Alister Henskens portrait
Alister Henskens portrait

Sydney North Region Scouts

Scout Group

Mr ALISTER HENSKENS (Ku-ring-gai) (19:43:54): Scouting was established in Australia in 1908, over a century ago, and in 1914 the New South Wales section of the Australian Boy Scouts Association was formed. Since then Scouts Australia, as the governing organisation is now known, has experienced periods of both popularity and decline but it is currently in a growth phase. This is a time when many are seeking a greater sense of community and a break from the pressures of school and modern living. The scouting movement today has around 66,000 members and continues to demonstrate its relevance to the needs of young people.

This is undoubtedly true in the Ku-ring-gai electorate where seven Scout groups are thriving under the umbrella of Sydney North Region Scouts. They include the 1st East Wahroonga, 1st Gordon, 1st Pymble, 1st Turramurra, 2nd Turramurra, West Pymble and Normanhurst Scout groups. Several of these Scout groups have long and illustrious histories. First Gordon Scouts were established in 1916, the same year that Lord Baden Powell started Cubs in the United Kingdom. The group was formed by the Reverend Arnold Connolly, the rector of St John's Church at Gordon and meetings were held for many years in the parish hall.

The present Scout hall in Cawarra Place, Gordon, was built in 1961 after the wooden hall that was originally constructed on that site was destroyed by fire in 1959. The Normanhurst Scout Group first began meeting in the early 1930s in the Presbyterian Church hall in Buckingham Avenue, now the Uniting Church. In 1942, the group moved to Normanhurst Public School and was renamed 1st Normanhurst. However, after making too many holes in the walls, the group was asked to leave and it moved to St Stephen's Church hall in the early 1950s with Padre Alan Batt as the group leader.

In or around 2001, 1st Normanhurst, 2nd Normanhurst and 3rd Thornleigh Scout groups—the latter two of which had formed after 1st Normanhurst's numbers had swelled in the 1960s—combined to form one group, which is today's Normanhurst Scout Group. The 1st Turramurra Scout Group traces its origins back to 1920 and 1st Pymble has been a strong presence in the local community since 1954. These Scout groups are very important contributors to the social fabric of Ku-ring-gai. Scouts Australia aims to encourage the physical, mental, social and spiritual development of young people to enable them to take a constructive place in society as responsible citizens. Our local groups play a significant role in forming a socially cohesive community.

Just as importantly they provide a lot of fun, challenges and adventure. Cubs and Scouts both learn a wide variety of games, leadership skills and outdoor skills and Ku-ring-gai's natural surrounds provide the perfect environment for bushwalking. I recently paid a visit to the 2nd Turramurra Scout Group on their annual day and learned that group has a tradition of billycart racing in addition to honing the initiative and the camp-craft of its members. What was also noticeable about 2nd Turramurra is the longevity of some of the Scout leaders, the number of former Scouts who have returned to serve in a leadership capacity and the parents who continue to make substantial contributions to the group after their children have moved on.

Scout groups not only make a positive impact on their members, they also have a direct effect on their communities. Every year Scouts and their leaders contribute many hours as volunteers including time shared with the area's aged community, assisting with Clean Up Australia Day and Harmony Day or by planting trees for environmental and social benefits. The North Region Scouts in Ku-ring-gai this year assumed the organisation and conduct of the Anzac Day services in West Pymble, Wahroonga and Turramurra that had previously been hosted by our local National Servicemen's Association representatives. They did an outstanding job and will no doubt continue to do so for many years to ensure that appropriate respect is given to one of Australia's most important days.

Scouting is also proudly inclusive. In that regard it encourages the integration of children with special needs—physical and mental disabilities or medical conditions—into regular Scout groups. Based just outside my electorate in Lindfield, but with members who live in Ku-ring-gai, is 1st Cromehurst Scout Group. It is a special needs group that provides the full scouting experience and assists in the transition of youth to mainstream scouting. The objective of Ku-ring-gai's Scout groups is to promote self-reliance, leadership and a desire for self‑learning in our young people and that provides me with strong motivation to assist them whenever I can.

I am very pleased that over the last four years I have been able to facilitate grants through the Community Building Partnership program to: The 1st East Wahroonga Scouts that enabled them to undertake an upgrade of the kitchen in their hall; the 2nd Turramurra Scouts to fund the refurbishment of the bathroom in their hall; and, to the 1st Pymble Scouts that contributed to the cost of an upgrade to the driveway and pathway outside their hall. I commend all of the Scout groups in Ku-ring-gai for encouraging the holistic development of young people and preparing them to be both better citizens and effective leaders. When I visit the Scout groups and Cub groups in my electorate I am impressed by the confidence and personal leadership qualities that these young men and women have.