How Nathan builds inclusion at Scouts NSW

Published Tue 12 Dec 2023

An episode of Bondi Rescue led to an idea for an inclusive activity that has become a feature at some Scouts NSW events.

Seeing the lifeguards struggling to communicate with a woman who was deaf inspired Nathan Duffy to create an activity teaching Auslan to youth members.

The intent was to help make young people aware of other people’s disabilities, both visible and invisible.

“We ran it in June last year at GWS Region Jamborette and a group came back the next day and said, ‘look what we stayed up and learned?’ They recited the whole Scout Promise in sign language,” Nathan said.

“At another event, we had a young group of kids who were interested in learning more about sign language. They had a friend who was deaf and wanted to join Scouts, but his parents thought he wouldn’t be accepted.

“The kids wanted him to join, so they took sign language information back to their Group and ran a Bring a Friend night and showed his parents how much they wanted to include him.”

The interest in more inclusive activities has grown, with Nathan – a former Venturer Leader and now an Honorary Leader at 1st Springwood Scout Group and a Lower Blue Mountains Fellowship member – developing a greater range.

Inspiring youth members at Cuboree

He was invited to create an inclusive base at Cuboree in September, which became “T out of Can’t”.

As well as the activities based around the deaf community, others included a focus on physical disability as well as vision.

“We had goggles where Cubs could pick a range of blindness,” Nathan said.

“They could be 30 per cent blind, or 50 per cent blind, up to 100 per cent blind. We also had other glasses from Vision Australia that categorised the different forms of eye diseases.

“They played croquet, where they had a partner leading them, telling them where to hit the ball and where they were related to the ball.”

Cub Scouts also took part in 10-pin bowling in a wheelchair, to learn what it feels like to be a person sitting all day in a chair.

However, they decided to take matters into their own hands and change the activity.

“The kids decided they were being left out because everyone doing the other activities were using goggles of some description, so they decided they would do the bowling blindfolded and base it on sound, while still sitting in the wheelchair,” Nathan said.

“They were following the directions of their partner – ‘go down the middle’ or ‘go more left’. The activity was just to bowl straight down the lane in a wheelchair. But they made it more their own thing by doing that.”

Cubs also learned how to spell their own names in braille, using orange ping pong balls with the dotted braille letters marked on them.

Using an alphabet guide, they needed to find the corresponding ball and put them into an egg carton in order. After writing their braille name on a piece of paper, they “transcribed” the markings onto a piece of orange cardboard using rhinestones. The orange cardboard was chosen as the colour orange represents people who have low immunity.

But Nathan’s favourite activity is Goalball – a Paralympic team sport where athletes with impaired vision attempt to roll a ball into the opponent’s goal. Bells inside the ball help orientate the players and all participants wear blackout masks to ensure a level playing field.

“We had people from NSW Goalball to start with, now we can use our own people to share the sport with our members,” he said.

“We encouraged the kids to play it to build up the awareness of children with vision problems.

“The kids just love it. When we did Goalball at Jamborette this year, those kids who had done it before wanted to get in first because they knew how fun it was.”

Building positivity from challenges 

For Nathan creating a positive and inclusive experience is about more than just creating good activities – it’s personal.

In January 2015, Nathan spent the Australia Day long weekend with his Venturer Scouts doing water activities and enjoying the weekend. The following Friday – 30 January – Nathan was admitted to Nepean Hospital having suffered a brain haemorrhage.

During his 13-month stay in hospital, Nathan and his family received enormous support from not only his own Venturer Unit but other Units around the Region.

Nathan’s rehabilitation progress continues to defy all expectations. Nathan is strong willed, determined to recover and to defeat any constraints even though he is confined to a wheelchair. 

While he has changed the types of activities he now pursues, he still leads an active life, leading to him creating the inclusion activity base for Scouts.

Nathan celebrated his 50th birthday last month surrounded by many of the same Scouting family who were there for him all those years ago.

He also has a team of supporters to help run the inclusion bases at Scouts NSW events. He organises the event – including acquiring equipment and information from various disability organisations including NSW Goalball, Guide Dogs NSW/ACT and Vision Australia – then gets the team together to run the activities.

If you would like some more information on the inclusion activities, or would like to host them at your event, please email Erica Dilworth – GWS Region Leader for Inclusion – 


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