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On My Honour

This weekend I will have the very great honour of taking up the role of Chief Commissioner of Victoria. In doing so I will reaffirm a promise I first made when I was 10. It meant a lot then. After all, my Scout Leader and Patrol Leader at the time had spent weeks going over it with me, ensuring I knew what it meant and what it was that I was promising to be. Now, with the passing of time, I view it very differently and in taking up this role it is a commitment to many more people and with great expectations.

As a Principal, I lament the annual release of ATAR scores for VCE results. Don't get me wrong, we should applaud those students who do exceptionally well, study hard, apply themselves and see the benefits of their hard work pay off with a score out of 99.95. The issue I have is that there is a whole cohort of students at this time of year that society fails to recognise. First of all it is those who complete an unscored VCE or VCAL and who do not receive a score because their future pathway does not require it. They work throughout the year, side by side with those who receive this penultimate score. And then there are those that do their absolute best, improve, work hard, persevere, show determination, tenacity and sheer will yet do not quite reach the same lofty heights as a 90 plus student. They have done their best and the reality is this is all we can ask of anyone. To do their best. So on Sunday I will promise to do my best, by all members of Scouts Victoria, but I am not promising that I will always get it right and I am certainly not promising to be the best.

I will also promise to do my duty, to carry out what is expected of me and to fulfil the role of Chief Commissioner. Be ready for my interpretation of my duty to be different to that of my predecessors though. We have been blessed and exceptionally fortunate to have had a number of Chief Commissioners who have been retired or who have worked part time or even worked for themselves. I do not and it is something that I laboured over prior to applying for the position. Now I am not for one moment indicating that I am not prepared to commit the time or effort to this amazing organisation, on the contrary. I have built a team around me to allow me to do the role and I expect that I will be spending a great deal of time fulfilling the duties of the role. Yet I will be working full time as well and at times I will need to say ‘I am sorry, I have to work on that occasion but the Deputy or Assistant Chief Commissioner will be there.’

Controversially the UK Association dropped the line of ‘duty to my God’ from the promise in 2013. One of the fundamentals of Scouting is this premise and it is a requirement of membership to the World Organisation. I will be interested to see how this plays out at the World Scout Conference later this year.  Just to make it clear, I have no issue making a promise to do my duty to my God. I am a Principal of a Catholic school after all, with a Religious Education degree too, but I do see this line as a very personal one, a line that I can understand many struggling with but one that I have a deep and profound commitment to.  And onto the optional line. Yes I will be saying it, ‘to the Queen of Australia’. I am a Queen’s Scout and think that Her Majesty is a phenomenal monarch whom we should be proud to have had as our Head of State, longer than any other. That being said, I also believe that Australia is close to being ready to stand on its own two feet and have the republic discussion again. Our future as a nation should not rest on one referendum; each generation deserves the right to have their say and voice their opinion by way of the democratic process we hold so dear.

I believe in servant leadership, working for others, serving others, helping others. Helping other people is why I became a teacher and why I have always worked in low socio-economic communities as a teacher and educational leader. I am the son of a policeman and a nurse who became a teacher. I come from a family of ‘caring professionals’ who dedicate themselves to service and to me. I know my father was proud of me and if he was still with us would be there on Sunday beaming with pride. So thank you Mum and thank you dad, I love you and will forever appreciate all you have given me.

Being a Leader in Scouting is all about committing oneself to the service of others in the hope that one day the youth we serve will benefit and be well-rounded contributing citizens of their communities and our country. Like teachers, the fruits of a Leader’s work is often never witnessed and if we are fortunate to bear witness to it then it is often many years later when we bump into those past youth members who are now grown up. On Sunday, I will be fortunate to have present one of the first Scouts from my Troop when I became a leader in the Scout section at the age of 18. He is now a Leader. I’m particularly proud of that and am humbled by the fact that he will travel from Sydney to be at the Heathmont Scout Hall where we started as Scout Leader and Scout so many years ago.

 Over the past few weeks I have read over the Scout Laws again, thinking about what they mean to me but perhaps that is for another article. Needless to say I will continue to live by each and every one of them.

I want to go back to being of service and helping other people. My promise will not be for just me this weekend. It will be for every member of Scouts Victoria and in reaffirming the Scout Promise, I will also be thanking and paying tribute to those who, over the years, have given of their time in service to me as a youth member. I pay tribute to my own past Leaders, Laurie Frogley, Deb Frogley (nee Mitchell), Richard Simpson, Ian Hobbo Hobson, Bevan Spencer, Mike Thomas, Ray and Val Nolan – I hope that you see the fruits of your service and know that it is because of your guidance that I will make the promise as Chief Commissioner this weekend. Thank you for your contribution in forming me as a man and a better person. I promise that I will not let you down.

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