Yet again, monarchists are up in arms after the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have removed Prince Philip’s monogram from all their logos, writes history editor Dr Glenn Davies.
IN AN EFFORT to maintain relevance with the youth of Australia the Duke of Edinburgh Awards have removed Prince Philip’s monogram from all of their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty, the shape of the Australian continent.
Again, the Chicken Little’s in the monarchist coop are again crying foul and ‘republicanism by stealth’. They’re running around − again − clucking that the sky will fall in.
Because the Duke of Edinburgh Awards in Australia have removed Prince Philip’s royal monogram from all of their logos and replaced it with the strongest symbol of popular sovereignty — the shape of the Australian continent.
The removal of Prince Philip’s monogram follows on the heels of the removal in 2012 of the oath to the Queen by Girl Guides Australia something Scouts Australia had done over ten years ago. It appears the youth movements of Australia understand that, to increase membership, they have to appeal to multicultural Australia rather than a by-gone British Australia. Overt symbols of royalty have no place in twenty-first century Australia and perhaps nor do any references to the British crown.
On 1 September 1956, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband of the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II helped to found the Duke of Edinburgh's Award (commonly abbreviated DofE), in order to give young people "a sense of responsibility to themselves and their communities".
It is an award given for completing a program of activities: volunteering service to individuals or the community; improving physical activities; developing practical and social skills and personal interests; and planning, training for and completion of an adventurous journey. This can be undertaken by anyone aged 14 to 24.
Over 57 years, the DofE has spread to all Commonwealth countries. However, Australia is the only country where Prince Philip’s monogram has been removed from the award’s logo. If it was in preparation for his inevitable demise – at 92 he may not be long for this world – then this is not necessary, as succession planning appears to be in place, with his son, Prince Edward, taking a keen interest in the organisation. And even if this was true, then why has no other Commonwealth country followed suit? It’s more likely the DofE people have looked at the same membership rate projections as the Girl Guides and realised that, to remain relevant and viable in an Australian setting,, they must become multicultural with a focus on service to this country.
On a separate, but related, note, I’ve recently come to realise my own republicanism may be partly founded in my family’s strong scouting tradition. My mother was a cub Scout leader for over 20 years and my father celebrates, in 2013, his 60th year in the Scout Movement.
For 50 years, my father has served as a Scout Leader in both Townsville and Charters Towers. Having joined Cutheringa Scout Group, Townsville, as a boy in 1953 he passed through the Senior Scout and Rover ranks before becoming a Rover Leader and a Scout Leader in Townsville. When he and my mother relocated to Charters Towers in 1973 he immediately transferred his energies to the Richmond Hill Scout Group. He had no idea, at the time, he would still be involved in the Scout movement 40 years later. When asked what his ongoing motivation was as a Scout leader he reflected:
“Service is the scouting motto, service to family, to friends, the community and country. Service is the price we pay for our time on Earth."
Growing up in a north Queensland Scouting family, the concepts of active and informed citizenship and service to your community and country were instilled in me and my brothers from a very young age.
However there was never any talk of loyalty to the Queen. The “duty to the Queen” reference in the Scout Promise was never emphasised. In fact, it was almost a no-go area. Ironically I think I may have grown up in a republican Scouting family. Not in any overt way but through an emphasis on service to your own community and country.
My father and all the other Scout movement leaders I remember growing up in the 1970s and 1980s were all men skilled in bush craft with a strong sense of community service. Although I do recall a print of a young Queen Elizabeth II on a horse above the Scout Hut door, there were never any discussions about fealty to the British monarch. Even mentions of Lord Baden-Powell and the beginnings of Scouting were rare. For these men, their focus appeared more with the boys of their community and service to their country. Flowing through them was a strong Australian nationalism founded in a love of the Australian bush not for a Queen 'over the seas'.
Over the years, my father has seen a lot of changes in the Scout movement, including opening up membership to girls as well as boys and changes in uniform.
In the early 2000s, Scouts Australia made a conscious effort to modernise the Scout movement by scrapping its khaki uniform in favour of navy blue shorts and hat. This was based on research that the Scout movement was seen as militaristic and this was maybe something that was stopping kids either joining Scouts or staying in Scouts. The uniform change worked as Scout numbers around Australia have risen since then.
Since the publication of Scouting for Boys in 1908, all Scouts and Guides around the world have taken a Scout (or Guide) Promise to live up to ideals of the movement. The Scout Promise has varied slightly over time and from country to country. Richard Miller, national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen.
“As far as the promise is concerned, in 2001 we introduced an alternative promise which included a commitment to Australia. We answered to the needs of our members at a time when they wanted an option."
Similarly, the change to the Girl Guides of Australia 40-year-old pledge to Queen and to God involved a survey of all 28,000 guides and leaders on changing their promise.
After 18 months of intensive consultation of Australia's largest volunteer girls group, most of them girls between the ages of 10 and 14, it was agreed to drop the pledge of allegiance. The refreshed Girl Guides' promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best "to be true to myself and develop my beliefs" rather than to "do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country".
NSW Guides Commissioner Belinda Allen said:
"We are very much hopeful with the new wording to the promise that we'll be seen as more inclusive and modern and relevant organisation and many more people will like to join us."
In the new Girl Guide promise, 'loyal' has been replaced with 'respect' and 'helpful' replaced with 'considerate'.
The old Guide Promise:
I promise that I will do my best:
To do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country;
To help other people; and
To keep the Guide Law.
The new Guide Promise:
I promise that I will do my best:
To be true to myself and develop my beliefs
To serve my community and Australia
And live by the Guide Law.
The modernisation of the Girl Guide pledge reflects Girl Guides desire to move with the times in the understanding that Australia is changing; it speaks of this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian.
The removal of the personal monogram of the oldest living descendant of Queen Victoria from the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award in Australia is another example of how the youth of Australia do not want to be confronted by any requirement to display fealty to royalty — a concept that not only has no place in modern Australia, but has actively decreased youth membership of Scouts Australia and Girl Guides Australia.
The Chicken Little’s in the monarchist coop have no reason to cluck on about ‘republicanism by stealth’. The significant changes occurring within Australia’s youth organisation’s is a reflection of their aspirations and values.
For them, allegiance resides within their community and their country.
It seems my father and my hardy old Scout Leaders from north Queensland had the right idea all the time — it’s all about service to community and country, which at its core is grounded in the republican concept of virtue. It is here, within Australia, that virtue lays — not in a feudal castle over 9,000km away on the other side of the world.
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