We are moving into winter, let’s hope the silly season is behind us and we can get a break to allow us to plan for the rest of the year. We are getting ready for the winter, there is the lodge to set up, snow programs to plan and some journeys and seminars at our camps. For many teachers and leaders in schools, I am sure it is time to take stock of the past 12 months and hope that, with our border controls and vaccination program things are going to be more certain in 2021 and 2022. Auscamp and our camps have weathered the past 12 months with minimal damage. Yes, there are fewer bookings this year but that has been okay. I am not sure if I want Auscamp to return to the crazy days of 2019, maybe it would be better to be a bit smaller. Yes, there have been challenges finding staff but we have managed and introduced some really great new people to the sector. We have built some great relationships with the staff, even to the point that they come to visit when they have nothing much to do. (Usually, they also borrow a bit of gear for their next adventure too)
All sorts of challenges have been faced over the past 12 months, the major ones being staff wages and conditions, insurance, having months and months with no work, and then the start-up. We addressed each of these challenges in a positive way
For staff we surveyed around the sector to find out what staff were looking for and what they thought a reasonable return on their effort was (after all we do entrust the wellbeing of kids to these young people). What a surprise, firstly we were happy that our conditions and pay rates were as good if not better than most. Even with that knowledge we have increased our base rates and are looking at offering extra benefits like training, access to facilities and gear purchase plans. And so we should! I am not sure if you have noticed that insurance has been rising. Car insurance, house, and contents insurance have all risen. In our sector, it has increased anywhere between 30 to 50% … if you can get it. We have been fortunate that our insurers continue to support us so that we can keep doing what we have been doing.
The lockdowns and stopping of tourism, recreation and camps certainly provided a challenge. You don’t realize the value of work to your well-being until the work isn’t there. How do you maintain motivation? What do you do with your day? We are fortunate that there is always something to do on a camp. Everything was folded and put away, buildings were painted, activities rebuilt, upgrades to programs, and new ideas put in place. All we needed in the end was kids to come along.
We started in late October, kids poured through the gates, equipment was being used, infrastructure started up… or was supposed to. The start-up was a real challenge, after months of not doing anything pumps did not want to start, heaters were blowing cold, fridges would not chill, the list was endless. Six months on everything seems to be working again (except the pump at Nillah BUT the plumber told me today that it had been replaced and was running again.)
I am now writing to you to re-introduce our four camps plus Auscamp and provide you with some details about each. We want to see you back, we would love to see you at our camps. So please start early for 2022 (or late for 2021 if you are still thinking of booking), we would love to have the certainty of knowing who was coming and when they were coming.
Charnwood Outdoor Education Centre
This is a 110 bed lodge located on a 60 Ha. Bush property in the Northern Strathbogie Ranges. It is just under three from Melbourne.
Over the past 18 months the property and programs have been developed considerably.
In terms of the property the main accommodation wing has been upgraded and the dining room extended. The grounds are amazing.
In terms of programs we have abseiling, Creek walk incorporating initiatives, raft building, mountain bike riding, bushwalking, maker shed (handcraft, wood splitting and model farm – chooks and cows). We can add in a campout on our property or a little further away. If we go off the property we can offer longer and challenging walks and bike rides plus some big abseils. If we link Charnwood with Nillahcootie Camp we can also offer canoeing and sailing. We can also run these as journeys
We also have a great fire pit.
Charnwood is ideal for 3 – 5 day camps. We also can offer longer extended programs that are based of community living. These can run for 7 to 21 days or more.
Nillahcootie Outdoor Centre
This is an 110 bed camp on the shores of Lake Nillahcootie. It is under 3 hours from Melbourne
The camp is older style with the bathrooms separate to the accommodation and dining areas. We are modernising it but at the same time trying to maintain the older style camp experience.
Being right on the shores of Lake Nillahcootie means that we have easy access for canoeing and sailing plus there are many of the normal on site camp activities available. Within a 20 minute shuttle we can use the abseiling and bike ride track we use a Charnwood. In winter we are an hour from Mt Buller.
There is also plenty of grounds for passive and active activity plus there is a fire pit available.
Nillahcootie is ideal for 3 days onsite and more if you add some offsite activity
Anglesea Valley Lodge
This is a 110 bed lodge located 30 minutes from Geelong or 100 minutes from Melbourne in an area known as Wensleydale. The lodge is at the head of the Anglesea River Valley adjacent to the National Park.
The camp is quite modern having been upgraded over the past 15 years. The accommodation, bathrooms and kitchen/dining are all under the one roof with a central courtyard..
The location allows us to develop programs that have both a bush and sea base. We can include base camp activities including our climbing wall, bushwalks, mountainbikes and campouts. We have access to a large area that has an initiative course and many private campsites. Within 30 minutes or so we have canoeing and surfing in the Anglesea area and there is Live Wire ropes course in Lorne.
As we manage most of the campsites in this area we are able to put together journeys where you really don’t meet others.
Auscamp Alpine Lodge
About 5 years ago my son said “Hey dad, there is a snow lodge for sale”. It was a dump! 5 years later we have renovated this little lodge into a 20 bed accommodation centre that acts as a base for our snow programs. We take small group bookings, large group bookings with our partners on Mt Buller and we can use it as a day-station for snow programs coming from Nillahcootie or Charnwood. In summer it is a great base for small group activities in the alps. Over the next two years we will expand it to accommodate 30 to 40.
In addition to the campsites we have Auscamp, an adventure journey and activity provider. Auscamp can run canoe, hike and multi-activity journeys in places like Glenelg River, Cape Otway, Wilsons Prom, Grampians, Mt Buller and of course around our camps… when they are linked to accommodation we call these hybrid programs. We also have what we call ICONIC programs. We call them this because they are exactly that. Think a journey to Sydney to go sailing on Pittwater and Broken Bay or a 13 day journey to Uluru taking in The Flinders Ranges, Lake Ayre, Desert Tracks and many other amazing parts of Central Australia more locally we have our 5 to 8 day journey at Cape Otway.
So why would you consider us?
Great question, there are plenty of camps, operators and providers out there so what makes us different. Maybe the points below will give you an idea:
I am a teacher with 20 plus years in school and even more working as an Outdoor Educator/Adventurer/Tour Guide
I listen to people and write programs to meet their needs and desires… so we are not a “cookie cutter” organisation
We develop partnerships and relationships with schools and communities
We are prepared to say when we can and can’t do something
I am a parent… I put safety first.
We are happy to work alongside other providers (there are limits to this)
We have a giving policy… we try to give back to our client community in other ways as well
Our sites are great
I am very proud of what we have achieved over the past 35 years we have been working in this field. I believe we have made a great contribution to the Outdoor Sector in Victoria and beyond. We work equally with many great schools, some well-known some not so well known. If you would like to talk with us about our venues, programs, philosophy I am happy to visit you at school, meet at one of our sites or chat on the phone to see how we can help.