On Friday 20 March, despite the cancellation of Founders’ Day Dinner, a cheeky plan B in the form of a video via Facebook enlightened us to the news everyone has been talking about; it is with much excitement that we announce the lovely Georgie Birch as the new Lady Somers Camp Leader. Georgie takes over from Kristen Hammond who has run three phenomenal Big Camps from 2018-2020. We thank Kristen once again for her mind blowing effort and achievement and simultaneously wish Georgie the very best in taking on this pivotal role. We know, without a doubt, she’ll do great things. Please read below the respective final address from Kristen, and Georgie’s first words as Camp Leader.
I lost the will to write a speech last week as chaos ratcheted up day by day… But I did do a little presentation at the Plan B announcement that I did want to share, to show my appreciation…
Happy Saturday everyone. Hope you are enjoying a weekend of social distancing!!!!
Just wanted to send my thanks to you all for the best plan B ever. It was a lovely send off and a great way to congratulate Georgie.
Thank you to Georgie, Marnie and Cath D for the initiative and Georgie, Cam, Brad and all who participated in the video for the great announcement. Video editing skills par excellence Georgie!
Thank you to Cath D for your support, counsel and trust over the past three years. It has been a privilege to serve as Lady Somers Camp Leader alongside the first female President and Camp Chief.
To everyone for gifts, cards, emails, text messages and comments in social media – thank you – they are words and gifts I will treasure.
To the Slush and Exec teams I have journeyed with over the past three years, it’s been such a pleasure sharing the journey with you. Thank you for your brilliant ideas, hard work, support and the advocacy of our ideas and initiatives in our community. I couldn’t have done it without you – in fact you did so much of the work!!!
To Peter and John – I have been fortunate to share what can be a lonely job at times with you. Thanks for your counsel, support, the laughs, the meetings and the dumplings.
To Tim, Vikki, Alex and all the office and Somers staff – thank you for all you to do to make Lady Somers Camp happen. I know it’s your job, but you all invest so much more time, care and effort into our camp – way more than any job would require. And it’s appreciated.
To all the past Camp Leaders – although many of you are quite diminutive in stature – I was standing on the shoulders of giants. Thank you for the wonderful example of 32 camps I inherited. You have all shaped Lady Somers Camp and made it an incredible success and I am humbled to follow in your footsteps and to have been entrusted with stewardship of Lady Somers Camp for three years. It has been an immense privilege, and an honour, and such a growth opportunity for me personally. I will miss the role terribly. In particular, to Danj, Fizz, Marnie and Georgie and my dear bestie Mel, thanks for all the counsel through the good and bad of the past 3 years.
To Georgie, it’s your time now and I know you will be amazing and I look forward to seeing Lady Somers Camp grow and flourish over the next three years under your stewardship. I wish you every success and hope you grow, thrive and enjoy the role as much as I have. Dance to your own beat! (Thanks Mel!)
Finally, to my beautiful family – husband, daughters, parents and in-laws, thanks for holding down the fort and all your support. I’m now officially out to pasture in the top of the Coltman Hut.
With much love to you all.
Ex Camp Leader
Well, these are not the circumstances I expected to be in to accept the role of Camp Leader.
How quickly things can change.
I have been preparing this speech for months, but have had to look at it with fresh eyes these past few weeks to rework and reimagine it in the context and shadow of CV-19.
I’m distracted, my focus has changed, my worries heightened, but I don’t want to lose sight of what we do, and what we have to look forward to.
I have to imagine all you gorgeous people out there in the ether – smiling back at me. And how could I not feel a bit emboldened, a bit courageous – even in these unsettled times?
Little did I know, as a super reluctant RED grouper, way back in 1991, that I would be in this position.
Thank you for the honour, the privilege and the challenge of leading Lady Somers Camp for the next three years. I am excited beyond words and more than a bit terrified.
For those who don’t know me, let me give you my Camp resume.
My father, John Birch, suggested to me in 1990 that I should attend Lady Somers Camp. As many of you would know, my dad was heavily involved in the 50s and 60s, but he’d taken a break while my brother and I grew up. So apart from The Journal arriving in our letterbox on a regular basis, up until that point in my life, I had never heard of Camp and knew nothing about the organisation.
Needless to say, as is the experience of many, I was not keen to attend. I did not want to give up a week of my summer to hang out with a bunch of strangers. I wanted more information, but Dad revealed little. All he said was that he wanted me to trust him and to go. So eventually, reluctantly, I agreed. I really can’t put into words how grateful I am to him for that little push. Thanks Dad!
So, I’ve already told you that I was a Red Grouper in 1991. Marion South was Camp Leader, Jean Bowes and Gin Boyce the wonderful Slushee Queen and Duchess.
Red Group was led by the gorgeous Jenny Cook and the inimitable Kate Burman. Two of my fellow red groupers were Helen Casey and Leah Booth –great friends to this day.
I still have my Grouper scarf and can just make out the inscription that Kate, my AGLU, wrote:
“To Georgie – the most astute grouper of red”
I’m not sure I was THE most astute red grouper – geez, I had Helen Casey in my group (no offence Leah!), but I will acknowledge that I am a very observant person – I watch and listen and take time to process. I remember making several observations to Jenny and Kate over the week – for example, I noticed that Red and Yellow were leading in games points and that we were the only groups that the Slushees got up one night. Why was that I wondered to Jenny & Kate?
I guess I was able to see some of the method behind the madness, even in those early days.
My experience as a grouper was life changing. I went to a small school – Preshil. For those who don’t know it, Preshil can be described as ‘alternative’. For those who are more, shall we say, ‘englightened’, we like to call it progressive. In fact, it is the oldest progressive school in Australia. It was wonderful, and I have sent my own children there. But it is small, and because I went there from kinder to year 12, my cohort and my life experience were limited to the horizons therein.
The Big Camp experience opened my eyes to new people, new ways of thinking, new horizons. I came home, slept for what seemed like days, and when I awoke, I recounted to my parents the antics of the Slushees, stunt by stunt. No doubt about it, I was hooked.
I remember distinctly driving down to Somers the following year to join the Junior Flying Squad – I was nervous! I hadn’t been to any camps or functions during the year – it really felt a bit like going to Big Camp for the first time all over again. But I knew, this time, that it would be worth pushing through the initial discomfort. And it was.
The next year I joined the Slushees and I spent many, many, happy, fulfilling years there. I’ve been in Games, I did on a stint on the executive, and was a very proud red AGLU.
I took a break when I became a mother, and spent a decade on the sidelines.
When Marnie Lassen and I were chatting to Kristen Hammond one evening in 2013 after our regular book group session – I made a flippant comment that I was ‘thinking’ about coming back to Camp – ‘great’ Kristen said – ‘we need someone for video’. And thus began the illustrious career of Georgie Oh Marnie – the esteemed fashion designer, I mean, dynamic duo. Haha!
I followed those heady video days with a year back in Slushees – where I valiantly tried to keep up with my younger counterparts and was a proud member of the Over 28s. I loved getting to know the cohort and being part of the hard work and fun all over again.
And for the past three years, I’ve had the absolute privilege of being Light Blue Group Leader – sharing the honour with some pretty fab women – in 2018, I was paired with Cath Challinger (the present Slushee Queen), in 2019, with Brigid Canny (the present Slushee Duchess) and most recently, with Emma Davies and Cristina Tambasco – women I am privileged to know and proud to call friends.
So what does all this tell you about me? It tells you that I have seen Camp from many perspectives – over many years. I have ‘lived experience’ and understand what it’s like to do many of the staff roles around Camp. I know this will help me as I begin my journey as Camp Leader.
But I haven’t done everything, and I will endeavour to put myself in everyone’s shoes – to truly understand Camp from each and every perspective so that I can be the best leader I can be.
And what shoes I have to fill! Kristen Hammond has done a remarkable job of steering the ship that is Big Camp. She has lead with honesty, courage, integrity, and transparency. She has piloted new initiatives, made brave decisions and had the unenviable task of turning a growing number of volunteers away as our camp is oversubscribed. A ‘good’ problem to have I know, but a challenging one nonetheless, requiring special diplomacy and a strong, deliberate, hand.
Congratulations Kristen – and bravo.
So now I must consider how I will make my own mark as Camp Leader. Kris and I are different – for one thing, she’s a natural with a microphone – I, quite categorically, am not!
I know a lot of people will be familiar with the categorisation of personalities as introverts and extraverts. You’ve heard of Myers Briggs right? I know it’s a bit outdated these days, but I think the fundamental introvert/extravert thing holds true.
I identify as an introvert. I know there are times when I can appear a bit aloof (I have to tell you, my ‘resting b**** face’ was pretty useful in my Slushee days!) But I know too, that sometimes people think I’m not that approachable. Fundamentally, I’m just a bit shy and sometimes find it challenging to initiate a conversation. It’s not my natural instinct to be the centre of attention, despite usually quite enjoying it in hindsight! I encourage you to help me breakthrough my own awkward – laugh with me, not at me, and come say hi whenever you can.
I’ve done a bit of reading and discovered that introverted leaders are different because of their inclination to listen to others and their lack of interest in dominating social situations: introverts are more likely to hear and implement suggestions. Having benefited from the talents of their team, they are then likely to motivate them to be even more proactive.
I am also a values-driven leader. Values-driven leaders lead from a deep sense of purpose and a demonstrated commitment to identified values. In headline, as Camp Leader, I aim to be:
Transparent Courageous Inclusive Humble Empathetic
I aim also to embody the values of Lord Somers Camp & Power House:
Acceptance Care Belonging Friendship and… FUN!
Fun is why I made the Plan B video. In uncertain times like this, some light amongst the shade is good. I don’t want to lose sight of what we do, and what we have to look forward to. Who knows how this will play out, and what Big Camp 2021 might look like.
Being Camp Leader, I know I will have to make challenging decisions, that situations won’t necessarily be win-win, that I will have to disappoint people. But I hope to follow in Kristen’s footsteps, and be transparent and accountable for each of these more difficult decisions, which will hopefully enable people to understand the reasons. I know too, that I have Kristen, and a whole brains’ trust of former Camp Leaders that I can and will turn to for wise counsel when the going gets tough, and for s***s and giggles the rest of the time.
I model myself on the comedian Tina Fey – who wouldn’t right? Tina says:
“In most cases, being a good boss means hiring talented people and then getting out of their way.”
This is my Camp Leader plan! There are so many talented people around Lady Somers’ Camp – I am spoilt for choice! I am surrounded by an incredible group of capable women. Women who are willing to take on challenges. In the shadow of this pandemic, we have big challenges ahead of us. I couldn’t think of a better bunch of women, or organisation to be part of. So grateful to have my #girlgang.
Am I daunted by the challenge? Yes I am – particularly today. Am I excited to commence planning for BC21? Absolutely!
Am I ready? Well, I thought I was – but I have to admit, in the shadow of the pandemic, I am feeling a little overwhelmed – I know it will be ok, but it’s hard to see the wood for the trees right now. So I turn to another quote – have you heard that one from the actor Hugh Laurie – about being ready?
It’s a terrible thing, I think, in life to wait until you’re ready. I have this feeling now that actually no one is ever ready to do anything. There is almost no such thing as ready. There is only now. And you may as well do it now. Generally speaking, now is as good a time as any.
So, now it is! And really, how lucky am I? Leading something I love, with people I adore, who have my back – what could be better? Let’s consider Big Camp 2021 to be the light at the end of the CV-19 tunnel and get on with the job of planning the ‘best camp ever’.
I would say my door is open, but I’m pretty that’s just been made illegal – so email me instead – firstname.lastname@example.org – I’d love to chat!