Remembering the Duke of Edinburgh
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
WEDNESDAY, 23 JUNE 2021
I never saw her passing by, nor the Duke of Edinburgh, but as a participant in his awards scheme I do have a great admiration for the Duke. It's an extraordinary thing, set up for young people aged 14 to 24, now operating in 130 countries and operational in Australia since 1959. Over 775,000 young Australians have participated in the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme. Every year over 25,000 young Australians start, and over 11,000 finish, a Duke of Edinburgh's award.
They have programs now to support disadvantaged Australians to complete the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme, and their impact evaluation shows the effect that it has on the self-worth of young Australians, their commitment to their local community and their ability to take on new skills. One estimate says that there are over a quarter of a million volunteering hours done by award participants in Australia each year. Of course, some of those might well have been done without the award scheme, but I can certainly say that, for my own part, I spent a lot more time volunteering as a participant in the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme than I would have done without it.
The scheme has three levels—bronze, silver and gold—involving components of voluntary service, physical recreation, skills, an adventurous journey and a Gold Residential Project. The gold award requires 12 months of voluntary service averaging an hour a week; 12 months of physical recreation, again averaging an hour a week; a 12-month period of focusing on a skill for an hour of week; an adventurous journey for four days and three nights; and a residential project for five days and four nights. Those components mean that, when you finish the gold award, you really do feel like you've earned something.
For me, as a participant, the scheme wouldn't have happened at the school I attended, James Ruse Agricultural High School, without the energy of George Matthews, our metalwork teacher, a former master sergeant in the US Air Force. Mr Matthews was somebody who barked orders, who took no compromise, who knew there was a right way of everything being done. In other words, he was the perfect person to take large groups of unruly teenagers off into the wilds for multiday treks. He constructed a carrier to take our bikes, because we would do bike expeditions, and tow behind one of the school's vehicles. That meant weekends spent welding the thing together. It was a two-storey bike carrier which could carry 20 or 30 bikes at one time—an extraordinary construction. I think it was the solo work of George Matthews. But the problem came when he was driving across the Mooney Mooney Bridge and the wind caught the back of the bike carrier. By the time he got to the other side of the bridge, the bike carrier was swinging so far that it was just missing the side of the bridge by what seemed like a metre or so, dragging the back of the truck from one side to another. I am still amazed that he managed to get across the bridge. He is in good health. He's a constituent of the member for Dobell, living happily in Berkeley Vale.
I want to finish by acknowledging the Duke of Edinburgh's award recipients from the ACT in 2020 and 2021. The gold awardees were Lisa Corbett, Madeleine Bloom, Maddison McRae, Taylor Miners, Jack Coil, Sophie Holloway, Lachlan Madden, Matthew Robinson, Genevieve Madden, Stephanie Bell, Stephen Elliott, Ria Chopra and Alvin Charles. The silver awardees were Angus Truman, Salazar Balavan, Amy Miners, Elizabeth van der Walt and Jasmine Sun. The bronze awardees were Charlotte Bik, Ava McSweeney, Lachlan Howe, Sarina Groh and Lili Vasalalo. The board of the Duke of Edinburgh's award scheme, headed by Gary Nairn and Sandra Nori, as chair and deputy chair respectively, does a great deal to publicise the award, to ensure that it fulfils the mission that the Duke of Edinburgh laid down for it. It is a scheme which has enjoyed an illustrious past and has a strong future ahead of it. It is an extraordinary testament to the hard work of the Duke of Edinburgh.