As part of the centenary of Girl Guides WA, we are showcasing women who have made longterm and significant contributions to Girl Guiding in Western Australia. This time, we’re featuring our current State Commissioner, Dr Brenda Hamlett.
Brenda has filled many roles in her Guiding career. We know her now as State Commissioner, but she has also been a Leader, as well as District and Region Leader; and many of us have attended some of the training sessions she presented as a Diploma-holding Trainer. Brenda has also been a Vice President of Girl Guides WA and has been honoured with Life Membership.
She began her early Guiding in the UK before moving to Western Australia. Here she shares with us her memories of meetings with two members of the Baden Powell family:
As a Guide in the UK in 1965 I had just gained my Queen’s Guide badge and was debating about the next step in my guiding career. Then came the news that Lady Baden Powell was to visit our county early in 1966 and that all Queen’s Guides were to form a guard of honour to be presented to her. This was too good an opportunity to miss and I was appointed Company Leader, with a third stripe on my breast pocket, so that I could remain an active Guide without restricting the progress of a younger Patrol Leader.
It was actually one of the few occasions when our whole county did get together and the displays and activities would have been memorable by themselves. The presence of this lady who was a direct link to the founder made it especially unforgettable, for me at least.
Needless to say, we all had to be lined up hours before the arrival but it was worth the wait to be able to have a personal contact with this very special lady.
My impressions – a smile that lit her whole face, especially her eyes; a firm handshake (how did she manage without developing sore hands?); a clear voice that even during her speech to the main gathering, and she seemed to speak to each of us individually. I’m sure that my involvement in guiding might well have faltered under the pressure of study and examinations around that time without the inspiration she was to pass on to us.
Partly through guiding I was able to spend two years working in Sierra Leone in West Africa before returning to UK and then out to Western Australia. In all my travels it was guiding which enabled me to move out of the school environment and become involved in the community as a whole. Everyone with whom I came in contact was proud of “our” family and the Baden Powells had clearly left an impression far greater than they could possibly have dreamt.
In 1988 I was attending a Program and Training conference in Melbourne and we were very fortunate to be visited by Betty Clay the daughter of Lord and Lady Baden Powell. My initial reaction was that no-one could doubt her heritage as she looked so much like her mother. My further impressions were of a woman who had also inherited strength and commitment from her parents and who, far from resenting the time her parents spent on scouting and guiding, was willing to give up of her own time and efforts to continue their work.
As I commented to her when presenting a small gift of appreciation, I little dreamt as a Guide that I would meet two of the family in my lifetime and certainly not on opposite sides of the world. It really brought home that the Baden-Powell family has been one of the strongest agents in bringing all the members of the World Association together and giving us a common link and purpose.
Thank you Brenda for your ongoing commitment and the amazing abilities you bring to guiding.
Brenda has been a shining light in the our great movement. Thank you Brenda for your knowledge and experience. Brenda, amongst your attributes you were approachable and above all you listened to people, making the movement a happier place. Please don’t retire altogether. cheers Nancy Brazier