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Scoutstanding local groups

Think Local

Shortly after Lord Baden-Powell penned his pivotal book Scouting for Boys in 1908, moves were underway in Australia to establish the first local scout group here at historic Mosman Bay.

Badel-Powell, who was born in England in 1857, had always been an 'adventurer' who spent his childhood in 'open-air pursuits' in the woods and on land and sea expeditions with his brothers. When fate and fortune lured him into the army, he headed for India and he was keen to transfer his knowledge about the outdoors and leadership to his troops. He taught them survival skills, how to cook food and many of his ideas were used by the army to educate troops.

Arriving back from India in the mid 1900s, Baden-Powell decided to put his ideas about scouting into practice and ran a camp on Brownsea Island, off the coast of Dorset, where they lived in tents and learned many valuable survival skills.

Soon after, there were thousands of scouts around the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and India, followed by France, Scandinavia and the United States in 1910.

Scouting has survived wars, social and technological changes and many other challenges to emerge in 2015 as vibrant and relevant for young people as it has ever been.

Scouts Australia NSW development manager Mark Peters, says the movement is solid and they are keeping abreast of all the major challenges society is throwing at our younger generation.

"Many activities and pastimes compete for the attention of children and teenagers these days," he tells North Shore Living.

"However we are finding that parents are concerned about the hours their children spend in front of screens - including computers, television and mobile phones - and they want them to be active and spending time outside. Scouts is a good safe way to achieve this."

He says young people are seeking fun, friends, adventure and excitement. "Parents also want them to learn responsibility, values, resilience and confidence. These two sets of goals, while at first glance appear to be quite different, in fact coexist well within our scouting groups and their activities.

"For some kids, scouts is the only way they can see the bigger world and have a role to play in it. International scouting activities and other overseas programs give them long-term goals they are motivated to attain. These days it is only natural that both girls and boys take part in scouts together," he says.

In 2008, 1st Mosman 1908 Scouts celebrated its century in style at the newly renovated scout hall located at The Barn at Mosman Bay. The group, which still has strong representation for cubs and scouts, is located at the first home of Archibald Mosman's whaling station - an historic and now restored heritage sandstone building.

The Barn scouting hall is seen as a real community asset and 1st Mosman 1908 has an important role in the history of the movement in Australia.

For 14-year-old Emily Harrison and 11-year-old Oscar Siebold, being part of the 1st Mosman group has brought friendship, fun and the chance to develop leadership qualities. Both have come through the ranks as cubs and now Emily is a 1st Mosman Scouts patrol leader.

"We really have lots of fun," she tells North Shore Living. "I love the chance to go on adventures, meet new friends and I have responsibility for four people in my role as patrol leader.

"There are many activities we are involved in - a few months ago we did a combined scout hike and that was fun and challenging.

There were about 3,000 scouts involved in the hike and we camped at night, there were many skills being tested," she says.

Oscar says he always tells his friends that being a scout is never boring. "It's a lot of fun and great to learn all the new skills," he says.

“We learn water skills, canoeing, kayaking, making fires, cooking and many other activities. We work towards getting badges which include emergency, citizenship, camp craft, technology, water safety and art and crafts."

1st Mosman 1908 chair Colleen Godsell says she has been involved with the group for more than 20 years, together with husband Wayne Godsell.

"I have a personal passion for leadership and a fundamental belief that leaders are developed and nurtured and good mentors are necessary for this," she says.

"The aim of scouting is to teach resilience in young people within a framework of strong ethical values, in combination with outdoor adventure and community outreach.

"Challenges and adventures are undertaken with strategies in place for calculated risk taking and in the process this builds leadership and problem solving - life skills for the future."

Mrs Godsell says during the past 20 years she has had the joy of watching young boys and girls develop into well rounded and independent adults with many continuing to give community service."

1st Willoughby scout leader Michael Harding says the troop has about 100 members and he has had two daughters involved in the organisation. "I was a scout years ago and many of our leaders have come through the ranks,” he tells North Shore Living.

“Scouts offers teenagers an opportunity to be risk takers in a controlled environment. We try and do things they don’t normally do so they can develop leadership skills. We try and keep it relevant to each generation and we don't exclude technology.” He says the enrolment numbers have been steady, with many children progressing from cubs to scouts and many "dragging their friends in”.

Another North Shore group, the 1st Sailors Bay Sea Scouts are based in Castlecrag, but are an historical offshoot of 1st Chatswood Scouts. The group was formed in 1914 and was very successful over a number of years before splitting into land and sea scouts in 1932, with the sea scouts eventually moving to Castlecrag.

Leader Chris Walster says the combined membership, including cubs, scouts and venturers is about 70. “The number of girls participating is growing and they all have access to the best facilities, including a $500,000 boatshed. I love to see them all having fun and most importantly learning new skills and getting outdoors away from their computers,” he says.

This year, Scouts Australia NSW has launched a new marketing image based around six key words - Engage, Inspire, Develop, Confidence, Resilience and Leadership.

Acting CEO Rosalie Batistoni says the movement will continue to “extend and improve the processes of reaching out". "Every year thousands of boys, girls and young adults join scouts. I'm pleased to see that we are using technology and social media to get the word out,” she says.

Oscar Siebold agrees. “Not enough people know how good it is to be a scout. We take it very seriously,” he smiles.

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