Scouts NZ Founders Day and 110th anniversary
Rau rangatira mā, e kui mā, e koro mā, e huihui nei, tēnei aku mihi māhana ki a koutou.
Nau mai, haere mai ra ki Te Whare Kawana o Te Whanganui-a-Tara.
Distinguished guests, warm greetings to you all, and welcome to Government House Wellington
As New Zealand’s Chief Scout, I’m delighted to welcome you here this evening to celebrate Founders Day and 110 years of scouting in New Zealand.
In 1908, war hero Lord Baden-Powell’s book Scouting for Boys was a publishing sensation. Set out as a series of Campfire Chats, it was a guide to observation, tracking and woodcraft skills with dollops of advice on self-improvement, patriotism and chivalry. The book captured imaginations everywhere.
Around the world, young people spontaneously set up scout groups and so the Scouting movement was born. In New Zealand, as in other parts of the world, eager recruits signed up in droves.
Scouting spread so quickly and was so popular that by 1910, newspapers around the country were running weekly ‘Scouts Notes’ columns, discussing troops’ activities.
These notes give us a fascinating insight into the world of scouting as it was then. There is much talk of signalling, bandaging and knot tying practice and dispatches on troop numbers throughout the regions.
While it all seems rather quaint to modern eyes, we can see the role scouting had in our communities. We get a sense of the commitment of the young people and the adult leaders involved. The pride in the weekly activities and what scouting meant shines through.
It was during those early days that scouting’s long relationship with the residents of Government House began. My predecessor, Lord Islington was named Honorary Dominion Chief Scout by Lord Baden-Powell in 1912.
On a later visit, Lord Baden-Powell held a reception here at Government House for Boer war veterans. I’m not sure where in the House the reception took place but it’s more than likely that we are today celebrating Founders Day in the room where the founder himself once stood!
Government House has also hosted many Queen’s Scout award presentations over the years. I have been impressed by the dedication and ability shown by the recipients of these awards and by the number of young people, taking up the challenge. It’s a demonstration of the continued relevance of scouting in our modern era.
It’s estimated that more than 1 million Kiwis have participated in the Scouting programme over the years. That’s an incredible number. If they haven’t participated themselves, most New Zealanders will at the very least know a scout. My husband, David, is a former Queens Scout and has many fond memories of his time in the Blenheim Scout Troop. Scouts provided him with opportunities to learn new and exciting things, to be of service to others and also offered a sense of camaraderie.
That sense of community continues today. Some people’s relationship with Scouts lasts a lifetime – from childhood participation in Keas and Cubs to becoming a Scout leader as an adult.
As well as being a safe place where young people can mix and make friends, participation in scouting helps in building confidence and offering exposure to new experiences. It’s a wonderful way for young people to explore their world, test their boundaries and be a part of something bigger than themselves.
Before his death, Lord Baden-Powell wrote one last message for scouts all around the world. His final advice - “Try and leave this world a little better than you found it.” There is nothing quaint or dated about this challenge. I think Scouts NZ has more than lived up to it. Your organisation has enriched lives and made a difference in our communities.
Congratulations on 110 years of scouting in New Zealand. I look forward to hearing more about your plans for the next one hundred and ten.
Kia ora huihui tātou katoa