Scouting a multigenerational passion for Jackson family
Published Tue 26 Sep 2023
In recognition of 50 years of female youth members (1973-2023), Scouts NSW is celebrating all the amazing women involved in Scouting and sharing some of their stories.
For the Jackson family, the love of Scouting is a multigenerational passion, with multiple women across four generations wearing the scarf.
Leading the way
It all started with Anne Jackson, who became a Cub Scout Leader in 1967 at the age of 18 when she was not able to join Scouts as a youth member.
Seeing the adventure and fun of Scouting in action around her inspired her to take the plunge, and she has not looked back.
“I went to a District concert at Burwood District and it was wonderful,” she said.
“You would see Cubs doing something and you’d see Senior Scouts, Scouts, the Leaders, everyone having a go. I thought, ‘well, this looks good’.
“The group my brother was in was 1st Enfield and they had Rosie, who had been Cub Leader for years, she resigned and the pack had been closed down.”
In January of 1968, Anne started the Cub Scout Unit which, at the time, was only open to boys.
While Cub Leader, Anne attended the 6th New Zealand Jamboree in 1971/72 after working with the Contingent at Branch Headquarters in Sydney.
At the time, the only uniformed females in Scouting were Cub Scout Leaders, as well as District, Region and Branch levels.
Some of Anne’s earliest experiences as a female Leader were challenging.
Whilst she was active and warmly welcomed in her local Group, at times she faced hurdles participating in larger-scale events.
She said there was segregation at many events in the early 1970s, with female Leaders camped separate to the males.
“We had everything ourselves – our laundry and everything was there,” she said.
About this time, Anne’s mother Betty Kempton was also acting in a supporting role for 1st Enfield Scout Group as a Treasurer.
Things began to change in 1973, when females were allowed to join for the first time as Venturer Scouts (14-18) or Rover Scouts (18-25).
Over the next decade, female youth members began joining these sections in Groups across the state, with Cub Scouts (8-11) and Scouts (11-14) to follow in 1988.
By the time Anne attended the 15th Australian Jamboree in 1988/89 with her son Patrick, she was delighted to see a number of Scout-aged females participating alongside their male peers.
“This Jamboree saw the staging of the closing ceremony for the Bicentennial Year – the opening was held at the World Jamboree at Cataract in January 1988,” Anne said.
“To facilitate this event, a commensurate number of Scout-aged females were bussed into the Jamboree, marking the moment that female youth members were welcome in every section of Scouting.”
In 1990, Anne’s youngest daughter Cecilia was born, the same year the Joey Scout section (5-8) started, with all welcome.
“Around that time, I became a Group Leader in Batemans Bay and there would be a lot of conferences for Group Leaders and District Commissioners,” she said.
“Cecilia ended up going to so many conferences and courses. She did her first training course at about three months old.
“I would go to conferences and have to work out that I would be able to feed her, I would have to take the cot, I would have to take the pram and I would go to these conferences, and they were primarily male.
“I was probably more aware of it when I came back into Scouting because a lot of the Regional Commissioners and District Commissioners and people like that have been male. But I had no problem from them with bringing Cecilia.”
Females did break into these higher ranks though, with Anne’s sister Judith Barnes (nee Kempton) serving as a District Commissioner in South Metropolitan Region from 2007 to 2014.
For Anne’s eldest daughter Melanie Soklevski, Scouts was not available to girls her age when she was looking to do activities after school, so she joined Girl Guides.
“My parents had three children at the time (Patrick, Melanie and Ernest) and they said you can all do one activity each,” she said.
“And they pitched it as ‘if you do netball, you go to netball and every week you play netball, but if you go to Brownies, you go there and every week you do something different’.
“So, I joined Brownies.”
When Melanie reached the highest age section of Girl Guides available in Batemans Bay and completed her Baden-Powell Award in 1991, she was at a loss for what to do next, as there were no options for teenagers.
“My brothers had been in Scouting for ages, Dad had joined as a Leader by then as well,” she said.
“I joined Venturers, so I finally put on the khaki (the uniform at the time).
“We didn’t have a very big Unit – we had a couple of amazing Leaders who supported us. There was me and Patrick – my older brother – and the two children of one of the Venturer Leaders.
“I wanted to get my Queen’s Scout Award before I started year 12. I actually got it at the same time Patrick did.”
For Melanie, while she was welcomed into the Venturer Unit, there weren’t many females in the Group.
She formed friendships with other girls at Venturer events, including Dragon Skin.
Melanie moved from Batemans Bay to Wollongong for university, joining the 1st Figtree Rovers, where she made lifelong friends.
“In 1998, probably the most amazing thing that I did was my Ramblers Badge for my Baden-Powell Scout Award (BPSA) where I cycled with a team of four others from the border of Queensland, up above Lightning Ridge, down to Victoria at Albury,” she said.
“It was about 1030km over the space of two weeks. It was a big family event – Mum and Dad were my road crew and tiny little Cecilia came along.
“I was with two other Rovers, one being my younger brother Ernest. Then one of the people coming on my ramble got sick at the last minute, so I asked my very, very new boyfriend to come along with one of his mates.
“It was an absolutely amazing trip and a really big highlight of my time in Rovers.”
She completed her BPSA – her second BP award – before she left Scouting (albeit only temporarily).
Melanie is back participating in Scouts, now based in Victoria, alongside her own daughters Chelsea and Piper.
“I found my BP charge certificate that says you’re to offer your services back to Scouting and at the time I didn’t have a reason to say no when they said, ‘do you want to be a Leader?’” she said.
“It’s been really fantastic being able to go to the Scout Leadership courses and get training in people skills and also have that safe environment with my team to practise working with an adult, because I have to do that at work as a leading teacher.
“Otherwise, it’s just so great being the person that can tie knots and I’m not joking. Being able to tie knots effectively is such a skill.”
Living the life
Cecilia’s experience with Scouts has been starkly different to Melanie’s and her brothers’ – she was born into it. With so many members of her family involved, Scouting is in her DNA.
“I like to say I didn’t really have a choice in the matter, but in all honesty, I was champing at the bit to join,” she said.
“Because I’d been exposed to it my entire life, when I was about to turn six it was ‘ok, you’re allowed to go now’.
“Because Scouting was always a family activity for me, I didn’t comprehend when I was six that Mum was going to leave me behind. She dropped me off at my first Joey Scout meeting and I cried my eyes out because Mum was going.”
She soon got in the swing of things and when she joined Cub Scouts, she was excited to be like her siblings, wearing the proper uniform.
Cecilia’s experience has also been different to her siblings, with significantly more females involved.
“As youth members, some sections the girls actually dominated,” she said.
“There wasn’t that many boys depending on which section it was in.”
Looking to others
Both Anne and Cecilia find inspiration in other female Scouts, from former Leader Clare Dickens down to Charlotte, a Cub Scout at Batemans Bay.
“Clare started life down here as a Girl Guide Leader, she had two daughters, then around the ‘70s she became a Cub Leader and went on to become a District Cub Leader and she was tremendous,” Anne said.
“Clare is in her 90s now, but she helped out right up into the 2000s.
“The effect she had on people was when she was turning 90, I sent a message to everybody I thought she knew, right through the Region and told them I thought she would like a card, and everyone sent her greeting cards.”
Cecilia said she was “fortunate enough to know a lot of amazing women”, but she was inspired by Charlotte when she was one of her Joey Scouts.
“We were introducing the program in Batemans Bay and she was the first Joey Scout to get her Peak Award on the new scheme,” she said.
“That was through COVID and the bushfires and everything else.
“She’s definitely one that’s shown the resilience that Scouting has for our youth members as well.”
Cecilia is also impressed by the other women volunteering on the State Team or working in State Office.
“I’ve been really fortunate to grow up in such a supportive family and have an amazing mother who has done so much in Scouting as well,” she said.
“I felt very privileged that for a few years there I was a Leader alongside my Mum and the other Leader had been my own Scout Leader many years ago.
“It was like the Joey Scouts had two grandmas and this big sister.
“Scouting has always, from a very young age, given me a sense of community responsibility and I’m very much a person who lives by ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, because that’s what happened with me.”
Into the future
Over their decades within the Movement, the family has seen the transition of Scouts from only having females in adult leadership positions to their introduction across all age sections. This was just the first step in an overall change of culture for Scouts in becoming a more inclusive organisation, which is open and welcoming to everyone.
Now, the Jackson women continue their service to Scouting in roles across NSW and Victoria, passing on their own experience and knowledge to the next generation of bright-eyed Scouts.
Anne is a District Leader, Southern Coast District, South Coast and Tablelands Region and a Joey Scout Leader with 1st Batemans Bay Scout Group.
Melanie has been a District Cub Leader, Manningham District, Scouts Victoria, for about four years.
Cecilia is State Commissioner (STEM) for Scouts NSW, as well as an Assistant Leader Trainer for Scouts Australia.
The next generation of female youth members in Scouting for the family has been carried on with Melanie’s daughters Chelsea and Piper – a Venturer Scout and a Scout respectively – and Patrick’s daughter Stephanie – a Scout – who are all members of Scouts Victoria.
In 2023, Scouts celebrates 50 years since the first female youth members joined what was once “only for boys”, pioneering the way for tens of thousands of women to follow over the next half-century.
With more than 16,000 active members, of which 38 per cent are female, and more than 400 groups throughout NSW, find your nearest group and register your interest as a youth member or Leader today! Visit scoutsnsw.com.au