Survey paints a picture of our volunteer activity leaders and their needs

Sam Garrett-Jones, Chair of Field Activities Committee

Bushwalking styles change: a current exhibition at the State Library of NSW features pioneers Myles Dunphy and Bert Gallop at Jenolan Caves in 1912 with their bulky swags … and rifles. A century on, what burdens do our bushwalking leaders carry, and how can we best support them?

In 2018 NPA held an online survey of its field activities leaders and prospective leaders. Topics canvassed included Activity Leadership, Leadership Training, First Aid, a proposed regular Leaders’ Forum, and NPA’s 60 Best Walks program. The response was excellent: the 75 valid responses received represented at least 43% of our leader pool.
The survey showed how heavily NPA relies on long-standing leaders. Almost half our leaders had more than 10 years’ experience, and on average they led more activities each year and were also more likely to lead walks for other clubs. On the other hand, 20% of leaders responding had led walks for less than two years.
Surprisingly, fewer than 30% of current or prospective leaders had undertaken any formal training in leading outdoor activities (such as National Outdoor Leader Registration Scheme-recognised training or club-provided courses). The lack of formal training (and lack of interest in formal training) was particularly marked for the long-established leaders. Overall, 41% of respondents expressed interest in undertaking training through NPA, suggesting that for the majority of respondents NPA training was perceived either as not required or not of value. Of those who were interested, the topics of Navigation, and Health and Safety were the most frequently nominated.
The picture in respect of First Aid qualifications was quite different; 60% of respondents held a current First Aid qualification, with the large majority gaining or renewing their qualification in the last 3 years. Nearly 80% held the basic Provide First Aid certificate, with a few more completing the Provide First Aid in Remote Location course. Half the respondents were interested in undertaking First Aid training through NPA, a low proportion perhaps because nearly 43% of respondents had access to training from other sources such as their employer or another club.
Just over half of respondents also expressed interest in attending a regular NPA Activities Leaders’ Forum. Leaders with less than 2 years’ experience and potential leaders were more supportive of this idea. The nominated forum topics of interest to respondents were evenly split between Navigation, Health and Safety, Group Dynamics and Planning an Activity. Twenty leaders (30% of those answering) indicated that they could contribute specific experience to the Forum.
In relation to NPA’s 60 Best Walks program 39 respondents commented on suggested additions and improvements. For example, one leader noted that ‘there is not enough information in the description to lead a group to do [the walk]’. This is one goal of the proposed 60 Best Walks e-book, and 26 respondents expressed interest in contributing to the e-book. This is an excellent pool of potential contributors to the project.
Finally, the survey asked for comments about what leaders liked about NPA, which was ‘heaps’. ‘We are all one big family’ as one member succinctly put it. As for changes or improvements, many made helpful suggestions about the activities program, the activities website and communications, the need for leadership training and broader comments on how NPA is run.
The survey provides useful insights into the composition of our volunteer leaders, their qualifications and their demand for first aid and other training. It shows that long-established leaders have rather different requirements for assistance than newer leaders. These will be considered in developing the Activities program and providing support for activities leaders in future.
You can view report at:

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