The Upside Down Under


The slogan on the website of Girl Guides Australia makes the claim that they ...

"... empower girls and young women to grow into confident, self-respecting, responsible community members."

So, when you think of the Girl Guides, you don’t exactly associate them with criminal conspiracies investigated at the highest levels of government.

But back in 1923, the organisation became embroiled in a complicated case involving (shock, horror) gambling.

Girl Guides of Australia official logo

Here'show the crime went down...

In May of 1923, as part of the Girl Guides Fete, electricians called Dankel and Company set up a fundraising “guessing competition”.

The public was invited to guess how far the wheel of a bicycle, supplied by Bullock Cycle Stores, would travel in a week.

 A Bullock Cycle Store
The bicycle prize was supplied by Bullock Cycle Stores

Tickets could be purchased for sixpence, and the closest guess would win the bicycle itself.

The competition, including the donation of the bicycle, had been organised by members of the Girl Guides Association, including a Mrs Bernstein and the Lady Mayoress, Mrs Cohen.

The Guides run afoul of the law...

But the whole event quickly came to the attention of Plainclothes Constable C. Stewart, who raised his concerns to the Police Commissioner, Raymond Leane.

Mr Leane then forwarded the matter to the Chief Secretary, Attorney-General and Crown Solicitor, stating that a breach of the Lottery and Gaming Acts 1917 to 1921 had occurred because...

“skill could not possibly govern a correct guess as to the distance travelled”.

He was not sympathetic to the fact the competition was a fundraiser for the Girl Guides, stating that...

“when funds are required for purposes of this nature and charity, that gambling should not be indulged in, particularly when it encourages young girls to break the law”.

Police Commissioner Raymond Leane
Police Commissioner Raymond Leane

Electrical company owner Mr Dankel said that he had been unsure about the legality of the game when it was suggested, but was told by women from the Girl Guides that any responsibility related to the game would be borne by the association.

Mrs Bernstein was interviewed and confirmed that all proceeds from ticket sales would go only to the Girl Guides.

The powers that be decided a prosecution was not possible because of a lack of uncorroborated and additional evidence.

Instead, Mr Dankel and Mrs Bernstein were cautioned — and the fundraising attempt scrapped.


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