Neville Tomkins OAM JP has hit the ground running since he was welcomed as Chief Commissioner of Scouts Australia (NSW Branch) on 1 August, 2016. He has greeted the NSW Scouting community with contagious enthusiasm and expressed his vision for creating a stronger performing Branch and empowering our youth.
A week into his new role, Neville has introduced himself and shared his plans with his State and Region Team, the Board of Directors, employed staff, leaders and youth members and was particularly inspired by the young Scouts he met at the 2016 State Rally.
Neville enjoyed a tour of the 2016 State Rally site with three members of the Scout Youth Council, Molly, Blake, and Angus and then joined the Scout Youth Council for lunch to listen to their views on youth issues and Scouting.
“Scouts NSW will be a genuinely youth led, adult supported organisation – but done in a way that draws on the vital experience, skills and wisdom of all our adults. Youth will have a much greater voice in our decision making. They will also be part of my leadership team.”
Neville brings a wealth of experience to the role, having been Chief Commissioner of the ACT Branch for 9 years. In this position he is most proud of his success in leading Scouts ACT back to being a strong performing Branch, including through its recovery following the disastrous 2003 Canberra bushfires.
This was followed by 6 years as International Commissioner, Scouts Australia. In total, Neville has served 15 years on the National Executive of Scouts Australia, and as a National Councillor. He currently holds other appointments including Chair of the Governance Committee, Scouts Australia, National Co-ordinator of Royal Commission and Redress, and Vice-Chair of the Asia-Pacific Region Management Committee.
It has been said that Neville made an unprecedented impact as International Commissioner, Scouts Australia, encouraging thousands of Scouts to participate in international events and programs to gain an important perspective of World Scouting. For developing countries, such as Timor-Leste and Myanmar, Neville assisted in the growth of Scout Groups in their local communities.
Neville has no interest in slowing down though, already devising plans for the future of NSW Branch. Looking forward to the three years ahead as Chief Commissioner, and in partnership with the Board and his broader Leadership Team, Neville aims to drive membership growth, further build trust and unity across the organisation, encourage active youth engagement, enhance a scout safe environment, build community partnerships and help to ensure the Scouts NSW Branch is in a strong financial position.
“There is so much potential right across NSW to grow Scouting. In partnership with all our stakeholders, I have a leadership obligation to realise that potential for the good of all young people across NSW.”
Neville is a community man at heart with a strong passion for helping youth and supporting the disadvantaged. Neville is a former Senior Executive in the public service, family man, active community volunteer and life-time blood donor. He is a supporter of the Brumbies, Canberra Raiders and Essendon.
Neville’s passion for helping others sprung from his early experiences as a child. Having been born into a family of nine and growing up on a farm in Ballandean, a small village in south-east Queensland, Neville was forced to live with very limited resources and opportunities.
His school was quite small, with only two teachers, and he had to share the same class with two of his older sisters. To travel to Scout meetings, Neville would begin the trek on his bicycle for six miles on a dirt road before catching a lift to Stanthorpe, some 20 miles away.
Despite some vivid memories of riding in the back of a utility in freezing cold conditions after a Scout meeting, Neville remembers Cubs and Scouts very fondly and was positively influenced by his Akela’s leadership. He believes camping and participating in adventurous activities at Scouts has helped shape his personal character, provided him with a willingness to give back to the community, and built his confidence to pursue a successful career in the public service and in Scouting.
On finishing high school, Neville won a scholarship to study at the Australian National University in Canberra in 1976, where he graduated with first class honours. He worked several part-time jobs to put himself through his studies. After that, despite winning a PhD scholarship, Neville applied for the Commonwealth Public Service. Like many his age, Neville was keen to get a good job to make ends meet.
Over 35 years Neville worked his way up the corporate ladder. He served in the Senior Executive Service for 25 years and reached the level of Acting Deputy Secretary. He has since retired from the Public Service, and is very proud of the contribution he was able to make.
Thirty years ago Neville married the love of his life, Jenny, and they have raised three children together. All have gone through Scouting and have gained some valuable skills and personal attributes.
The eldest, Katy, has only just left Rovers and achieved her Queen’s Scout and Baden-Powell Scout Awards. Their second daughter, Sarah, 23, went through Cubs and Scouts and was involved in Gang Show. While the youngest, Matthew, 20, also achieved his Queen’s Scout Award.
Neville says for each of his three children, Scouting has helped them in different ways.
“For Katy, our eldest daughter, Scouting has helped bring out her love of the outdoors and importantly, her love for the environment. For our second daughter Sarah, it helped her gain confidence and establish new friendships. And for Matt, it helped him develop an awareness for the need for good planning, hard work and persistence to achieve his goals.”
For Neville, his own Scouting journey re-started when his daughters joined Scouts and he took on a role on the Parent Committee. When the position of Chief Commissioner for the ACT Branch arose, Neville decided to try his luck and apply, believing he had something valuable to offer to the youth.
When Neville isn’t devoting his time to Scouting, he is a regular volunteer with the Australian Red Cross and St Vincent’s De Paul. Every year he participates in the ‘Vinnies CEO Sleepout’ and offers his services to the Blue Door, a cafeteria for homeless people.
Neville has reached an important target of 350 blood and plasma donations, potentially saving over 1,000 lives.
“It’s a milestone that I’m very proud of, simply because it’s giving back to the community. It’s giving to others a wonderful gift that they so desperately need to stay alive.”
Neville is very much looking forward to taking people with him on the journey ahead and providing a listening ear to discover the areas that need attention the most. In particular, Neville is keen to hear the views of leaders and youth, on how we can best address the challenges we have, and pursue opportunities to grow Scouting right across NSW.
A motto that rings true with Neville, is the Ghandi quote “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.”