Dear Leaders and Supporters of Scouts Victoria,
We were all shocked and saddened by the tragic and violent death of Luke Batty a week ago today. When we found out that Luke was a brother in Scouting, the loss was personalised for many. Since then I have had numerous Scouting people ask what the State Association is doing to assist and if there is anything they can do.
Last Friday night I met with an amazing group of Scouts, Cubs, parents and Leaders from 1st Tyabb where Luke enjoyed Scouting. The gathering brought this grieving Group together to share and to start the healing process. The events of the past few days were still raw and unanswered. The loss evident. What I experienced was a community supporting each other, looking out for and determined to stand by each other. The true spirit of a Scout Group was obvious, it was a real community, a family.
It was my privilege to have been invited to attend, to be present and to listen. I was also honoured to be asked to work with the Cubs and Scouts to assist them in organising a Scouts Own in honour of their mate, Luke.
A Scouts Own is an important and often misunderstood part of the Scout program. They are not distilled down Church services but rather they are made up of a combination of stories with a moral or spiritual message often based on the Scout Law; metaphors, such as describing learning in terms of packing a backpack for life; prayers, where hopes, fears, emotions, and thankfulness are expressed; songs, which usually are prayers; and sharing between those present. They are an opportunity to learn, understand and share while gathering together. The Patrol Leaders of 1st Tyabb, with their patrols, each decided to take on the responsibility for organising a part of their Scouts Own. It was a moving tribute to their friend, their Group, their families and an exceptionally impressive community. It is a Scouts Own that I will never forget, an amazing and beautiful experience put together by young people who were trying to understand but who were able to articulate their feelings and provide meaning through symbols, stories and actions. With them and their families, I couldn't help but cry at times and to laugh at other moments. Thank you 1st Tyabb, you are truly wonderful.
The outpouring of well wishes for Luke, his mum and for his Scout Group demonstrates the care that Scouts show each other throughout the world. I ensured that the 1st Tyabb families knew that there was and will continue to be support for them from all Victorian Scouts and their families.
I am very conscious that many of our members are talking about Luke and the news coverage of the past week which leaders and youth members alike have seen. Many of our youth members may be confused, upset or even scared by what they have heard, read and seen. It is important that we, as leaders, ensure our youth members know there are many adults in their lives that love and care for them. That their families, teachers and their leaders all want the best for them in life. It is also important they have an opportunity to ask questions and process such events that may be confusing for them. Consider taking the time in the next week to speak about their brother Scout, perhaps at closing parade where you can invite parents to join. You may even consider a Scout’s Own as a part of your program.
Our thoughts and prayers remain with Luke’s mum and 1st Tyabb. For those that have asked if they can do something, you can send through any offers of support in writing to the Victorian Scout Centre addressed to the Chief Commissioner and I will ensure the Group receives them. I thank each of you, on behalf of 1st Tyabb for your ongoing support and care.
Yours in Scouting,
Brendan J Watson OAM