Australian Girl Guides drop Queen and God from pledge
Queen Elizabeth chats with some Cubs and Girl Guides during her visit to Manitoba in 1984. Canadian Girl Guides dropped its reference to the Queen in their oath in the 1994. Now Australia is taking her out of the oath, along with God. (Star file photo)
Girl Guides have always been a group close to the Queen Elizabeth's heart.
She had her own troop formed in Buckingham Palace in 1937. Like her mother, she became the official patron of Girlguiding UK. Her granddaughter-in-law, Kate, is a volunteer with the Scouts. When the Queen was married in 1947, her wedding cake was baked from ingredients given by the Australian Girl Guides.
So it must come as a bit disheartening that, beginning today, the Girl Guides from Down Under are changing their oath and will no longer pledge to serve the Queen. Or promise do their duty to God, either.
The republicans are cheering. The monarchists are grieving.
“They may decide they still like to have pictures of the Queen around, but the world has changed and we have to move on,” Belinda Allen, the New South Wales state commissioner, told Australia's Daily Telegraph.
“We all absolutely admire her in her jubilee year, but out community comes from many different backgrounds ... Being responsible to one’s community is one of the essences of guiding. We espouse that rather than the Queen.”
Here's how the new pledge reads: “I promise that I will do my best; to be true to myself and develop my beliefs; to serve my community and Australia, and live by the Guide Law.”
The new words are similar to those of Girl Guides Canada, which dropped reference to the Queen in 1994 and removed God in 2010 -- in spite of generally favourable attitudes toward the monarchy. (Right photo: The Queen chats with Brownie Julia Whitehead during a visit to Edmonton in 1978. CP)
This latest change was not a hasty decision. Girl Guides Australia have been looking at alterations for 18 months with the aim of boosting their membership, which numbers about 28,000.
“Obedience was universally seen as not appropriate for women in 2012,” Allen said.
Queen-backers have a different view.
"If the Girl Guides think they will achieve greater numbers by removing the very essence of what they are, then I feel they are sadly mistaken,” said Philip Benwell, of the Australian Monarchist League. “At one time parents would send their daughters to the Guides to encourage self discipline and leadership. Now it seems all they will get is a cringing towards political correctness."
Helen Geard, head of Girl Guides Australia, countered: "Doing duty to God is probably not language that is relevant to our young people.”
Republicans view the change as one more step in the inevitable march toward ridding the country of its allegiance to the Commonwealth.
“Kids should feel they should serve the nation and that their commitment is to the community here in Australia,” David Morris, director of the Australia's Republican Movement, told the Daily Telegraph.
“Australians used to consider we were British and all pledged allegiance to a nation on the other side of the world. In the past few decades we have started to think that this is our country.”
Tony Abbott, leader of the Opposition in Australia's House of Representatives, is trusting that the Guides know what they are doing.
"In the end it's up to them what sort of pledges they want to take," he said.
"But speaking for myself, I don't mind pledging to both God and the Queen. They are OK by me. I don't want to drop either of them."