Remarkable Women of Guiding: Susan Bennetts

This month we take pleasure in introducing to you Susan Bennetts, one of our truly Remarkable Women.

Susan Bennetts Girl Guides WA

Susan Bennetts

Susan’s guiding years, both as a Guide and as an adult have been spent in the South-West town of Albany. When she was thirty years of age she had an accident to her eyes.  It was then found that she had a rare disorder which could not be operated on, and she was told that she was going blind.  This handicap has not prevented Susan from taking part in any chosen activities, and she will always have a go at everything.  A quiet, unassuming lady she is one of our unsung heroes.

Here, she shares some of her memories of guiding in Albany in the 1960s.

“On Saturday morning I would walk to the Memorial Hall in Duke Street where we had our meetings. Our Leader, Mrs Muriel Freeman, arrived in her green van ready for the 9.30am start. Out of the van she would lift a big cane basket full of exciting bibs and bobs she had brought for the meeting.

Many of our meetings included games and Mrs Freeman always encouraged us to work on proficiency badges. She was very good at handcrafts and she helped me to undertake the Toymaker Badge. I still have the felt Koala I made for this badge. The Naturalist Badge was a lengthy project which involved visiting Residency Point and the harbour every day for three months to observe changes in tides and the seasons.  I was about 14 or 15 then and I enjoyed this time very much.

In the 1960s our uniform consisted of a blue skirt and lighter blue shirt. Our company wore light blue folded scarves with an embroidered diamond design of red and blue stripes. We wore compasses and pocket knives hanging from our wide leather belts. Patrol Leaders could wear whistles on a white lanyard.

Long hikes appealed to me very much. To achieve our First Class badge we climbed Mt Willyung which was quite a challenging hike. We participated in many larger activities such as the Friendship Camp I attended one school holiday season at Paxwold. There were also Scout/Guide activity days at Mt Barker with many competitions that tested our team work. We were very pleased when we won a mock accident competition with our First Aid skills.

I do remember the Guide camps held at the “Nordrome” which was Mrs Freeman’s farm just north of the Airport. Our camping skills were under constant scrutiny and we had to know how to be prepared for any eventuality.

By the time I was sixteen, Mrs Freeman had started a Land Ranger unit and when her girls had finished guides some went on to Rangers. Many of us undertook service work at the hospital canteen some Saturday afternoons.”

Susan’s first involvement with guiding as an adult was as an Assistant Leader with a local Brownie Pack, and then as Leader when the pack’s leader retired.  However she wanted to work with the older girls so accepted the position of Assistant Guide Leader and, history repeating itself, took on the leadership role when the Guide Leader moved on.

Unfortunately the time came when her eyesight deteriorated to the point where it wasn’t safe for her to be looking after the girls, so she decided to be the Junior Leader Consultant for the Albany area. Susan’s varied positions as an adult leader have given her many happy memories, one of them being participation in a nine day training course in Tasmania. She says that she learnt so much on this trip and also made some very special friends, two of whom she is still in contact with after 17 years.

At the age of 53 she joined the Albany Trefoil Guild, but had to suspend her membership for some time while she was battling cancer. However she has rejoined Trefoil and we certainly hope to see her at many Trefoil events in the future.

Susan was delighted to receive her 30 year Combined Long Service Award in Government House on 17 August 2014, as it was exactly 50 years previously that she was there to be presented with her Queen’s Guide Award.

Thank you Susan for your years of service and contribution!

Contributor: Ann Miller

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