Five Minutes With … Michèle Stokes

Every month, we like to get to know a member of our amazing Victorian Guiding community a little better. This month we caught up with Dr Michèle Stokes, our amazing Governance Chair of Girl Guides Victoria and molecular biologist.

Attendees of this year’s Kani-Karrung Australian Guide Jamboree may remember Michèle as ‘Ubershell’, the go-to mini-bus driver handling various errands across the seven days!

Your Guiding journey started as a young Guide in the UK – what motivated you to join, and how did Guiding impact your life back then?

I was new to the area and Brownies, as it was called then, was held in my local church hall, and was a good way to make different friends from school. I went through Guides, was the first Guide in my district to get the new Baden Powell award, and was selected to represent NW England at an international Jamboree in the Netherlands at 14.

Guiding had a huge impact on my life, I truly believe it is where I gained my initial leadership skills. Through patrol leader, completing my camper’s permit (we let 16-year-olds run a camp on their own for a weekend back then!) and presenting my experience from the Jamboree, I was selected to attend to the local Trefoil group who helped to fund the trip. From there, becoming a leader was just a natural progression.

What advice would you give to young girls who are currently part of Girl Guides, aspiring to hold leadership roles in their own right? How can they make the most of their Guiding experience?

Take advantage of the opportunities available through Guides, either through earning badges to gain new skills, attending programs like Lead the Way, working towards the Queen’s Guide Award, and being a patrol leader at camps or activities.

All of these opportunities will help you build skills which combined, will broaden your views and help you be whatever you want to be. Leadership skills are developed through various channels and experiences, not just official training.

In a rapidly changing world, how do you see the Girl Guides program remaining relevant and impactful for girls today? What aspects of the program do you believe resonate most with the current generation?

Environmental and STEM activities have to be up there at the moment. I am a molecular biologist and when I started, our PCR was a novel technology — not the household name it is today. This work of STEM (and especially AI) is changing rapidly, and to stay relevant we have to offer a program that helps support girls today in this fast changing world.

Just as important, however, may be how the girls teach the Leaders and they should be the ones helping to design the next phase of our program and how it is delivered.

Guiding aside, what do you like to do in your spare time?

I have 2 crazy springer spaniels who I love walking and throwing tennis balls around for, they are my stress relief after work.

In the winter I like to do embroidery in the evenings. I have completed many over the years, but still have one particular piece I started 30 years ago that still isn’t finished! Maybe one day…

What’s one destination on your travel bucket list that you haven’t visited yet, and why would you like to travel there?

I have been really lucky in my life to travel to many countries, especially through my work. I have recorded officially 41 countries. Iceland however is somewhere I didn’t manage to get to before we emigrated to Australia from the northern hemisphere and is high on the list, mainly unspoilt and I would love to do one of the driving experiences there, on ice.

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