Stories from Current Members - Irene


Tell me a little bit about how you got started with Girl Guides, and your experiences with Girl Guides over the past 50 years? 

I started Brownies because when I was seven years of age I still wouldn’t speak to people.  I was so shy, that my Mother put me into Brownies, and  I’ve been there ever since. While I’m still shy at times, I can speak out where I never would once. 

I went through Brownies and Guides and then went straight into being a Young Leader, because there were no Rangers where I grew up in Mount Isa.

In those days Guide leaders were called Captains and Lieutenants.  I was known as Young or Junior Lieutenant.

I moved to Townsville when I was 18 and that’s when I got more involved as a Leader. I really like the outdoors so I did canoeing and camping and gained qualifications in those areas - if there was anything outdoors I was very happy to get into it, and I particularly liked the outdoor cooking.

My roles in guiding now are as a district manager, and I work as a leader with Brownie (Junior Guide) and Guide units.

Since 1981 I’ve been involved with the Flinders Region Equipment Centre, which also houses the archives and resources for the region. I really do enjoy the archives, and when I retire from active Guiding that’s what I really want to do.

I’m a member of the Townsville Trefoil Guild and I enjoy spending time with those ladies.  Many of them are our past commissioners - they really are lovely ladies.

My family has also enjoyed having many international guide members stay with us, and we still regularly hear from several of them. We still have visits from some from Switzerland, Canada, and the United Kingdom.

I was fortunate to attend a camp in Berkshire in 1989, so I visited guiding friends in Scotland and Switzerland before returning home. I have so many wonderful memories of those people and places.

Congratulations on being named Townsville Citizen of the Year! Can you tell me a little bit about how that felt?

I honestly didn’t think I would be chosen, as there were several well-known people nominated as well.

What really surprised me was how excited my family was about this. My daughter and 4 grandchildren were there and it really was lovely to share the occasion with them.

I am not often on Facebook but I am learning. Deborah, my daughter put some photos and a message on hers and I could not believe the number of emails and messages of congratulations I received.  There were so many lovely comments.

Two Guides – the Dufficey sisters, Casey eleven, and Kelly thirteen – nominated me. We had a 50th anniversary celebration for our district last year, and it was my 50th anniversary as a leader before that.   I didn’t want the 50th of the district to also be about me but, unbeknownst to me, it did end up that way to some extent. At that district celebrations Casey and Kelly said to their mother, “Goola” – which is my Guide name ­– “does so much for everyone else we should do something for her!” They, along with their mother Karen, nominated me for the Australia Day award, and I knew nothing about that until after the presentation on Australia Day, when they came up to me to tell me. They are so excited that I was chosen that they still tell everyone.

I had to give a speech on the day, and the Townsville Mayor, Jenny Hill, told me that there may be five or six events through the year that I might have to go to as a guest speaker. I do not like public speaking, but if you start me on Guiding I’m fine. I’m hoping I can use those events to promote Guiding, particularly in our local area. 

So what is it about Guides that has kept you involved for all these years?

I’m very much in favour of the fact that we are for girls only; it’s one of the things that made me comfortable enough to stay in Guides and have my say when I was a child. Many of the younger Guides that I speak to now quite enjoy not having to compete with the boys as well, so I think that’s important.

I think that community service is also important and I encourage the girls quite a lot to get out to do things that really help others.  Our girls do a lot of service, to name a few they help with things like fundraising for cancer including the Walk for Cancer and Pink Ribbon Day, and Australia Day celebrations like the flag raising ceremony and helping with morning tea and concerts at a retirement village.

There are such a variety of activities girls can do with Guiding.   It’s not just the outdoors, it challenges people to do things that are outside their comfort zone. Being comfortable as a Guide just gives you the confidence to challenge yourself.

I have always told my guides that “Guiding is a wonderful organisation, and you get out of Guiding what you put in to it”.   “This not only applies to guiding, but most things we do in life, like work, school and sport!