25 August 2023

Celebrating a century of adventures at 1st Austinmer Scout Group

| Keeli Royle
Start the conversation
Stephen Turner in 1958 as a Wolf Cub at Austinmer Scouts.

Stephen Turner joined Austinmer Scout Group in 1958 and has been leading the group for three decades. Photo: Supplied.

Austinmer Scouts are celebrating a major milestone, with the region’s longest continually running group marking 100 years of developing lifelong skills and friendships in the Illawarra.

Stephen Turner joined Scouts in 1958 as a Wolf Cub, not knowing how big a part of his life the group would become.

“It was a new thing, adventurous, exciting, so I joined up as an eight-year-old,” he said.

The group became part of his whole family, with his brothers also joining and his parents serving the group for decades as integral committee members helping the team stay strong.

“They were just the kind of people who got involved,” Stephen said. “They contributed so much over the years they both received the highest award in Scouting, the Presidential Award.”

READ ALSO Kids all over the Illawarra are engaging with Poem Forest, an initiative to help green the ‘Gong

Even after Stephen outgrew Scouts, he found himself helping source materials for upgrades to the hall and helping build amenities blocks.

So when the Scouts needed a new group leader, they knew exactly where to look.

“When it came around again, they said would you like to get back in uniform again in 1991, so I did and I’m still here.”

He’s been leading the group for more than three decades and things look a bit different to when he was a Cub.

“It’s changed a lot, it used to be known as Boy Scouts.” Stephen said. “There was Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

“Girl Guides was kind of one discipline of activities and Scouts was totally the opposite.”

Members of the 1st Austinmer Scout Group at Austinmer Beach. Photo: Supplied.

Austinmer Scout group is celebrating 100 years. Photo: Supplied/Stephen Turner.

Scouts became a group for everyone, regardless of gender, in the 1970s and it proved to be an extremely popular move for the Austinmer club.

“It’s pretty even, the girls are just part of the unit, they’re just Scouts,” Stephen said.

“It’s a funny thing because at some points in time our groups, like our Cubs section, had all girls and there were no boys.”

Opportunities for different ages have also expanded, with Austinmer introducing the Joeys section last year for kids as young as five.

“We have all five sections of Scouts now – the Joeys, the Cubs, Scouts, Venturers and the Rovers and that takes from a five-year-old to a 26-year-old.”

And people come from all across the Illawarra to be part of the popular team.

“Our group is not unique to members from Austinmer, we’ve got members from Otford in the north down to almost Dapto.”

Stephen said many members went on to become leaders or parents within the group or came back in from time to time to help give back.

“A lot of the other ones all come back and are watching out for these activities to happen and they turn up,” he said.

“Once an Austi Scout always an Austi Scout, they just don’t go away!”

And many are likely to take a trip down memory lane during celebrations in November for the group’s 100th birthday as they host a special dinner at Mt Keira and open day at the Austinmer Scout Hall.

“We’ll have all the memorabilia out and the public and ex-members can all come in and have a browse through and reminisce.”

READ ALSO Talking with Ribbon art installation saves wristbands from landfill, celebrates the power of community

The hall itself is a key part of the group’s identity – the land and building purchased for 514 pounds and nine shillings in 1926.

Its future relies on continual fundraising.

“There’s always a danger that the organisation might see this as a freehold property that if this particular group died out for instance, if it didn’t maintain its big numbers and popularity within the community, they might opt to sell this property, then 1st Austinmer group is gone,” Stephen said.

But with the community the group has established and its ongoing reputation, another 100 years is certainly not out of the question, he said.

“If we get people like we’ve had in the past, I’m sure it can keep going long into the future.”

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.