Long-time Scouts supporter John Booth AM has been recognised for his outstanding service to the organisation with a National President’s Award.
The prestigious award is presented to Associates for at least 20 years of eminent achievement and meritorious service to the Scout Association.
The 87-year-old, from Ryde, is a modern day legend of the organisation, having dedicated more than 80 years of his life to Scouts.
Having first joined as a Cub in 1939, John formed the 1st Baden-Powell Guild of NSW in 1961 and other States soon followed. John has been a member of the State Council of the BP Guild since its inception and remains an active member today.
On St George's Day 1969, John founded the St George's Guild of Sydney. He is still their Guildmaster, celebrating their 60th Anniversary this year. John said he was “shocked and surprised” to be recognised in such a way, but was delighted with the honour having gotten so much from Scouts already.
The Weekly Times owner said: “People seem to be making a fuss of me recently, I’m being recognised for various things and people are putting parties on for me and everything!
“It’s really very nice to be recognised like this at this stage of my life, it’s not something I was expecting at all, it was a major surprise.
“I’m shocked but delighted with the news. I’ve been involved in Scouts since signing up as a Cub 80 years ago when I was seven and I’ve never really looked for recognition in my life, but this is special. To this day Scouts is still my greatest love. It’s something I really believe in and it’s still the best thing any child could get involved in.”
John recalled the moment a new neighbour knocked on their door when they moved to North Ryde when he was seven and asked if he’d like to join the Cubs. He joked that his mum said he could join if he promised to stop swearing.
“It’s one of the decisions I’m most grateful for”, he admitted. “It has given me so much and helped make me who I am today.
“I’m fortunate to have gotten to some amazing places because of Scouts, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and Nepal to name a few.”
Having gotten so much from Scouts over the past 80 years, John dedicated much of his life to giving back to the organisation.
Both the BP Guild and St George's Guild have given extraordinary support to Scout NSW since their inception. This includes youth scholarships to major events and other Scout and Guide activities, assistance for Leaders to undertake training, and donations of equipment to Scout Groups and Camps.
The hard work and generous support of thousands of volunteers would have been lost to Scouting if not for John's leadership, initiative and foresight in establishing these Guilds.
At significant cost to himself, in 1970 John purchased Addington House, a historic settlers’ cottage in Ryde and donated it for the use of Scouts and Guides. As well as hosting Guild and other meetings, part of the house has been turned into a Scout and Guide Museum.
John has attended all World and Asia Pacific Region conferences of the International Scout and Guide Fellowship, a total of 28 events, including hosting the 2014 World Conference. His hard work and fun approach to life reflected positively on Scouting in Australia.
If that wasn’t enough, John consistently promotes Scouts in his newspaper The Weekly Times – Australia's most awarded Independent Community Newspaper.
Looking forward, John believes Scouts can continue to provide the youth of Australia with a crucial service for another 80 years and beyond, and urged potential leaders to get involved.
“I think leadership is key”, he explained. “People are sometimes afraid to get involved but I couldn’t recommend it more.
“You’ve also got to give kids a chance to lead which I think we’re seeing now. Society also holds us back a bit at times, we need to go back to our roots and say hello to strangers, engage with people and greet them with a smile.
“People say I know everyone but there’s a reason for that. I take time to get to know people and it has its rewards.
“I got a message recently saying that I light up the room whenever I walk in, which was really nice. I wasn’t always this popular and well-received so I’ll certainly enjoy it while it’s here!
“It’s great to get this bit of news out because it shows that individuals can make a difference.”