The Proposed Changes by Outdoors Victoria: My Take

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If you’re a Victorian and you have been keeping an eye on the news lately, you may have come across an interesting development recently.

Outdoors Victoria are in the process of writing new “Australian Adventure Activity Standards” (AAAS for short) for more than twenty adventure activities.

There are a number of activities included amongst these and bushwalking is certainly one of them.

Long story short, Outdoors Victoria are looking to impose the same standards on volunteer groups, clubs and community groups (think MeetUp), as they would on commercial groups.

If these standards were to be applied, it would mean that voluntary groups such as The Hiking Society MeetUp group would need to comply with a number of things include liability insurance, various accreditations and more.

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This has resulted in many who are left wondering whether their volunteer groups will cease to exist should the standards be applied to them.

I believe that this won’t be the case should the standards change and groups be required to comply with Outdoors Victoria.

Now, don’t get me wrong, the finer details are still to be played out with regards to cost, the various¬†accreditations, competency units required etc.

So once we have a clearer picture on that, I think we’ll be able to make a more informed decision.

In the meantime, hypothetically, let’s assume that this goes ahead and hiking groups on MeetUp etc are now required to pay liability insurance etc. or they have to fold.

From where I sit, this is all spawned from basic safety and from some people’s lack of understanding of what it means to be safe in the outdoors.

Granted not everyone is like this but as someone who hikes regularly, I have seen some ridiculous stuff happen in the outdoors.

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We see so many people head out with groups and become disorientated due to lack of proper navigation tools, lack of gear and supplies etc.

Something like this would, in my opinion, make people more accountable for their actions and force them to have proper risk management protocols in place.

Essentially, I think it’ll weed out those who are serious about it and those who aren’t.

In saying that, do I think this will legitimately go ahead? I really don’t think it will.

There is too much of a demand amongst volunteer groups to be in the outdoors for this to go ahead.

If it were, there would need to be something significant coming back the other way such as subsidised accreditation or similar.

This would, at the very least, justify some of the potential costs set down by Outdoors Victoria.

With that in mind, if you were charged a small annual fee by a hiking group that covered liability insurance, would that discourage you at all?

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Despite my stance on it, I have signed the petition that can be found here as laid down by Bushwalking Victoria.

I can certainly see both sides of the argument for a number of reasons, which is why I won’t be fazed regardless of which way it goes.

I’d love to find out what you think about the controversial topic. Please let me know what you think in the comment section below.

 

2 Responses
  1. Mel

    I agree that both sides of the argument are valid and tend to sway a little closer the wanting there to be more regulation with regard to outdoor activity groups. I’ve been at this hiking caper for 20 years now and have encountered plenty of woefully underprepared people out on the trails, far more so with the rise of social media in recent years.
    I am a member of several hiking meet up groups that are run by volunteers and as a result have also joined their associated Facebook groups or follow them on social media. While some of these groups are run well and seem to have plenty of collective experience in the group, some do not and for a person starting out in hiking these groups are often the first place people seek out advice and opportunities to join like minded individuals on the trails. The greater the experience and knowledge of the people in the group can lead to better advice being provided, where the members of the group lack experience then it can lead to questionable advice being given out. The same applies in practice when you are out on a trail. If these groups were run by people who had suitable experience or qualifications then the experience should be better with the risk of an incident reduced because the person leading genuinely knows what they are doing.
    Back in high school we had to demonstrate that we could build an emergency shelter and use a map and compass before we could head out on overnight hiking excursions, we had to learn how to build a snow cave before we could head out cross country skiing and had to demonstrate how to recover a capsized kayak in the local swimming pool before we were allowed near a rapid. Along with first aid, these are all good skills to have if you are planning on leading a relevant activity.
    Should the changes come in and be applied to volunteer groups then I think it can only lead to positive outcomes. Those that have the experience or the willingness to gain it will continue and those that don’t will fold. Personally I have no problem paying a membership fee to participate in groups like this if it means that we have suitably qualified group leaders.

    1. John Feeney

      Hi Melanie,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and considered response. I really appreciate it. I was a touch fearful on how much article and stance would be received and expected a bit of backlash, however, it would appear there are plenty out there who are either aren’t fazed about it or are for the changes. Mind you, there are plenty who are completely against it and for good reasons too.

      I think your points regarding beginner hikers and MeetUps is valid and while I can’t speak for other outdoor MeetUp groups, I can honestly say that the organisers in my group are all knowledgeable people when it comes to the outdoors and treat their volunteer position with the respect it deserves. I think this is one of the reasons why we have grown so quickly.

      If the standards were approved, I’d be really keen to see what I would be required to learn in order to comply. It’s something I have a genuine interest in and I would hope that if people were aware that our leaders are all qualified under these new standards, then it would make our group even more attractive than it is now.

      Thanks again for reading and taking the time to respond.

      John

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