As I write my final article as Chief Commissioner of Scouts Australia, Queensland Branch, I need to thank you all for your support over the past four and a half years. During this time the Branch has undergone considerable change with much more on the horizon over the next couple of years. We have seen, at long last, younger leaders play a greater role in our Movement at all levels but this progress has been too slow. Only a strong proactive approach will give to women and younger people a stronger and more equitable share of responsibility and will get us where the Branch needs to be positioned. Yes, we have made progress, and this should not be ignored, but in the future progress should be faster in these two areas.
During my term we have also substantially increased the number of adult volunteers who give their time to Scouting within Queensland. It is a great demonstration of the importance which our members give to our Movement.
Four and a half years ago our census gave us 7,791 youth members. Today, we are close to 10,000 but our retention rate is still not acceptable. This is one of the biggest challenges which we all have to meet in the coming years. Remember we have a target of 15,000 youth members, as a minimum, by 2020.
Having had the privilege of being a Scout creates a duty for each of us to try and share that privilege with the greatest possible number of young people. This drive must be based on the conviction that we truly have, as Leaders, a duty to make the world a better place than we have found it as Baden-Powell said in his last message.
Each of us is a member of a worldwide Movement with a worldwide responsibility. That responsibility is the mission not only of each Scout or adult, but also of the entire organisation. We still have a long way to go as this feeling is not yet shared, as it should be, at the Group level. This is where Scouting happens. This is where we can achieve our educational method, values, leadership, and organisational support.
If we do not reach that level with our vision, our mission and our strategy, then we are like an archer who misses the target with his bow and arrow, losing all meaning. Only when the arrow touches the target, only when the young Scout is reached, do we – all of us in Queensland – justify our existence as a Branch. Having said that, I am confident that with the support of our new Chief Commissioner, Daryl Scott, we will make great strides in this essential area.
Because Scouting is education and education conditions everything, we can increase the awareness which our individual members have of the problems of our State and local communities. We can also motivate them to act. We are first and foremost an action oriented Movement and we must influence the actions of our members at whichever level they find themselves, actions by which they will bring their own personal contribution (modest or important) towards solving the common problems of our community. Baden-Powell said, in the Scout Leader’s handbook: No man can be called educated who has not a willingness and a desire, as well as a trained ability, to do his part in the world’s work.
A Movement as strong as Scouting cannot ignore the challenges of communities – unemployment, fragmented families, and the underprivileged remain caught in the poverty trap due to the lack of knowledge and experience which are the conditions of success in our days. Scouting can bring its own contribution to bridging this divide. Through Scouting young people gain unforgettable experiences in a multicultural environment. From such encounters with other people Scouts learn tolerance and cooperation with others across cultural differences but we are poorly represented in these communities. Some in roads have been made but this area is still a huge challenge for Leaders in Queensland.
One of the privileges of my position has been to witness how much others expect of Scouting. State and Federal government personnel speak about their expectations from Scouting as a key factor towards a more tolerant, more peaceful, more just world. They are often more ambitious for us than we are of ourselves. This should bring us to take another look at ourselves, to see us with the eyes of others and to see if, as a Movement, not only as individuals, we can do more.
As I prepare to become the Immediate Past Chief Commissioner I see six challenges ahead for Scouting in Queensland:
- to identify the causes for the drop in membership in parts of our State and to reverse the trend, particularly for adolescents
- to reach out to the indigenous, ethnic and refugees in order to have them share the benefits of Scouting
- to successfully implement the major changes from the Youth Program Review
- to substantially increase the financing of the Scout program
- to increase the ambition of both our members and our Movement to play a key role in the Australian community
- to make Scouting in Queensland immensely successful with continued growth
Thank you everyone for your support whilst I have been Chief Commissioner – the role of a Chief Commissioner is challenging, rewarding and at times very difficult but the best part of the role is meeting and supporting the young people in Scouting. Good Scouting to you all.