Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Normanhurst Scout Group

Alister Henskens and Julian Leeser with Normanhurst Scouts

30 November 2023


Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Wahroonga) (19:47): Scout groups across Australia provide young people with opportunities to learn important leadership skills, engage in community service and participate in outdoor activities. People from different cultural and religious backgrounds participate in Scouts right across the country. Over 17,000 youth and adult members are active in Scouts. Recently I had the pleasure of joining the Normanhurst Scout Group for its ninetieth birthday celebration. The member for Berowra, Julian Leeser, MP, who I have known for many years and is a good friend, also joined the celebration. The Normanhurst Scout Group started in the early 1930s, with some members attending the 1934 to 1935 Australian Jamboree at Frankston, Victoria. The group used to meet at what is now the Uniting Church on Buckingham Avenue, Normanhurst. In 1942, the group relocated to Normanhurst Public School. Apparently the Scouts of the time were quite rowdy and the group was asked to move in 1950 after making "too many holes in the walls of the hall".

St Stephen's church then became the new home of the group. In the mid-1960s the group was large and successful, and the decision was made to split into the 1st and 2nd Normanhurst. The 1st Normanhurst occupied a hall in Kenley Park and the 2nd Normanhurst began building the hall on Harris Road, which was a mammoth effort. It took the volunteers nearly 10 years to complete. However, their unpaid efforts have stood the test of time as the hall is now the home of "Normo". In the early 2000s changing demographics forced the merger of the 1st and 2nd Normanhurst with the 3rd Thornleigh to create Normanhurst Scout Group. Twenty years later, demographics and the popularity of scouting in Normanhurst, Thornleigh and Westleigh have created the second largest group in New South Wales.

The birthday celebrations were attended by current youth members, retired leaders and other leaders who have moved but are still very active in their scout groups. The birthday celebrations on Sunday began with a flag break and were followed by the presentation of awards to two current leaders who were recognised by the Governor‑General and Chief Scout of Australia, David Hurley. Elizabeth "Liz" Foster is an assistant scout leader and was presented with a special service award. Liz has demonstrated her commitment with her consistent enthusiasm, completion of advanced leader training and commitment to adventurous activities training to the benefit of young people.

Geraldine "Kate" Andrews was also awarded the special service award. Kate is now an assistant venture leader and was recognised for her outstanding work maintaining an online program for young people during the COVID lockdowns. She has also shown a commitment to leader training and adventurous activities training, all of which benefit many young people. During the presentation, the group confirmed that four more leaders had been recognised this year, with venture leader Lainie Kalnins, scout leader Sarah Jaffrey, and assistant scout leaders Andrew Forsyth and Colin Healey all to receive recognition awards at a ceremony on 8 October hosted by Sydney North Region Scouts.

Melinda Draper has also been recognised for her support of Hornsby Gang Show, a live variety show performed by the scouts and guides of the Sydney North Region. Mel is a former leader and her husband, Alan, is an assistant group leader at Normanhurst. Both of her sons have also been in scouting. Following the presentation, the scouts participated in a range of activities, such as making damper. It was fantastic to see so many young people getting involved in developing their leadership skills and enthusiasm for the outdoors. It was my first time visiting the Normanhurst Scout Group as it has recently come into my electorate as part of the recent New South Wales electoral redistribution. I was encouraged to see the group thriving. In fact, the Normanhurst Scout Group is the second largest scout group in New South Wales and it operates all youth sections.

Normanhurst offers the scout program through a Joey Scouts unit for five- to seven-year-olds, two Cub Scouts units for eight- to 10-year-olds, two Scouts units for 11- to 14‑year‑olds, a Venturer Scouts unit, and a Rover unit for young adults aged 18 to 25. It has over 130 youth members aged five to 18. The Rover unit has over 30 members. All sections are supported by 30 leaders. Seventeen of those leaders have been volunteers for a combined 225 years of service to scouting and their communities. The volunteer spirit in the group is strong, with those years of service being in addition to their family, work and other commitments. Scouts plays an incredibly important role in our local communities by teaching our young people life skills, building their leadership and encouraging their passion for outdoor activities. I congratulate the Normanhurst Scout Group on reaching 90 years and wish it all the very best in the future.