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Australian Girl Guides ditch pledge to queen and God

Queen Elizabeth II meets young Canadians, including Girl Guides and Brownies, during her visit to Osgoode Hall in Toronto on June 26, 1973.

Dennis Robinson/The Globe and Mail

Australia's Girl Guides will no longer promise to serve the queen or uphold their duty to God, choosing instead to "be true to myself" and "serve my community and Australia".

In changes unveiled this week by the volunteer girls' group, members have decided to keep their sashes with badges, but pledges of duty to a Christian God, Britain's monarch and obedience have been consigned to history.

"The queen is much loved by many guides, as she is by much of the population, and we all absolutely admire her in her jubilee year," New South Wales state commissioner Belinda Allen told Friday's Daily Telegraph.

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"But our community comes from many different backgrounds," she added.

The updated pledge reads: "I promise that I will do my best; to be true to myself and develop my beliefs; to serve my community and Australia, and live by the Guide Law."

The change, which begins to come into effect from Friday, could see Queen Elizabeth II's picture removed from guide halls in a nation that has a strong republican movement despite remaining a constitutional monarchy.

"Whether they take down pictures of the queen or keep them in the halls is totally up to the girls," Ms. Allen said.

"They may decide they still like to have pictures of the queen around but the world has changed and we have to move on."

The movement, which has been around for more than a century in Australia, said the changes were designed to make it more modern and relevant, and help expand current membership from the current roster of around 28,000.

"Obedience was universally seen as not appropriate for women in 2012," Ms. Allen said.

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Guiding began spontaneously in many parts of Australia from about 1911 and aims to help girls aged 5 to 18 grow into confident, responsible community members.

Girl Guides Australia has been reviewing the wording of the promise for close to two years, and some members had strong objections to the changes.

But Helen Geard, chief commissioner of Girl Guides Australia, said the organization ultimately decided that "doing duty to God is probably not language that is relevant to our young people."

"I think it's a reflection of Girl Guides wanting to move with the times and understanding that as a country we are changing and seeking our own identity and that's part of being Australian," Ms. Geard told ABC.

According to the latest population census, taken last year, 26 per cent of Australians were born overseas and a further 20 per cent had at least one migrant parent.

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