A Profile of Outdoor Education Programs and Their Implementation in Australia


James T. Neill

Japanese Outdoor Education Journal, 5(2), 1-9, 2001


This paper describes and critiques the development of outdoor education (OE) programs in Australia.  Australia has a highly urbanized Western culture which has been heavily influenced by nineteenth century British colonialism and twentieth century American culture.  The living in Australia is materially comfortable, yet youth remain starved of organized opportunities for healthy experiments in living, risk-taking, practical skill development, discovery of inner strength, and development of a moral, community ethic.  Thus, OE makes sense, in theory, as a medium through which to help train youth in the skills necessary for leading a good, fulfilling life.  After the initiation of OE programs in the 1950s and 1960s in Australia, there was a healthy growth phase during the 1970s and 1980s.  There was continued growth during the 1990s, however there are increasing signs of plateauing in the growth curve, with a growing emphasis on accreditation, legalization and consolidation of safety systems, training and program delivery methods.  This places Australian OE at a cross-roads.  There are rich opportunities for gathering forces and fueling a new growth phase.  However, there is a lack of coordinated strategy from either government or a guiding body created from within the field.

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