No more "cotton wool kids"

Dick Smith promotes responsible risk-taking


ABOVE LEFT: The Hon Peter Garrett MP and Dick Smith pose with ‘Cotton Wool Kid’ Blake.
ABOVE RIGHT: Cub Scout Blake sheds his cotton wool in order to demonstrate responsible risk-taking on the climbing wall.

On 10th December 2008, adventurer and entrepreneur Dick Smith and his wife Pip presented Scouts Australia with a donation of one million dollars in a ceremony at Scouts Place in Circular Quay, Sydney.

Mr Smith has requested that the money be used for a number of specific projects, including the design and production of a sculpture in Scouts Place to commemorate 100 years of Scouting in Australia, and special projects to promote responsible risk-taking.

“I want Scouts to promote responsible risk-taking amongst young people because as a nation we are ensuring our kids grow up in strait-jackets, where they take no risks,” Mr Smith said.

“As a boy, I enjoyed camping and climbing in Scouts. I accept there is going to be a risk involved but Scouts are best placed to help manage that risk and now, more than ever, we need to stop wrapping our kids in cotton wool and let them discover their true potential.

“It is hard as a parent and grandparent but we have to stop ‘helicopting’ (hovering over) our children and grandchildren and allow them to have adventure in their lives, expanding their horizons by accepting an element of risk”.

Mr Smith attributes much of his own success in life to his early days in Scouts - both in business, and in mastering skills such as flying a helicopter and climbing the 600m high sheer rock face of Balls Pyramid off the NSW coast.

“I learnt my risk-taking in Scouts and it helped me assess risks in starting my very first business. There is always a percentage of people who will do something stupid, and no rule will stop that, but for people with some brains, Scouts can encourage them to organise and plan properly, whether bush walking, climbing, canoeing or flying a helicopter,” Mr Smith said.

The Hon. Peter Garrett MP, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts, attended the presentation ceremony. He credited Scouts with his love for the environment, saying his time in the 2nd West Pymble Scout group in the 1960s inspired his love of the bush.

“One thing I took from the experience is a sense of how the environment shapes us and how important it is to look after it. You get a keen sense of the bush, its beauty and its hazards,” he said. “Scouts are bushwalkers and have been frontline witnesses to what’s going on in our environment.”

Sydney City Deputy Lord Mayor, Marcelle Hoff, thanked Mr Smith for his generous donation and confirmed that the City would invite selected artists to develop artistic concepts for the sculpture in Scouts Place.

“The form of the public artwork is yet to be decided, but it will be a contemporary work that celebrates the spirit of Scouting and a sense of youthfulness and adventure. I am looking forward to seeing the concepts and am delighted the City of Sydney is able to help mark this milestone for Scouts Australia.”

In a fitting finale to the presentation ceremony, a team of Scouts demonstrated the tools that aid in responsible risk-taking for activities such as canoeing, caving, rock climbing and abseiling.

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