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Youth Movements

Youth clubs and movements arose out of an increasing concern from the latter part of the 19th century about the training of coming generations. While young people had met together in temperance societies, Sunday schools and church-based societies like Christian Endeavour, the earliest voluntary youth organisations were the philanthropic and evangelical boy rescue societies. From the 1890s, however, the Boys' Brigade, the Boy Scouts, and the Girl Guides supplied opportunities for children and adolescents of all classes to be members of uniformed youth movements.

The Boys' Brigade, founded in Scotland in 1883, spread, along with several offshoots, to non-Anglican denominations in Melbourne by 1890-91. These movements took as their object 'The Promotion of habits of Obedience, Discipline, Self-Respect and all that tends towards a true Christian manliness'. Unlike the rescue movements, uniformed church-based Boys' Brigades were not specifically directed towards working-class boys and displayed a much greater tolerance of secular 'manliness'. By 1904 there were 500 brigades in Melbourne but the introduction of the non-denominational Boy Scouts and Cadet Corps saw many companies fold, and the movement all but collapsed in the 1910s before a gradual and limited postwar revival. Other denominationally based youth organisations shared a similar fate.

The scouting movement, introduced to Melbourne in 1908, grew rapidly, claiming 6000 members statewide by 1916. Initially focused on boys aged between 10 and 18, it sought to inculcate masculine hardihood as well as notions of disciplined and patriotic manliness. The first Melbourne branch of the Girl Guides movement was founded, in Hawthorn in 1911. While it offered its members some of the adventures of scouting it also trained girls in more feminine pursuits and ideals.

Concerns about juvenile delinquency and the increased leisure that followed from the extension of secondary education led to a revival of youth organisations after World War II. Associations like the Girls Friendly Society, the Church of England Boys' Society and the Young Anglican Fellowships, and parallel organisations in other denominations, offered 'healthy' recreation to young churchgoers, while Police and Citizens Youth Clubs performed a similar function for the nonaligned. With the proliferation of leisure activities from the 1960s their appeal declined. Those that survived now draw the bulk of their members from the younger age groups, offering entertainment and recreation rather than training in citizenship and religion. While both Scouts and Guides continue to have a substantial presence in Melbourne, sporting clubs are now the most common youth associations in the city.

Martin Crotty And Shurlee Swain