ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Christopher J. Holcroft RFD
is an internationally-experienced communications expert with top-level success
in media training, complex public information planning and implementation,
effective design of major community relations projects and an extensive
background as a senior journalist on Australias leading newspapers.
He has had multi-stream career development in both journalism and public affairs
and worked for all three tiers of Australian government.
Christopher has been a journalist and sub-editor on major metropolitan and
suburban newspapers and he has also edited an independent regional newspaper.
His experience in public affairs has been strengthened by his experience with
local government, NSW State Government departments and the Australian
For more than thirty years, Christopher has been involved in scouting and has
run Venturer Scout units for youth aged 14 to 18 in both Victoria and NSW. He
was instrumental in bringing the internationally renowned Dragon Skin
competition camp to life in NSW in 1983. Christopher was the District Venturer
Leader of Sandringham in Victoria in 1982 and attended Victorias annual Hoadley
Hide camp competition for Venturers.
The following year when Christopher returned to Sydney, he helped organise a
similar event for the former St George area called Dragon Skin which is held
over the four-day Easter holiday break. Dragon Skin has grown exponentially
since its inception and now attracts more than 1,200 Venturers, Ranger Guides
and other participants from around Australia and overseas.
Since 1974, Christopher has been an active member of the Army Reserve and in
1982 was commissioned into the Australian Army Public Relations Service (AAPRS)
as Lieutenant. He became the first army reservist in AAPRS to be promoted to
Lieutenant Colonel in 1999. Christophers deployments have included Bougainville
onboard HMAS Tobruk in 1999 to instruct members of the United
Nations-sponsored Peace Monitoring Group. In 2001 he acted as the Senior
Military Public Affairs Adviser in East Timor for the Australian National
Command Element of the United Nations Transitional Authority East Timor (UNTAET).
In 2006, Christopher was appointed the Senior Military Public Affairs Officer
for the Middle East and was based in Baghdad, Iraq. He worked for the Australian
Headquarters of Joint Task Force 633.
Christopher was awarded the Reserve Forces Decoration (RFD) in 1998 and the
Australian Active Service Medal for his tour of duty to East Timor, in 2001. He
was presented with the Iraq Campaign Medal, the Australian Defence Medal and the
Iraq Campaign Clasp to the Australian Active Service Medal in 2006. Christopher
was also part of a unit citation to the Joint Public Affairs Unit by the Chief
of the Defence Force.
Christopher holds a Masters degree in Organisational Communication from Charles
Sturt University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of
Technology, Sydney, where he majored in Journalism and Communications
Technology. He is also a Justice of the Peace.
He is married to Yvonne and the couple have three sons. Both Yvonne and
Christopher enjoy outdoor recreational activities including camping, abseiling
and scuba diving.
Chapter One (part sample)
household was in a state of
organised turmoil as Scott and the rest of the family rushed to put the
finishing touches to their best clothes.
Scott was busy spraying starch on his Scout shirt and ironing
it into shape. This was a day he had long looked forward to over the past twelve
months. It was a day he knew would be tinged with sadness and also full of
happiness when he gathered with the other members of his Venturer unit at
Come on Scott or well be late! called Scotts mother,
Im almost finished! Just a few more strokes, Scott replied
as he put the finishing touches to his crisply-ironed shirt. You know I like to
have sharp creases in my sleeves.
Yes, I know, just like Mikes shirts. That man will haunt us
for some time, Kelly answered.
Scott, his parents and older brother David, made their way
into the family car and drove to the city. Today Scott would be presented with
two awards – one for bravery and the other his Queens Scout Certificate by the
State Governor. The Queens Scout Certificate was the culmination of passing
proficiency badges within the teenage section of Scouting called Venturers and
was the highest possible award.
The bravery award was something special. It was the highest
civilian award that could be handed out by the Government. Scott was nervous and
Remember, keep a straight back and when the media start
talking to you about the bravery award, look the reporters in the eye when
answering – not into the camera, Scotts father, Allan cautioned.
I will. Ill just be glad when today is over so I can go
back to living a normal life, Scott said. Im tired of the glare of TV
cameras. What I did is what anyone else in my circumstances would do.
Not really. It took guts to take on those clowns and help
bring them to justice, David stated as he wound his window down.
The journey to the city took around thirty minutes. The
Morrows were indeed lucky today as they were allotted special parking behind
Government House. When the Morrows approached the front gate of Government House
a media throng was ready to meet them.
Thats him! Roll the cameras! Quickly! came a yell from a
number of news crews waiting to capture Scott and the other award recipients on
Wave to them slowly Scott, Allan told his son. Okay?
Allan drove to his designated spot after being guided by
State police who were assisting with parking in the grounds.
I hope hes here. I really do, Scott said to his mum.
Hell turn up, you watch. Do you really think he would miss
your special day? Kelly said.
I hope not. It will be good to see him again.
The family alighted from the car and were ushered into the
rear entrance of Government House to meet the governor.
This place is like a palace. Have a look at the giant
chandelier – it must have a million lights in it – never mind the crystal!
Scott was suddenly struck by the grandeur of the main drawing room.
He was introduced to the governor, a retired Major General
who welcomed him with a beaming smile.
Hello Scott, I have heard so much about you. Welcome to my
humble abode, announced General Brian McGrath.
Humble? This place is fit for a king or queen, Scott
Well, after all, the house was built with royalty in mind,
as this is where they stay if ever the Royal family comes to Sydney.
Gee, I havent seen so many stained glass windows and
paintings in a house before.
The governor smiled and said, If you like, you can come back
another time and Ill arrange a personal tour of the house and show you what it
is really like.
That would be cool. Mum, Dad, can I come back and have a
look over this palace please? Scott asked.
Of course you can. Major General McGrath has invited you,
and it would be an honour to see all of this colonial masterpiece, Scotts dad,
Scott mingled with the other guests for around twenty minutes
while the grounds of Government House filled to capacity with family members,
guests and members of the public. It was a cloudless day with hardly any wind. A
great day for photos. The governor looked out the window and back at his watch
and turned to Scott. Are you ready?
Yes, the teenager replied.
Dont be nervous. You have done your country a great honour
and in doing so, helped save the lives of your friends. Be proud of yourself.
You deserve it, the general said as he withdrew from the window.
The award recipients moved out of Government House and formed
up with the Scout pipe and drum band and marched around the rear gardens to the
front gates. The official guests took their seats and the band struck up. The
march to the front of Government House with the other Venturers and special
award recipients was around 500 metres long.
In Scotts mind it took an eternity. The moment the band
master twirled his baton and the band sounded, the crowd started rising to its
feet. News crews were at the front of the band filming and then walking beside
the marchers. A number of times cameramen walked beside Scott as he proudly
marched towards the lawns in front of Government House.
Scott scanned the crowds but he couldnt see Mike, his
Venturer leader or any of his fellow Venturers. An air of disappointment started
coming over him as he saw the official podium come into view ahead of him. Just
then, a pea whistle started sounding and a large banner reading, Well Done
Scott was hoisted above the crowd.
A chant started rising from somewhere near the banner as the
crowd began joining in, Well done Scott! Well done Scott! Well done Scott!
The media went berserk and they turned their attention onto
the crowd to capture the mood and then back to Scott. Suddenly, a lone Scout
lemon-squeezer hat could be seen near the banner and as the crowd started to
part to allow the media in, Scott saw his Venturers all turned out in their best
uniforms and all singing in unison, Well done Scott!
The teenager began to lose it emotionally, until he saw Mike
Hunter, his Venturer leader under the lemon-squeezer hat give him a thumbs up.
Mike then joined his Venturers in the chorus and the crowd kept the chant going,
almost drowning out the band. The bandmaster lifted his baton and the marchers
came to a halt.
The band turned left and the marchers went to the right to
form a hollow square on the lawns. Scott looked up at Government House and saw
the governor peering down through the curtains at him. When their eyes met, the
general closed his fist and also put his thumb up to Scott before allowing the
curtains to close again.
The governors aide-de-camp came striding out of Government
House to the podium. The band stopped playing and Major General McGrath walked
out to resounding applause from the now well worked-up crowd. He stood at the
podium and the aide-de-camp called the recipients to attention. The band then
played the national anthem while the governor and the recipients saluted. At the
end, the governor called on the recipients to stand easy and for the crowd to
Distinguished guests, award recipients, ladies and
gentlemen. It is not often so much emotion sweeps through these portals, but
today is different. Major General McGrath continued, Today we honour a number
of Venturers who have worked hard and tirelessly to obtain the necessary
proficiency badges to enable them to receive their Queens Scout Award –
Scoutings highest youth award.
We also have a number of very special people who have placed
self-sacrifice above all the rest and helped their fellow people …
The banner from Scotts unit was hoisted high and the
Venturers started singing out again, Well done Scott! Well done Scott!
The crowd started picking up the chant again and the media
suddenly started running back to Scotts Venturers. The governor paused as he
acknowledged the crowd and the chant reached a new crescendo. He waited a few
moments and then continued, One of our special awardees seems to have captured
the hearts of you all, as I know he captured the hearts of our nation recently.
This is the day we pay special homage to …
Scott started to shed a tear as he was overcome with emotion.
It had been almost a year since his Venturer unit had gone on their fateful
It was the Christmas holidays when the Venturers had ten days
together at Myall Lakes near Newcastle on the eastern seaboard of New South
Scott remembered the trip very well. It was his first
ten-day-camp away from home, and his first extended camp with Mike and the unit.
He had travelled with the other Venturers in Mikes 22-seater bus, sitting up
the front with Peter, the unit chairman. The unit had been preparing for the
holiday camp for months and had done a couple of practice weekend camps too.
Myall Lakes is shaped like a figure of eight, and at its
southern boundary it edges onto a narrow sand peninsula that separates it from
the ocean. It was an ideal place to camp as the boys could use their surf skis
and canoes on the lake or go for a swim in the surf.
Situated there was a small camping ground and Mike had
pre-booked it twelve months in advance. It was to be the units home away from
home and palace for the next ten days.
I cant wait to get the tents up and start canoeing out
there, Steve said. This will be ten days of bliss without Mum and Dad around.
Yeah, I cant wait either, Scott agreed. Just think, ten
glorious days of sleeping in and no alarm clocks going off to get you up ready
Dont rush into it too fast. Remember you will all be taking
turns in organising meals and that means some of you will have to get up well
before the others, Mike said.
Good old Mike, Scott thought. Trust him to put an
organised damper on the activity. However, he was right. Teams of boys had been
organised over the last few weeks so everyone knew their roster for preparing
meals, cleaning the dishes and tidying up the campsite. The last thing Mike
wanted was a slack unit which would invariably, lead to problems.
Mike was a captain in the Army Reserve and was accustomed to
organising personnel. He was a role model the boys and their parents respected.
He was gregarious and could mix with both youth and adults on their respective
levels as required. The 25-year-old newspaper journalist was worldly and had
seen and been involved in things you generally only read about.
Often on camps the boys would ask Mike about his latest
stories and how they really unfolded – not just what was reported. It was a
great educative process for the boys as they came to realise the difference
between what could be legally reported and what actually happened in real life.
Mike told of the murders, deliberately-lit fires and
demonstrations he covered for his paper. However, he wasnt one to boast about
his knowledge of inside facts. It was the boys who would ask him for more
details. Sometimes, Mike would hold back – other times he would let fly if he
thought the police or other authorities had deliberately interfered so they
wouldnt be reported as being incompetent.
Eight other Venturers had joined Peter, Steve and Scott for
the camp and had been dropped off by their parents at the bushland camp on the
edge of the lakes. The camp itself was nothing spectacular; it was just a
clearing near the lakes. Dotted along the foreshore of the lakes were huge pine
trees which were great for afternoon shade. Scott was put in charge of erecting
the food tent and organising it. Grab the barrels and put them over here, he
said to Brett and Peter. I think we should put the water barrel near the front
and the other two near the back.
What about the table and crate? Peter asked. The crate
will have the fruit in it and needs to be more easily accessible.
Youre right, as usual. We should put the barrels on the
sides of the tent and table nearer to the front with the fruit crate on it.
The food containers were large, plastic barrels which had
screw-down lids with lists of their contents stuck to the front by tape. One was
set aside for fresh water as there were no water pipes nearby.
What about a tent fly to go over the tent to keep it
cooler? Brett asked.
As usual, youre right, Scott replied.
The fly is in the back of Mikes ute, Ill get it.
Within a short time, the gangly youth had returned with the
fly and the three boys quickly erected it over the tent to help provide more
shade. While Scott, Peter and Brett worked on the food tent, the others were
busy setting up the accommodation tent, mess fly and a latrine area.
Were only missing one thing now, Mike said to his
assembled Venturer unit.
Whats that? Brett asked.
The brew point, Mike answered.
The what? The chorus went up from the unit.
Somewhere to get a cup of tea or coffee as required rather
than making a fire every time, Mike said.
Okay, we have one small table left over, maybe we could set
up the small stove and a billy on that so we can have a tea or coffee whenever
we come out of the water, Scott suggested.
Okay, lets do it, Mike said.
Within a short time the brew point was erected and the first
coffee was poured for Mike.
Mmm, thats nice. The first brew of the day. I didnt have
much time for one this morning, Mike said.
Hows the camp? Steve asked. More to the point, what do
you all think? Is it easily accessible? Is your gear stowed away and the
equipment within reach?
Yes and I think its time we organised lunch, Scott said.
Good idea. Guys, I think youve done a great job. Well done.
Now we have to keep this tidy as the days tick over, Mike cautioned.
The camp was the main event for the year. It was bliss. No
parents. Just the Venturers and Mike and ten days of adventure on the lakes or
in the surf. The camp had taken a couple of hours to pitch and it was time for
lunch and the first of a seemingly endless bout of swimming, canoeing and surf
The Venturers revelled with the excitement of doing their own
thing. Mike, on the other hand, sat back on a deck chair in the shade of a pine
tree. He had a cup of coffee in one hand and a notebook and pen in the other.
Scott handed over the surf ski to David, picked up his towel
and walked over to Mike. Whats up? Why arent you joining in? he asked.
I just want to make sure weve thought of everything. You
know … did we bring enough food, spares, first aid all that sort of thing.
Scott was drying his back when Mike looked up at him and told
him to put his sneakers on.
You know the rules no sneakers, no swim in the lake,
Mike cautioned. You dont know what people have thrown into the water and if
you cut your feet, they may get infected.
Sorry. I was just so hot after putting up the tents and flys,
Scott beamed Mike a smile and Mike smiled back and shook his
head. Scott had a large smile that would melt anyones problems away. Mike
always said Scott should join the diplomatic service and help win over