The 5th Melbourne - 1st Latvian Scout group is not only part of the Australian Scout Association, but also part of the Latvian Scout Movement (which used to be "in Exile", but now is just "outside Latvia"). This Movement operates on an international basis; our groupÕs designation is "Riga (102) scout group".
The movement is divided into "jendas" (national level) - each having its own Chief Scout and assistants.
The "jendas" are in Australia, America and Canada.
The Latvian Chief Scout (World wide) is usually based in either Canada or America.
The Executive Committee comprises representatives of each country.
Within Australia, our chief scout's official title is "Australijas Jendas skautu prieksnieks", which we translate as "Australia's Latvian Chief Scout" (although - within Australia - we generally shorten it to "Latvian Chief Scout" for convenience).
Note: the Scout Movement in Latvia is an independent organisation, and is part of the LSGCO (LatviaÕs Scout and Guide Central Organisation)
In June 1940, the Soviet Army occupied Latvia by military force, and disbanded and abolished both the Scout and Guide organisations. They also arrested, deported and murdered a large number of leaders, amongst them the Scout President (murdered) and the Guide Chief Commissioner (deported to Siberia).
After the end of World War 2, many Latvians were in Western Europe, either in Displaced Person (DP) or Prisoner of War Camps. There they started up the Latvian Scout Movement (in Exile), run by those, who had been leaders and commissioners in Latvia. As it became obvious that there would be no returning to their homeland, further emigrations began; primarily to Australia, America and Canada.
They took their scouting traditions and organisation with them, to their new homes. Thus the "Centre" (Chief Scout and Executive) also moved to a new base (on the American continent), recognising the population shift of Latvians outside Latvia (away from Europe).
Thus the Latvian Scout Movement continued to function (although no longer in Latvia),in effect the only break being the war years - 1940 to 1946. "Trimdas Skautu Noteikumi" (the Latvian equivalent of POR) was written based on the original , and adapted to suit our "exile" status. New badge and award requirements were also developed. These are "Latvian" requirements, and are run parallel to the local (in our case Australian) scouting award schemes. Badges, decorations etc are manufactured centrally and distributed to all "jendas". Leader investitures, leader decorations, major awards etc have to be approved at the Executive (ie. at the international) level.
Co-operation and co-ordination with the Latvian Guide Association has always been close, and every 4 years, a Latvian International Scout and Guide Jamboree is organised (on the American continent) - the next (in 1997) will be the 7th.
At our peak, in the 1950's, there were 15 Latvian scout groups operating in Australia. However, as some of these were in the migrant camps (such as Bonegilla and Benalla), they only lasted a few years.
Gradually, as youth numbers have decreased over the years (there being no new blood since the mid '50's) we are at present operating 3 Latvian Scout groups in Australia; one each in Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney.
In the USA, there are still a large number of groups operating - they are divided into "districts".
The Australian Latvian Chief Scout is supported by his assistants (comprising: national section leaders, secretary, treasurer, training team, court of honour, magazine committee (shared with the guides), badge secretary (to get specific Latvian badges from the international organisation).
There is also an Australian member on the international executive, who is responsible for policy, awards, etc.
"Zile" is a magazine published quarterly for leaders and supporters, on a national basis, and also includes some news from overseas (US, Canada and Latvia).
A (now bi-annual) jamboree is held on a national level for all Latvian Scout and guide groups within Australia (the next will be the 23rd).
Organise their groups, each with its own program. The group leaders are responsible to the Aust. Latvian Chief Scout - he in turn is responsible to the Latvian Chief Scout).
The Latvian scouts in exile have operated this way for 50 years, with a twofold aim:
1) to develop the Latvian youth (as per normal scouting ideals)
2) to be able to take the Latvian scouting ideals and traditions back to Latvia, in the event of it regaining its independence.
Under the policies of the former USSR's General-Secretary Michail Gorbachev, the Latvians were eventually allowed to form a scouting "club" in 1989, and in 1990 were permitted to register the "Latvian Scout and Guide Central Organisation" (LSGCO).
Thus, we now have an opportunity of fulfilling our second aim as well. We, that is, the Latvian scouts in the West, are running courses, visiting, advising, corresponding with the Association in Latvia. As well as this, we also send literature and other material aid (which would otherwise be unobtainable there).
Our scout group (then 5th Collingwood) was founded in 1948, and has continued to operate since that time. At our peak, in the mid 1950Õs, the group had 110 members, but now is down to 25.
We have always run a strong scouting program, based on the family unit of the group (we have traditionally run all 4 sections whenever possible, and we now run the full 5; including Joeys).
We also operate very closely with our sister guide group (1st Riga), with whom we share a parents committee and campsite ("Tervete") in Kilmore.
Our groups (scout and guide) are also part of ESGAV - the Ethnic Scout and Guide Association of Victoria (which comprises 7 European nationalities, whose countries were communist dominated). As well as coordinating activities, ESGAV runs an annual camp for venturer and rover age groups.
Our groupsÕ annual activities comprise:
1. A joint groups camp (Labour Day long weekend)
2. St. Georges Day service in the Latvian Lutheran church (conducted by a lay preacher, who is also a leader)
3. Annual show
4. MidsummerÕs festival (traditional festival) at "Tervete"
5. Annual skiing weekend at Mt. Buller
6. Latvian Independence Day (18th Nov.) commemoration (jointly with the Latvian Schools)
7. Christmas at "Tervete"
(5th Melbourne - 1st Latvian)