I was asked to speak last week at the Australian Scout Medallion Ceremony for Scout Victoria. I began writing about the time I spent over in Kuala Lumpur even though I was writing what happened I felt like I was brushing over important details. So I went back and filled in some of the gaps and this is what I said:
“Good morning and a big congratulations to all the scouts here today receiving their Australian Scout Medallion. A warm welcome to your parents, family, friends and scout leaders.
I was asked to speak today about a journey. You have all been on a journey in scouting over the past year or so and I’m sure your parents and Scout leaders can see how much you have grown and developed on the journey to receive your Scout Medallion.
I certainty wasn’t a model Scout. My best efforts got me my Explorer Cord and I certainly wouldn’t win the title of Australia’s best Venturer. Falling off the bridge and winding myself, at the going up ceremony from Scouts to Venturers was probably one of the highlights of my Venturer career.
I haven’t always been the person that I am today and I remember looking up to ‘those people’ who gave speeches at ceremonies, but I know that I have scouting to thank for the leader that I have become.
Everyone’s journey is personal, different. Some are fun; others life changing. Sometimes they are life long journeys and others, a few short days. There are no minimum standards but personal steps that get you there. Make it your own journey.
This speech was my alternative option to what I was going to talk about today. It’s a sensitive topic and I want to make sure that if what I talk about brings up any concerns in your own life, that you seek out friends, family or a Scout Leader that you are comfortable to talk with. Or me, I love to talk.
In 2014 I was asked to be the Project Manager of the National Mental Health Sub Committee and I jumped at the chance. Why?.
Every year, one in four young people aged between 14 and 24 years will experience a mental health problem. Because there is so much going on in this period of your life, mental health problems can disrupt a young person’s development in a whole range of areas. The National Mental Health Sub-Committee has been working on ways that Scouts Australia can assist in addressing these problems.
My passion is in the area of the mental health of young people and minimizing the impacts that mental health problems can have on development, education outcomes and long-term functioning.
I have suffered from episodes of depression and generalised anxiety disorders since I was in year 9 at high school. I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time. But on the days when high school pressure, family stress and just getting out of bed was tough, I always had scouting to turn to. It has been and always will be a stable, supportive environment to assist young people to grow into effective leaders.
During 2013, a year that I was battling with depression, I submitted my application to the Australia Rover Moot which was in Western Australia (a Moot is similar to a Scout Jamboree). I was extremely anxious about going, as I felt that I only knew one other Rover attending. Her name is Steph Boemo. She practically wrote my application to go and to her I am extremely grateful. There I met hundreds of other enthusiastic Rovers from across Australia and the World. This two-week trip re-ignited my passion for scouting. Combining my love of travel and scouting, it kicked off a three year, epic adventurer for me.
Just through talking to people at the moot I expressed my enthusiasm for the environment and found myself on the State Environment Team, just 2 weeks later. 4 months after that I ran for the position of Victorian Rover Council Environment Officer and was successful for the 2014-2015 term. But those anxieties were still with me; what if I couldn’t fulfil the role as my predecessor had? By running for the role my personal confidence grew, as did my scouting profile and personal opportunities.
While procrastinating the meaning of life, one day in early 2015, I stumbled across position openings on the World Scout Bureaus website. The World Scout Bureau is one of the governing bodies of the World Organization of the Scout Movement. They were looking for an Intern to work in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was an amazing sounding opportunity that felt out of my reach, but I applied for the Internship, anyway. My anxiety was screaming at me when I pressed send on the first email. But as the saying goes, you’ve got to be in it to win it.
When I got a reply email 3 weeks later I’d assumed it would be a rejection email, so I didn’t open it for 6 hours; but it was an email saying that I had been short-listed for this amazing role. The next task was to make a short video on the topic of “How can we motivate young people to be active citizens and contribute positively to create a better world around them”. Ironic, since I was the one who currently needed motivation. So I drew on what I needed to hear when times were tough. And this is what I said in my video:
“Everyone is different and that is the first point one must acknowledge. People come from different backgrounds and have different priorities in life. Some people’s ultimate goal may be to become a doctor or an army officer and others could be to take on the families’ business or open their own shop.
Young people do share this goal of creating a better world around them and evidence suggests that they are keen to be given the opportunities to realise it.
We must listen to them, find their passion and assist them to develop it, rather than creating our own agenda and expecting them to be interested. Let them have their say. Show them the opportunities that exist and allow them to explore them at their own pace.
Break down the problems or tasks; make them achievable. It’s not that youth don’t want to contribute in positives ways. Creating a better world is a huge and daunting task. How does anyone know where to start? Let them know that they don’t have to solve everything right now, small steps lead to positive and legitimate change.
Be positive and supportive. Congratulate young people on the good work that they have done, give them positive incentives to keep them motivated and on track.”
Despite my anxiety I pushed forward, was accepted to the Intern position and spent 8 months last year living in Kuala Lumpur. I travelled twice to Paris and met with members of the UNESCO World Heritage to develop partnerships between us. I spoke at the European Rover Scout Region Conference in France. I travelled to Japan where I attended the World Scout Jamboree and hiked Mt Fuji. I represented Scouts Australia at the Asia Pacific Region Forum and Conference in Korea. In Malaysia I swam with sharks……and my journey continues……
I will never forget the words of my Scout leader Chips, some years ago now: “What you put into scouting, scouting gives back to you “ and I can safely say that they are words that have rung true for me. I just wish I had acted upon them earlier. I hope that you also take these words with you today and think of them many times on the rest of your Scouting journey.
Thank you and good luck!!”