The seed was sown for Scouting in 1907, when British military man, Major-General Robert Baden-Powell led an experimental camp on Brownsea Island, off the Dorset coast. About 20 boys set up tents, cooking their own food and picking up useful skills.
The movement really took off the following year when Baden-Powell’s Scouting for Boys was published in fortnightly magazine instalments. Young readers eagerly followed tips from the war hero, inspired to form small patrols of their own.
Scouting offered children a chance to live their own adventures during an era of innovation and achievement. It was a time when brave explorers were striving to reach the north and south poles, the Wright brothers were taking off with the earliest aeroplane passengers, and the first Model T Ford rolled off the production line.
Around the world, excited boys jumped at the chance to develop outdoor skills. Melbourne boys were no exception, although it’s hard to pinpoint our first Scout. One of the earliest was Geoffrey Fethers, whose dad met Baden-Powell during a business trip in late 1906. Young Geoffrey had a Scout uniform to impress his mates back here well before the Brownsea Island camp was held in the UK. Just after the Brownsea camp, a Caulfield boy received pamphlets from a friend who’d been one of the campers. Roy McIndoe and his mates were soon wearing red shirts and felt hats for their own adventures in Melbourne.
By the end of 1908, eleven Scout Troops had formed in Victoria.
Fifteen years later, the earliest version of Scouts Victoria was formed, but we were then just a Victorian Branch of the British Boy Scouts. In 1958, the Scout Association of Australia was created and we became part of our own national organisation.
For more on Victoria’s rich scouting history, visit our Heritage Centre.