Scouts prepare to remove the Queen

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The review of the Scout Promise to remove the oath to the Queen is not only about making the Scouts more inclusive, but an understanding that Australia is changing. It acknowledges this nation seeking its own identity as part of being Australian, writes history editor Dr Glenn Davies.

IT LOOKS like it’s about to become more comfortable for Australian republicans to slip on a woggle.

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.

In 2001, 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.

In 2012, Richard Miller, then national chief executive of Scouts Australia, explained that in 2001 the Scout Promise was also changed so that an individual had the option to omit reference to the Queen.

Scouts Australia is currently having a major review of everything that takes place within the Scouting Movement.

Their rationale is that:

As Australian society is rapidly moving forward, we need to continuously consider how Scouting should also evolve, and ensure as many young Australians as possible can feel included in our Movement.

Through talking to our members, we have found a disconnect between the current wording of our Promise and Law, and the experiences of many of our members … There is a strong feeling amongst many of our members that some of the wording we require our Members to say is not consistent with their beliefs or their current use of language. The end result is we are either losing members, or, some of our members are using words they don’t actually believe in.

For these reasons, we have been looking at the wording and language of the Australian Scout Promise and Law, and how we can put it in a more contemporary Australian context, while still maintaining its key principles.

In looking to create a more inclusive Scouting Movement, the review teams have looked closely at ensuring that the Australian Scout Promise and Law remains a true reflection of the organisation and its members.

The task was to keep the foundations of its meaning, while using more contemporary language that would ensure all young Australians are comfortable making the Scout Promise and living by the Scout Law.

After considering the research and Scouting community feedback they have proposed two Scout Promise options. Neither have any references to” duty to the Queen of Australia.” Feedback can be given at until 31 December 2015.

In the Scout Promise for over a decade it has been an option to say either "duty to the Queen of Australia” or "duty to Australia". 

Surveys of the Scout Australia community found:

'With over 50% of survey respondents suggesting this phrase needs to change, and less than 12% preference for this principle in the follow-up survey.'

The analysis by Scouts Australia states they “need to consider its (the phrase) place in the Promise, and whether providing options promotes the unity of our organisation.” It was also considered that the broader Scouting community favours the phrase “to help other people” when considering “Duty to Others” in the Scout Promise, and “to contribute to my community” as the next preferred option, similar to the modification made by Guides Australia in 2012.

In 2012, 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 that from 6 July 2012 Guides Australia would drop the pledge of allegiance.

The refreshed Girl Guides' promise has its 28,000-strong group now promising to do their best

' be true to myself and develop my beliefs" rather than to "do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and my country.'

Although the change occurred in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year, Girl Guides Australia director Belinda Allen says the timing is right.

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 Guides Australia 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.

While Australians come from all over the world and often have emotional attachments to other countries, we have built, here in Australia, a unique community based on the values of a fair go and getting on with the job.  For the girls of the Guides Australia, the boys and girls of Scouts Australia, and for all Australians, we should be proud of Australia's heritage, such as being the first country in the world to introduce votes for women and to allow women to stand for parliament.

Our young people are the future and it is very important that they develop the ethic of service to community and country. It is our responsibility to teach them to take control of their own destiny, through community service and confidence in themselves. All of the things we have achieved as a nation have been the result of Australians contributing to their community. Girl Guides and Scouts have played their part in that and we salute them for their service to Australia.

History editor Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republic Movement's Queensland branch convenor. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @DrGlennDavies. Find out more about the Australian Republican Movement HERE.

Feedback can be given at until 31 December 2015.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License

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