August is one of my favourite months in the Scouting calendar, as we kick off with World Scout Day, when we celebrate the remarkable contributions of so many volunteers and supporters over the past months and years at Scouts NSW.
It never ceases to amaze me that so many adults give their time, energy and dedication to deliver exciting adventures and foundational life skills for young people across our great State. Already this month we've held a brilliant State Rally in Cataract Scout Park, we've run events for National Science Week and International Youth Day, and we recognised 42 Queen's Scout and 2 Baden-Powell Scout Awardees at Government House, and awarded a big contingent of 32 young people their Australian Scout Medallions at Luna Park.
I'm so proud of the achievements we continue to make across our organisation, and it's great to see the uplift in youth numbers over recent months, which is testament to the valuable role Scouts is delivering to our communities.
Our biggest single challenge to maintain this growth trajectory is to find more Leaders. We simply can't run great events by continuing to rely on the huge contributions of a small number of extraordinary adults. We urgently need to find ways to encourage more people across the State to get involved, whether they help out at our halls, participate on Group Committees, volunteer time to fund-raise, or take steps towards training as a Leader.
Our data shows that the majority of Adult Leaders come from two sources – parents of youth members; and from young adults (especially our Rovers) continuing their Scouting journey. In my travels across the whole of our State, I've seen how successful Group and Section Leaders create strong succession plans, regularly giving Assistant Leaders the opportunity to step into leadership roles, while they remain constantly on the look-out for talented and active parents, who will be great role models for the young people in their charge.
In addition to our trial partnership with Macquarie Fields TAFE, we've also fully funded 60 places for our NSW Young Leader Development Program, offering Venturers and Rovers aged 17-25 years, the opportunity to stay in Scouts and train to become a Leader. I encourage Venturers and Rovers to visit the website for more information.
We're working hard to find ways to attract and retain adults who want to be part of our new future, which is why you often hear about our growth plans, our new youth program, our more flexible learning options, our investment in technology to help streamline workloads and our many ways of encouraging young people to stay on as future Leaders.
We also regularly feature adults whose Scouting journeys are an inspiration, and whose contribution to our organisation deserves recognition.
This month, I'm sharing the stories of three more wonderful individuals. They are all young achievers, whose dedication, creativity and youthful energy deserve acknowledgment.
My sincere thanks to Mel, Aaron and Harry. As young adults who join and stay with Scouts – your journeys are remarkable, and your contributions are invaluable. Let's keep encouraging more young people to stay within the Scouting family – after all, they are our future!
With best wishes,
Yours in Scouting,
Neville Tomkins OAM JP
Scouts Australia (NSW Branch)
Mel and Dave's village
Melissa Knudson started her Scouting journey as a seven-year old Brownie at Berowra. She was an early achiever, with a passion for trying new experiences, earning badges and conquering challenges! After Guides, she moved through Berowra Venturers and Rovers, where she gained the pinnacle Queen's Scout and BP Awards. She also became the Region Rover Council Treasurer, and joined the Scout region First Aid team, continuing as a region adviser when she left Rovers.
Her Scouting career path took a pretty interesting development in 1999. While attending the Victorian MudBash, she bumped into Dave "Crispy" Antrim who'd been a member in the Northern Beaches district since the age of seven, and they discovered they'd coincidentally been awarded their Queen Scout badges at the same venue.
Despite its indelicate name, the MudBash proved to be quite a romantic backdrop, and Mel's Scouting adventures took on a new perspective with Dave by her side. They got married and added two boys to their growing Scouting family.
Mel was delighted to return to 1st Berowra when her eldest started as a Joey Scout. And she hasn't looked back. She's been a Cub Leader, Group Leader, and she helps extensively with the Venturer Section. Dave has also joined as a Scout Leader while continuing his involvement with the region's Rockcraft team. They have both completed their Woodbadges - the peak award for Section Leaders and both their sons are active members of Scouts.
"It's the thing we get to do together", Mel says. "We love it!"
"We also do it for our boys to give them similar great experiences we had as youth members. We just take everyone else's kids along for the ride."
Mel describes how she and Dave have made so many friends throughout their Scouting journey. She acknowledged the honour of working with amazing Leaders, many of whom have become life-long friends. And she still loves a challenge – her 1st Berowra Group is one of the first to pilot CareMonkey and the new Youth Program, testing and learning for its future success.
"It is a huge responsibility looking after other people's kids but we also know that Scout Leaders are important players in childhood experiences. It takes a village to raise a child and we love being part of that village."
A generation of Tomlins
Aaron Tomlins joined Scouting in 2007 – an auspicious year for the organisation, as we celebrated our Scouting Centenary around the world.
He was seeking a new extra-curricular activity, and went along to his local Cub pack with a school-friend, who told him he'd have heaps of fun. It turned out to be even better than he'd anticipated.
Aaron explained, "I went through the sections at 1st Oyster Bay in the Sutherland Shire, and eventually became the Scout Leader. I had so many amazing and exciting experiences that I wanted to see more kids excel while having heaps of fun. So I decided to volunteer."
Remarkably, Aaron discovered that his grandparents had helped build the Scout Hall in the 1960s, and the family connection had continued through his father, who'd also joined activities held at and around the Hall.
"Providing Scouts with experiences and personal challenges that help build their confidence, personal character and skills, especially activities they wouldn't normally have a chance to do or experience, is what gives me the most joy and keeps me motivated!", he says.
Aaron is constantly surprised by the maturity of the older Scouts he's coaching, and has learned to step back and let them take the lead more often.
"I've been so impressed recently by my Troop Leader and Patrol Leaders. They take the initiative and are increasingly self-motivated to lead their patrol and direct the Troop. It's been amazing to watch. Early in the year I set my Troop Council the job of reviewing and making changes to our five patrols. They showed such maturity in discussing each option, every scenario and how best to mix different characters and personalities. In the end, the five Patrols were honestly far better than anything the Leaders could have devised."
"It was a really powerful reminder for me. This generation of young people just need to be given the right challenges and opportunities and they will always excel to their full potential!"
Harrison Lantry is the State Rover Council Chair and State Commissioner for Rovers. His enthusiasm is infectious and his enjoyment of Scouts is impossible to miss.
"My first interaction with the Scouting movement was through a Scout family camp, which we were invited to attend after my younger brother had joined five months earlier. The camp was at a location called Swan Lake, not far from the Sussex inlet. I recollect it took all of five minutes for me to be instantaneously welcomed by the Scouts and Venturers. They immediately became my best friends. I knew I had found my place. Within the week, I'd begged my parents to let me join."
Harry describes how he went on weekly adventures with his new Scouting friends. He discovered it was one of the few places he could be himself and come out of his shell.
"During most of my high-schooling years, I was bullied because of my hair colour. Scouting became an escape from school and as corny as it may seem, it was one of the only places I felt safe."
His Venturing experience reinforced his desire to give something back, and when he moved into the Rovers Section, he knew exactly what he wanted to do.
"Whenever someone asks me what I enjoy most about Scouting, I always tell them I enjoy giving back. It may seem like a cliché, but that is the best way I can describe it. Scouting taught me so much that when I became an adult, I wanted to help more people within and outside the Scouting movement have the same awesome experiences as me."
One of Harry's proudest moments in Scouting was during a weekend Rovers training program.
At the end of the course, one of the people from the group he was mentoring asked the course leader if they could be a presenter or mentor for the next course. The leader asked what had prompted the offer.
"I want to inspire Rovers in the same way that Harry inspired me. If I could do half the job Harry did I would be happy with that," said the participant.
"It was in that moment I realised how much of an impact I'd actual had on someone's life," Harry explains. "It filled me with immense humility and happiness. To this day, I still remember that moment and I strive to be the Harry that inspired the participant that weekend."
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