A strategy trialled by Girl Guides Victoria showed success in delivering the AGP to youth in diverse communities. The project model involved Community Development and Outdoor Education Officers creating a place-based Guide Unit. These personnel built trust with girls, families and community leaders. Girl Guides Victoria then worked with the community to identify local women who were interested in training as volunteer Girl Guide Leaders and continuing the work in the school and/or community centre for a longer term. The Girl Guides Victoria staff then acted as learning partners and program evaluators, whilst focusing on new programs in other schools and community centres. Girl Guides Victoria reports:
"For girls in disadvantaged and CALD communities, we have found the model effective - the ‘place based’ nature of the unit provides an automatic entry point for trust with parents. Further, given that many girls in CALD communities effectively act as full-time carers for younger siblings after school, providing a Guide program during school hours, or in a community centre where they live, enables them to participate where other traditional Girl Guide Programs, which meet at “Guide Halls” in the evening, would not be feasible. This is even truer for any kind of after school sport or activity. Finally, the “girls only” nature of Girl Guides, and our “girl-led” philosophy, enables participation from a significant number of girls from cultures where female only environments are preferred. In some cases, school participants have also joined local Guide units, mixing with girls from outside their school or community. Girl Guides has anecdotal evidence from teachers, social workers and parents that girls in these programs have significantly improved their engagement and participation at school." (Girl Guides Victoria, 2016)
Specific outcomes noted by facilitators of the Victorian program include:
For this pilot, we have had specific feedback about girls' increased participation, resilience and engagement. Specific examples include:
- school reports independently noting that since participating, girls are ‘making eye contact,’ ‘voluntarily participating,’ ‘getting into fewer social skirmishes’ and ‘have more self-confidence’
- family recognition, demonstrated by permission for 30+ girls from the programs to attend a sleep away Guide camp. School administrators say this is unprecedented given most of the girls are not allowed on school camp or at after school activities
(Girl Guides Victoria, 2016)
And in WA?
Girl Guides is open to all girls and women, regardless of ability, faith, race, colour or creed. Our organisation is values-based but not faith-based.
Two key areas of the Program are People and World Guiding. Thus from the earliest involvement in the Program, girls are introduced to multicultural experiences and activities, presented in an accepting, positive light. Many Units have bonds with groups of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from 146 other countries in the world. We are socially active at a global level in inclusivity and diversity projects, as well as in fostering international understanding and peacekeeping efforts.
However, our state's membership demographics show that most WA Girl Guides are from white, middle class, Anglo-backgrounds.
Diversity: where we want to be
Research has shown that girls and women, even in Australia, are less financially empowered, more likely to suffer from poor self-image or be victims of family violence and sexual assault, and less likely to try new activities or take physical risks in co-educational situations. These issues cut across the entire population.
The Australian Guide Program is designed specifically to redress these disadvantages. It is an important and powerful Program that as many girls as possible deserve to access. There are more girls we can reach with our Program, and there is so much for us to gain from building a more diverse membership.
Girl Guides WA has employed a staff member to establish Girl Guides as an in-school or after-school ‘club’ concept, with volunteers delivering the Guide program in locations identified in partnership with local CALD and indigenous communities.
We will run this strategy over the next couple of years, enabling us to grow our CALD and indigenous membership base of 1% to a target of at least 3%, with at least three new Units over an 18-month period, while looking for even more partnerships that will allow us to continue to build and grow our membership amongst the CALD and indigenous communities.
This is a fantastic opportunity and we'd like to express our heartfelt thanks to Lotterywest for committing the funding to make this project happen.
If you're interested in being involved in the amazing project, whether you're an existing Guide member or a non-member, please contact us.