FINAL – CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
TOWARDS POSITIVE YOUTH DEVELOPMENT AND A RETHINK OF AUSTRALIA’S YOUTH INVESTMENT
Address by Luc Panissod, Secretary General,
World Organisation of the Scout Movement,
National Press Club of Australia Luncheon,
12:30pm Monday 20 June 2011, Canberra, Australia.
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Brother and Sister Scouts.
It is an honour, a privilege, and a pleasure for me to stand before you today in my capacity as Secretary General of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement.
An honour to be amongst such distinguished participants who are shaping today’s and tomorrow’s society, and a privilege to be able to address the National Press Club of Australia.
It is also a pleasure to bring you, here in Canberra, the greetings of over 30 million boys and girls, men and women, all members of the World Organisation of the Scout Movement from 161 member countries.
I start by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land we are meeting on, the Ngunnawal [Nun-a-wall] people. I respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city, and this region.
I would also like to acknowledge the assistance given by Neville Tomkins, International Commissioner, Scouts Australia in the drafting of this address, supported by a youth member, Hannah Lord, from Scouts Australia, ACT Branch.
It would be useful if I gave you some context to my address.
As many of you would know, Scouting is the largest voluntary youth organisation in the world. Three quarters of its over 30 million members are in the Asia Pacific Region, in which Australia is prominently located, and plays such a key role. Officially there are only six countries in the world where Scouting does not exist, because our fundamental principles are not acceptable to their authorities. These are: The People’s Republic of China, North Korea, Myanmar (Burma), Cuba, The People’s Republic of Lao, and Andorra.
Even in some of these countries Scouting is practised, but is not formally recognised by their central governments.
These 30 million members are united by the same ideal, the same Promise and Law, the same principles and above all, the same values, despite ethnic, religious, cultural and historical differences.
This is what I call the Magic of Scouting!
It is a Movement rich in more than 100 years of experience and positive achievements; a Movement which has provided, and will continue to provide, leaders of all sections of society, and at all levels of society. Scouting unites people across geographical boundaries, and I can confirm, after spending close to half my time travelling and visiting our National Scout Organisations around the world, that Scouting is incredibly vivid and lively at the grassroots level, and supported by tremendously dedicated adult volunteers.
Closer to home, Scouting is also the largest youth development organisation in Australia with some 70,000 members. 2008 saw Scouts Australia celebrate its centenary, with your National Government declaring it as the “Year of the Scout” and issuing a $1 circulating coin in its honour. Rarely do youth development organisations survive, let alone prosper, over one hundred years and I have not mentioned the many youth organisations that have taken the Scouting model as their own, and have largely been inspired by, if not copied, our unique method… certainly often without the spirit. Here in Australia we have witnessed a 13% increase in membership over the past five years, demonstrating renewed interest across the nation.
And just as Scouting has produced better citizens for our local communities around the world, there are many world leaders and celebrities who have been Scouts. That impressive list includes Bill Gates, Steve Fossett, Sir Richard Branson, Sir Paul McCartney, Ban
Ki-moon (current Secretary of the United Nations) and Boutros Ghali (former UN Secretary General). I will refer shortly to great Australians, both men and women, who came up through Scouting.
What is not well known is the tremendously good work Scouts around the world do in developing nations in Africa, the sub-continent, Latin America and elsewhere, and in areas of conflict. This is what you saw in the “Messengers of Peace” video clips before today’s lunch. We also develop young people who step in when disasters occur. It is this attitude that we develop in youth – helping others – that has led to thousands of Scouts in Tunisia and Libya distributing food and medicine, helping in hospitals, providing first aid to the injured, and taking care of children during the recent Tunisian and current Libyan crisis. Or Scouts cooperating with UN agencies in assisting displaced people in the dramatic situation in Darfur. Or the work of Scouts in Haiti following the devastating earthquake. I could mention ten other similar situations.
SCOUTING AS AN AGENT OF SOCIAL CHANGE
I put it to you that, at its very core, Scouting is an agent of social change. We develop the life skills, the personal confidence, and the resilience of our young people, to make them better citizens. For over 100 years now, we have contributed to building a better world.
We are an education Movement, open to all. We complement, rather than compete with, the formal education systems such as schools, with family education and with religious education. We build on a value system that encourages the combined development of autonomy and responsibilities, from ages 6 to 25-26years, both male and female, within a clear ethical and spiritual framework.
Earlier this year in Brazil, the World Scout Conference, the highest governing body of our Organization, agreed on a new strategic thrust for Scouting, that is: “Be Prepared: Leadership for Life,” which brings a greater focus onto the development of young people.
Scouting worldwide prepares future leaders of social change, breaking down the barriers, and building world peace. Indeed, in 2008 Scouts Australia was awarded the Anzac Peace Prize by the National RSL.
World Scouting is active in addressing issues of global importance in such areas as protection of the environment, sustainable development, cultural diversity, climate change, and the promotion of the UN Millennium Development Goals to mention just a few. Yet we can achieve our own goals only by working in partnership with others – we live by the edict that “one person has the power to make change, but when we come together we can change the world”. It is in this context that World Scouting has worked in partnership with the United Nations since 1947, with the Red Cross Movement, the Millennium Campaign and many others. At the grass roots level, including here in Australian, Scouting will only prosper through partnerships within its local communities.
SCOUTING IN AUSTRALIA
Scouts Australian has every reason to be proud of its achievements. Over its 103 years, it has played a key role in the education and development of over 2 million Australians. It is the only member nation to have provided four World Scout Committee Chairmen. And it has provided numerous leaders who have served Scouting at World and Regional levels and have helped make a difference. And some of them are here in this room today. Thank you.
It is a registered training organisation, and the only youth development organisation in Australia licensed to deliver accredited Vocational Education and Training in leadership and adventurous activity. Scouts Australia is not just leading the Australian youth sector, it is leading World Scouting with its accredited training, and “on line” training programs which are currently being implemented.
This has become “a story to tell” and many other countries are now looking at it to replicate at their national level.
One of our laws is respect for the environment. Under the banner of “Murray River Reserve” Scouts Australian has planted, in partnership with Greenfleet, in excess of one million trees. In partnership with the Australian Government, Scouts Australia is recognised as a national leader in water conservation through its water tank project that saw water tanks connected to over 1,100 Scout halls around Australia. It was named as the winner of the 2010 Save Water Alliance Award in the Community Group category – not bad for a voluntary organisation in the driest continent in the world!
Here again this has attracted the attention of several countries around the world and I am presently trying to put together Australia with Niger and Chad just to see if that system can be replicated.
Scouts Australia has also worked incredibly hard to support youth development and health programs in indigenous communities within Australia and overseas, including Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati [Kir-i-bus] and Papua New Guinea. Its priority for the next 5 years is to assist young people in Timor-Leste [Tee-more-less-tay], your nearest neighbour, and the world’s second newest sovereign nation, but a nation experiencing abject poverty, and in desperate need of support with over 50% of its population under 15 years of age. Australian Scouts have committed to supporting the Timor-Leste National Scouting Association to become a Member of World Scouting, through the establishment of its National Office. Volunteers are also training adult Leaders in Timor-Leste, and Scouts Australia has partnered with the ACT Government under the “Dollars for Dili” campaign to build an Activity Centre for Scouts in Dili and to undertake health and sanitation projects involving the construction of toilets in local schools. In particular, that health and sanitation project is also being progressed in partnership with Rotary both here in Australian and in Dili. For its international work, there is no doubt in my mind that Scouts Australia is the leading light in the Asia Pacific Region.
Importantly, Scouts Australia is a confident, robust and well run organisation. It is a leader, not just in the Australian youth sector, but in world scouting. Of course it can do more, and it wants to, but it can only do more with your support.
MAINTAINING ITS RELEVANCE
Like many community groups, Ladies and Gentlemen, Scouting needs to maintain its relevance in a rapidly changing society. In accordance with its mission, Scouts Australia does this by regularly and rigorously reviewing the programs for each of its youth sections. Only in this way can it ensure it delivers the best development opportunities for young Australians.
It also relies heavily on market research to reposition itself in the competitive market. A 2010 survey by the Neilson company showed that Australian adults consider confidence and self-esteem as the number one priority in terms of what children need to develop. Those same surveyed adults rated Scouting as number 1 amongst educational institutions, sporting activities and Defence Force cadets, in developing confidence and self-esteem. They also rated Scouting as number 1 in developing values of honesty and trustworthiness, caring for others, and being sensitive to the environment. Scouting was also identified as number 1 in developing personal attributes such as imagination and experiencing adventure.
There is also evidence to suggest that academic achievement in senior school levels is enhanced through involvement in “extra-curricular” programs, particularly outdoor education such as Scouting. In his recent book “Visible Learning”, Professor Hattie of New Zealand wrote that learning about facing challenges, developing a sense of belonging, and giving participants leadership roles, have benefits that last beyond the experience of the outdoors. I should add that the development of these attributes amongst youth is the core business of Scouting.
PUBLIC POLICY CHALLENGE
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, young people are our Nation’s future, and investment in youth is vital for the sustained development of Australia. However, I strongly encourage Governments at all levels to refocus their investment in youth. The experience of several European and Scandinavian countries demonstrates the returns available from positive youth development. For young Australians to make optimal contributions to a stronger nation, I challenge policy makers and senior decision makers to shift their policy settings towards positive youth development. This can be brought about in three ways:
(i) Greater Investment in Preventative Programs
The first is more investment in preventative measures and less on curative measures. Understandably, governments at all levels have invested more and more in curative measures for youth, in programs to address a range of issues including youth depression and other mental health issues, youth suicide, youth obesity, binge drinking, adolescent crime, and the like. But effective public policy for youth has to be far more than being “the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff”.
I urge your Federal, State and Territory Governments to adjust their policy settings, to invest much more, over time, in proactive, preventative measures such as youth development programs. There is evidence both internationally and from various States of Australia, to suggest that investment in preventative and early intervention measures in children and youth can lead to a 7 fold increase in benefits – in other words, every $1 invested in children and youth in preventative measures saves $7 in costs to society down the track. Investing more, both as a proportion and in absolute terms, in positive youth development makes good economic sense, and good sense for the community through a more confident, resilient and a healthier youth sector – a youth sector with fewer social issues.
I therefore encourage all Governments to double their investment in youth development programs over the next five years. Affirmative action needs to be taken in these areas by investing more in the development of personal and leadership skills for young men and women.
The reality is that, by and large, Scouts and other youth organisations go it alone. I compliment your Australian Government on initiatives to help volunteers, and each State and Territory Government has a range of community development programs. But there is a desperate need for greater investment in leadership programs for youth, and in training programs for its adult volunteers.
Whilst Scouts Australia, through its Branches, conducts leadership courses at every youth level, it is about to pilot a National Advanced Leadership Course for 16-18 year olds. This new course is to help develop leadership skills to promote well balanced and resilient youth, in addition to skill development in the Scouting program. I contend that formal education facilities don’t do this well. And we know, from your Australian Government publications, that 40% of young Australians experience a mental health issue between 15 and 25 years of age. Non-formal, experiential education programs offered by Scouts and other youth development organisations are necessary for the health and well being of young Australians – the future leaders of this great country.
By investing more in positive youth development, Australian governments will be taking the lead from other advanced economies, particularly in Europe and Scandinavia. In these countries, governments continue to invest substantially in the leadership training of volunteer adults with positive results for communities.
(ii) Adventurous Activities and Responsible Risk Taking.
My second point flows from my first, and that is a greater need for public policy to acknowledge the importance of active, outdoor activities, including adventurous activities, in developing confident and resilient young people. One of your national icons, and a past “Australian of the Year”, Dick Smith, has argued there is too much “cotton wooling of kids” in today’s society. Other social commentators believe that today’s youth spend far too much time engaging in passive activities like playing video and computer games, watching TV, on-line social networking and the like. These are fine in moderation, but they need to be balanced by involvement in more active past-times. By engaging young people in physical outdoor activities, including adventurous activities and responsible risk taking, Scouting has much to offer to provide balance to the lives of young Australians.
Learning to assess risks in a controlled environment is a major national issue. For many young people, the first time they have to assess personal risks is when they get their “P” Plates and sit behind the wheel of a 1 tonne motor car travelling at speed. Scouting teaches young people a lot about responsible risk taking in a wide range of areas.
There is no doubt that young people respond to the challenge of adventurous activities, ranging from camping, skiing and sailing, to caving, abseiling and rock climbing. This can be seen in the following of Bear Grylls in the United Kingdom, who is also its Chief Scout, as well as the waiting list in the UK to join Scouts.
Australia has its own Bear Grylls in the Andrew Lock, who is here with us today. Andrew is an Ambassador for Scouting, and has the extraordinary record of climbing 14 peaks, each over 8,000 meters, around the globe. Andrew is one person who went through every Section of Scouting, and has just returned from a solo, oxygen free climb of the North Ridge of Mt Everest. We also congratulate Andrew on being awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, in your Queen’s Birthday Honours List just last week. And of course we must also acknowledge Georgina Sutton, a female Qantas pilot, and Sue-Anne Webster, Australia’s Leading Lady of Magic, both of whom grew up through Scouting.
Not all Scouts will become a Bear Grylls or an Andrew Lock. However, what Scouting does best is to develop young people to their full potential. It teaches young people respect for others, personal confidence, courage, self-esteem, resilience and responsible risk taking – what we regard as the key ingredients for a healthy youth sector, for responsible citizenry, and for strong leaders of tomorrow.
(iii) Involvement of Young People
This takes me to my third and final point; that is the need to involve young people more in the formulation of public policy.
As we all know, we live in a rapidly changing society, where the expectations, values and beliefs of each nation are distinctly different to each other. It follows that there is a generational gap between today’s leaders of society, and Australia’s young people. Yet the opinions of young people matter.
Fulfilling its mission, Scouts Australia involves youth members, at all levels, in decision making. This includes the involvement of youth in decision making of the National Executive.
If public policy is to effectively address the needs of young people, and help them realise their aspirations, public policy makers must listen to the views of young people. Jurisdictions across Australia have made progress in this area in recent years, but more can, and needs to be done for effective policy.
More opportunities need to be created for young people to influence policy across a range of areas, from environment and social policy to youth programs. It is not simply a matter of surveying them for their views, although this is a good start. The best public policy will only come from the active engagement of youth, and, importantly, their participation in decision making.
Let me conclude by reiterating my key points.
World Scouting, and Scouts Australia, are moving confidently into our second century. As an agent of change, we focus on developing life skills amongst young people, boys and girls, to enhance their confidence, self-esteem and personal resilience. We address issues of global importance, but act locally through communities.
Young people are the Nation’s future, and investment in youth is vital for the sustained development of Australia and the future of the world. It is in this context that I encourage governments at all levels around Australia to rethink their youth investment, and move towards positive youth development by:
Firstly, greater investment in preventative programs (including youth leadership and adult supporter training programs)
Secondly, focusing more on adventurous activities and responsible risk taking, to develop confident and resilient young people, and;
Thirdly, greater participation by young people in the formulation of public policy.
I am convinced that, through positive youth development, and by maintaining its relevance in a rapidly changing world, Scouting is a confident contributor towards stronger, local, national and international communities for the next 100 years and beyond.
Thank you for taking the time to listen to me today