for thirty years in my heart and in my mind. Perhaps I have not always worn a uniform but I have always tried to keep my promise and live by the Scout laws. And that can’t be a bad thing can it?

Try it out ~ Be a scout!



Frankston, Australia

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Artist's Description

In this the Centenary Year of Australian Scouts I thought I would explain what I know of this awesome organisation!
It is the best somewhere that promotes all children in becoming awesome responsible citizens, Community Leaders, Role models, high achievers and self sufficient and HAPPY!
Take our Jamboree ~ a 2 week fully equipped camp where one person can tell 10,000 teenagers what to do and have them all do it without question en mass! No riots, no theft, no bad attitude, no drugs, no alcohol, no problems; just world wide friends, clever skill gathering and awesome fun!
And that goes double for Leaders too!
Enjoy Life :o)

Artwork Comments

  • Sarah Donoghue
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