What is the core focus of Scouts?
Scouts Australia provides young Aussies aged 6 to 25 with fun and challenging opportunities to grow through adventure. Scouts Australia has almost 70,000 members, making it the largest youth movement in the nation.
Today’s Scouts can take part in an extraordinary variety of outdoor activities, from traditional Scouting skills such as camping and outdoor activities through to performing arts, leadership development, community service, and environmental projects.
The Scouts Australia Youth Program also incorporates contemporary issues such as youth health, vocational skills, and issues pertinent to Indigenous Australians.
What are the challenges facing Scouts in growing their role in the community?
Our biggest challenge is that Scouting has very little presence in growth areas and is struggling to get a foot hold across Australia for expansion. This is partly a marketing issue as well as a facilities issue. The other challenge we face is maintaining our existing facilities.
How are Scouts looking to reach future generations?
To ensure Scouting remains relevant to young Australians we are currently undertaking a major youth program review, the biggest in 40 years, to better align our program with the needs of 21st century youth and reach out to future generations. Our aim is that through new marketing initiatives we are able to connect the core vision and values of Scouts with contemporary culture.
A way to do this may be to align with larger and other complimentary organisations such as Madeline Foundation, Surf Life Saving, Rotary, child safe organisations etc. so that we can be at the leading edge of community development.
What are the main considerations when planning growth areas?
We would consider shared use facilities to allow us to get in to new communities and engage with young people, however because of the nature of our activities and program, there are only certain groups that would be suitable to share a space with. We need a fairly robust space and generally operate in the evenings or on weekends, therefore other co-located groups could be;
In the past we have had difficulties with sports clubs because of the similar times of use, and community hubs are generally not robust enough for Scout activities. Some examples around Australia where we do successfully share spaces are at the Cottesloe Surf Live Saving Club, and the Doreen Education Precinct.
If there were groups considering engaging with Scouts Australia to look at shared use spaces, what would you say are your primary needs?
Spatially we need a robust space for indoor activities, similar in nature to a basketball court suitable for 60-100 people with sufficient dedicated storage, a kitchen, and 2 breakout rooms for around 20 people. An essential element is that it must connect to open space…this maybe an adjacent park or council owned land that would allow us the use of the space without having the high overheads of leasing and maintenance.
In terms of a catchment area to make it sustainable for a Scout Group to operate within a community we generally look to be located near 2 primary schools. A local high school is beneficial but not necessary.
Do Scouts work with any other community based partners?
We have talked with large developers such as Lend Lease who can see the physical and mental health benefits of an organisation like Scouts Australia can bring to a new development,, however while these discussions have been positive they have not yet led to the inclusion of a Scouts facilities in their developments.
We have also talked with the MPA who would like to see a low cost ‘portable’ type buildings created that could be integrated into the masterplan of community infrastructure in the new town centres it is actively involved in planning. These building could then be relocated as the community demo graphic changed.
If you could change one thing about the way we currently create communities what would it be?
To incorporate organisations such as Scouts into existing and new community developments across Australia so that their programs and activities can enhance the physical and mental wellbeing of young Australians and in doing so encourage them to take an active role in developing and leading their local community. It is at the local level where change starts, society needs to invest in organisations, such as Scouts, to enhance their ability to enable and connect people to their communities for the benefit of all.
We need to find innovative ways to co-locate complimentary organisations into growth areas earlier to allow a community culture to grow from the outset rather than waiting a generation.