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Nature Academy nurtures new leaders


The Edmund Rice Centre partnered with the Bibbulmun Track Foundation to launch a Nature Academy for youth from culturally and linguistically diverse (CaLD) backgrounds.

The Foundation’s role was to conduct a programme designed to train youth to lead bushwalks. Nineteen signed up – all young women between the ages of twelve and twenty years old from a range of countries including Somalia, Burundi, Sudan, Uganda, South Sudan and Senegal.

The first unit covered the theory of conducting walks on the Bibbulmun Track. Topics included a map reading and route planning exercise, health and safety, basic gear and clothing, some first aid, the nature of leading walks, and tips on how to lead group walks. Eighteen then completed unit two where they learnt to cook using a fuel stove. They prepared and tasted a range of dishes. The focus was on developing an appropriate menu taking into account the bulk, weight and suitability of food for hiking.

Break at Hewetts Hill Campsite.
Break at Hewetts Hill Campsite.

The same participants then completed the third unit, an advanced day walk. The group put into practice the theory learned in the first unit. Keeping the group together, coordinating breaks, taking care of group members and navigating the bush were all part of the learning experience. The group was given autonomy to coordinate the foregoing tasks and to get the group to the end of the walk safely and in a timely manner.

On a Saturday morning in April the fourth unit covered how to pack a backpack and make decisions regarding appropriate equipment, food and clothing. Fourteen participants attended and then went on to successfully complete the final unit; an overnight trek that weekend. Once again the group was given autonomy on setting goals: for example, the distances to be covered between breaks, the length of breaks, and the lunch stop location. They also had the responsibility of navigating and keeping the group together and safe. In very adverse weather conditions, the group reached the campsite and worked as a team to successfully erect tents and prepare dinner. This was done in darkness as it was dusk by the time the group arrived at the campsite.

Checking the map before setting out.
Checking the map before setting out.

Dealing with issues affecting the group, such as sore bodies, slow walkers and heavy packs, took its toll and this was a challenge for many, even the experienced Bibbulmun Track Foundation guides— a true learning experience for everyone involved!

Spirits were still high the next day as participants broke camp and headed for the end of the walk. A debriefing and evaluation of the overnight walk and the entire youth leadership programme gave some great feedback ranging from “This is not for me” through to “I am interested in doing much more.”

Sunny spot for a well earned rest.
Sunny spot for a well earned rest.

The next step on the youth leadership programme is for selected participants to be involved in BTF organised walks and to make a presentation of their experiences. We hope the fourteen young women who completed the programme will continue to enjoy the great outdoors and share their knowledge and experience with others in their community.

Resting those feet and checking for blisters.
Resting those feet and checking for blisters.

Many thanks to the Inclusion Unit at the Department of Sport and Recreation for supporting this programme.