Greek-Australian Scouts prepare for the worst

6th Box Hill Hellenic Scout Group has served the Melbourne Greek community for 40 years and it’s now at risk of closing down. THOMAS ANDRONAS has been there for 15 of them.

When I was 17, I got lost in the Grampians.

The closure of 6th Box Hill would not only mean the loss of a little piece of so many past members, it would also spell the end of a piece of the Melbourne Greek community that has been in constant operation for over forty years.

The day started with my patrol climbing up the inside of Hollow Mountain, hiking across a razor-sharp ridge and traversing deep crevasses. We moved slowly but everything was under control.

The light faded quickly as we scrambled to find the track off the mountain. And panic started to set in.

A dull thud, a scraping noise and a yelp. Paul had disappeared down a ravine. I could not see him.

The only thing that saved his life was his backpack snagging on a tree branch, his legs dangling above the 150-metre drop that would have spelled out a ghastly, tragic death.

Instinct said he should have panicked but he did not. There was little we could do to help, but his character and his training helped him scramble his way out.

His training included lateral thinking, emergency management and initiative. It included mental toughness, strategic planning and spirituality. His training was that of a scout.

That night our group passed through every emotion as we lay on top of the mountain.

Staring at the stars, watching the flames of a controlled burn slowly move towards us, we felt fear, panic, failure, anger, happiness and enlightenment.

In the morning we found the track and walked off the mountain unharmed but the experience of spending the night at the mercy of the elements was one of the most character building of my life.

This was just one such experience that I had during my time as a scout.

For many years I have been a member of the 6th Box Hill Hellenic Scout Group.

One of just two Greek scout groups in Melbourne, the group is in its 41st year and it has served its members and its community with gusto and distinction for every one of them.

And contrary to widespread perception, scouting is about so much more than prayers, promises and tying knots.

One time, James woke in the middle of the night to strange noises outside his tent. His mind immediately went to the fanciful warning from another scout earlier in the day that there was a homicidal maniac on the loose in the area.

James woke his two tent mates who armed themselves with sticks and a large torch and went in search of the screeching and grunting.

Before too long they found themselves face to face with a pair of amorous koalas and promptly returned to bed.

Another time, early in her scouting career a young lady named Kathy spent a ridiculous amount of time searching for the power point she had been told was embedded in a nearby gumtree.

In 1998 I was given the opportunity to travel to Aikaterini in Greece for a Jamboree. Five young Greek kids from Melbourne were sponsored by the Greek Scout Association to go along and represent Australia.

We spent a fortnight in camp with 9000 other scouts from Greece, Cyprus and Egypt, building friendships, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea and tramping across Mount Olympus. For some reason we were instructed to stand sentry duty through the night, despite the fact that there was no threat of anything, from anyone.

There is another Greek Jamboree this September and the opportunity exists for anyone who is interested to go along.

But this group is not just about outdoor adventures and overseas exploits.

Every year the 6th Box Hill drum band marches in the 25th March Independence Day and Anzac Day parades, honouring the fallen heroes of Greece and Australia.

Every year the group supports local churches at Easter, the local Lions Club at Christmas and sings traditional Greek kalanda for stall-holders at Melbourne’s markets.

Indeed hundreds of Greek-Australians, young and old have passed under the group’s tutelage during its time. All have benefited from the experience, building skills and friendships that stay with them for their entire lives.

All have memories of 6th Box Hill that are among their happiest and most rewarding.

Unfortunately however, due to gradually declining numbers, 6th Box Hill Hellenic Scout Group is in danger of closing its doors – forever.

The closure of 6th Box Hill would not only mean the loss of a little piece of so many past members, it would also spell the end of a piece of the Melbourne Greek community that has been in constant operation for over forty years.

The problem is not so much a lack of kids through the doors. While numbers in the Joeys (6-8 years) and Cubs (8-12 years) are low, there are sufficient numbers in the Scouts (12-14 years), Venturers (14-18 years) and Rovers (18-26 years) to continue to run a stimulating and challenging program.

It seems that despite the constant allure of ever-evolving techno-gadgets, young kids still love to run around outdoors, play, roll around in mud, make new friends and challenge themselves mentally and physically.

The problem the group faces is a chronic shortage of new, enthusiastic leaders. For 30 years the group has been run by essentially the same people.
Mary Cayas has been the Cub Leader since 1969 and Socrates Papaefraim has been the Scout Leader since 1980.

Group Leader Kathy Douros has been involved with the group for almost two decades and her husband Charles Charalambous has filled almost every leadership role possible, a continuous member since 1972.

These people have given of their time and lives selflessly and with distinction for a long time. Now their kids have grown up and moved on and it is time for them to follow.

The sad truth is that due to a lack of inspired adult leadership, the group that has played such a huge role in the Greek community is in real danger of shutting down. Unless new people get involved.

At 3pm on Saturday 17th April there will be an open meeting at the 6th Box Hill Scout Hall (cnr Elgar Rd and Box Hill Crescent, Mont Albert North).

At this meeting current members, past members and anyone interested in becoming involved – in any way – will discuss the future of the group.

There will be a sausage sizzle, entertainment for the kids including an introduction to Scouting activities and a jumping castle, and the opportunity to come and give scouts a try.

You never know, you might just love it, as we all have for so long. You might even decide to come back the week after and again after that.

There is a fantastic program in place for the four weeks following this meeting, for kids of all ages. The group is hoping to inspire the new breed of kids and leaders and encourage as many as possible to sign up.

And despite the fact that it is a Hellenic Scout Group, it certainly does not discriminate. People of any cultural background are most welcome to attend.

If at the end of this four-week program there is not a significant jump in interest from potential future youth members and their parents, the group will likely shut its doors by the end of May.

So if you were a scout as a kid and now want to give your kids the opportunity to take part, or you are currently a member, or think you might be interested in trying it out for a while, please come along.

In fact, if there is anything you feel you can contribute towards keeping 6th Box Hill alive, the group wants to hear from you.

This group is an important aspect of the Greek community in Melbourne and to see it die will bring our community one step closer to losing its own cultural identity in this country.

Please contact with any queries.