With my two older boys 11 and 14 years, I have just returned from the 23rd Australian Scout Jamboree in Maryborough, Queensland – an event like no other , running every three years in a different location. The tag line was Dream it! Live it! – that is exactly what we did. I personally made sure I got as much as possible out of what was on offer. Scouts are aged between 11 and 14 years. The jamboree is the pinnacle in scouting and a scout almost always only goes to one, due to age restrictions.
To begin with we had a coach trip of 22 hours and on arrival we found the environment was extremely challenging, it was very hot 35 degrees plus, with 80 percent humidity, very dusty and to keep hydrated each scout required around 8 – 9 liters of water per day and copious sunscreen. For the line leaders, the daily work was very physical and relentless. Our days began at 5am and concluded with a meeting of our young scout leaders (called a troop council) and leaders which finished at anywhere between 11pm and midnight.
I have been involved in cubs and scouts for 6 years and I have thoroughly enjoyed the training and all the activities and skills that I have learnt. I put my hand up to go to the jamboree as I had two sons who wanted to go. Both have kidney disease, but the health of my 11 year old is a bit up and down so I felt a responsibility to go.
It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I went as a health and welfare leader of our troop, which consisted of 34 scouts. I had never expected that the experience would be so intense and that I would feel a buzz like never before – a buzz that went on for all ten days of the jamboree.
The jamboree is a safe city – 12,500 scouts and 2500 leaders. There is a daily newspaper, a radio station and a hospital and medical center and 24 hour dental center staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses. There are onsite activities every day and some offsite ones too. Kids get the freedom to roam within the fenced confines of a 102 hectare site, doing things kids don’t get to do anymore. There was badge swapping, mud challenges, climbing activities, abseiling, orienteering, circus skills, woodwork , laser tag and building, smashing old cars, plumbing, disability challenges – the list goes on. The offsite activities were Splash it! – a day doing beach based activities, building rafts, zorg balls, swimming and snorkeling and Love it! which was a day at Australia Zoo and the beach, Explore it! – a find Wally challenge around Maryborough town center and Endure it! – a bush challenge in an area of around 1.5 km’s by 2km’s where there were 32 bases. Scouts had to trek through the bush to find the bases – there were mud slides, making rockets with baked beans and spaghetti, blindfolded obstacles, puzzles etc.
Each night there was some entertainment in the arena – we had Timomatic, Reese Masten, Jessica Mauboy, Justice Crew plus some other local bands. There was a circus that ran at night allowing the kids to learn circus skills, there were frat tents, side- shows, and the radio station had a disco each night. Kids had to travel to entertainment onsite in pairs or more and their curfew was 9.45pm. The fire brigade would come around and spray the grounds and anyone who wanted to be sprayed.
What gave me such a buzz was this incredible feeling of community and goodwill and the unbelievable freedom that the kids just reveled in. Not a single electronic gadget in site. Their excited chatter when they came back from activities and wanted to tell their troop mates about it. We had a fantastic, very experienced troop leader and there was plenty of structure and discipline and each member of our troop actively had to follow the scout law – respecting each other, the environment and doing their best. The scouts had to wash their own clothes, ensured they had all they needed for activities, they made their own lunches and had to remember to keep hydrated and sun screened. In their patrols which were made up of 5 or 6 scouts they had two days where they were on duty and they had to prepare breakfast and dinner for 40 people. There is no set level in scouts, it has to be each individual’s best – the growth in some of the kids over the two weeks, including my two young men was just incredible.
I feel I could become a jamboree junkie, I am definitely planning on going to the 2016 jamboree which will be held at Cataract near Wollongong. I have learnt so much over the last 14 days but my greatest lesson learnt at jamboree is to ensure that I am always pushing my self into new territories and that I keep on learning to keep myself young.