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Outdoor Recreation




You must refer to the Requirements for All Sport and Physical Activity (PDF 466KB) to understand your overall compliance responsibilities. Additional responsibilities are contained in these Safe Conduct Guidelines.


Many requirements for outdoor recreation are covered in the Excursions Policy Implementation Procedures, including risk assessment and risk management, swimming and water activities, emergency care and first aid, equipment and clothing, child protection, parental consent, insurance, and supervision responsibilities, ratios and gender.

Other relevant policies and procedures which should be consulted in relation to specific aspects of outdoor recreation is at the end of this page.

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Leaders and Instructors

Outdoor recreation instructors engaged by schools must possess skills, experience and knowledge in accordance with industry standards.

Principals must ensure that:

  • A teacher is nominated as the teacher-in-charge
  • The nominated teacher sights all the relevant activity details and is satisfied that the requirements outlined in this document are met prior to approval
  • Leaders and instructors are qualified and (or) experienced to lead the specific activity. General qualities expected of the leader are:
    • Qualifications and competencies relevant to the activity
    • Experience and expertise in that activity
    • Competence to lead the group
    • Familiarity with the locality.

The teacher-in-charge must ensure that:

  • All adults assisting teaching staff in the capacity of instructor have the appropriate skills, qualifications and experience necessary to carry out the activity in accordance with National Competency Standards. They must also be advised of their responsibilities
  • The bona fides of all non-teaching staff are carefully assessed
  • Emergency contacts and procedures are developed for all outdoor recreation activities.
  • All members of the group know how to implement these procedures
  • A contingency plan is developed in case conditions become adverse (see Excursions Policy Implementation Procedures section 7). A copy must be left with the principal for use in an emergency. Special consideration should be given to cancelling planned activities in the event of extreme weather conditions, fire danger, etc.
  • Prior to commencement of the activity, all group members are instructed in relevant safe practice, procedures in the case of accidents, illness, separation from the party, correct selection, use and safety of clothing and equipment, including sun protection and how to recognise and treat hypothermia
  • Challenges, either imposed by the environment or imposed by the task, do not exceed the physical skill level or emotional control of the participant
  • A minimum impact environmental code is adopted.
  • Local authorities are notified both prior to departure and on return. Authorities may include: rangers, police and landowners. Details will include:
    • Date
    • Size of party
    • Route
    • Planned overnight camp areas
    • Escape routes (where appropriate)
    • First aid equipment and emergency food stocks
    • Other relevant information as required.
  • They know the location of a phone, hospital and emergency services. A mobile phone to be used in emergency situations is desirable on all activities but leaders should allow for the fact they may not operate in all locales. Prior testing at the site will ascertain the appropriate solution. In more bush areas, other forms of communication such as UHF radios should be considered.
  • Principals are advised of any unexpected delays in returning from excursions to enable families to be informed of the late return
  • In the case of an emergency, the school principal is contacted.

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Staff members are covered by worker’s compensation if on duty at the time of an accident. There is no automatic insurance cover provided by the NSW Department of Education in respect of injuries to students, non-enrolled children or parents, should an accident occur on an outdoor recreation activity. Personal accident insurance cover is available through normal retail insurance outlets for parents and/or students and non-enrolled children who accompany an outdoor adventure activity.

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Venue and Activity Selection

The teacher-in-charge or the instructor must have current knowledge of the area to be used and be certain of its suitability for the program and the group.

Selection of venues must take into account the age, fitness and medical condition of students, known hazards (such as river crossings, slippery rocks or cliff faces), exposed areas, and limited access to roads and communication.

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Site Use and Standards

In general, school group activities should comply with recognised government and industry activity standards.

Prior permission for site use must be obtained if necessary.

Schools are advised to check with the local National Parks and Wildlife Service office, police or other local authorities concerning current access restrictions and fire bans (see also Excursions Policy Implementation Procedures section 4.1.3).

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National Parks

Schools visiting parks under the direction of a teacher directly employed by the school are not required to hold a commercial activity licence but they are required to obtain consent to undertake the activity from the National Parks and Wildlife Service under the National Parks and Wildlife Regulation 2000. Consent can be obtained by contacting the local regional office of the park or reserve to be visited.

Schools that contract licenced tour operators and activity providers to provide outdoor activities to their students must ensure the operator they contract is licenced with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and therefore a lawful operator.

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Minimum Impact Code

All outdoor recreation programs should be based on a minimum impact code and students should be encouraged to care for the environment. Students should:

  • Become knowledgeable about current minimum impact practices for different environments and situations
  • Use formed paths and campsites where available
  • Light fires only in emergencies, use portable stoves for cooking and clothes for warmth
  • Keep watercourses clear of anything harmful and camp at least 100 metres away if possible
  • Dispose of bodily waste properly
  • Respect the rights and privacy of others
  • Clean up the mess or mistakes of others, if possible
  • Be an example in the bush for others
  • Leave the environment the same as, or better, than it was when they arrived.

Teachers should plan carefully to:

  • Use non-fragile environments wherever possible and restrict numbers and activities in these environments
  • Check access restrictions, requirements and regulations concerning the use of the area
  • Emphasise non-destructive activities such as drawing, writing and photography, and avoid habitat disturbance where possible, eg. turning over logs and stones
  • Restrict groups to a small manageable size
  • Ensure all waste is correctly dealt with and litter collected
  • Ensure that rubbish is not placed in composting toilets.

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Risk Management for Outdoor Recreation

Teachers must comply with the risk management process undertaken as part of the Excursion Policy and Procedures for all sport activities and programs conducted outside the school grounds. The following tools to assist teachers can be found on the Sport website:

When undertaking risk management for outdoor recreation, in order to identify risk and safety concerns or potential dangers activity, organisers should consider the main causal factors which include:


  • The physical and emotional needs of the participants including students with disabilities and students with special mediation needs
  • The expertise and experience of staff and students including their strengths and limitations
  • Preparation of the participants, including skill development and physical fitness
  • Numbers and age
  • What to do in case of an injury, accident or loss of participants.

Equipment and Resources

  • Condition of camping equipment and means of transport
  • Suitability of the equipment for the activity and use by participants (including clothing)
  • Communication equipment
  • Emergency assistance access
  • What to do in case of equipment loss, damage or failure.


  • Possible effects of various weather conditions
  • Nature of the terrain which has sheer cliffs; nature and depth of river crossings, etc.
  • Threat of bushfire, floods etc.
  • Visibility variations
  • Nature and condition of vegetation.

The below is a non-exhaustive list of outdoor recreation-specific questions you may wish to consider when conducting a risk assessment.

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Teacher / Leader Qualifications and Experience

  • Have any other schools conducted this activity? Where did they go? How did they organise it? Did anything go wrong? What advice can they offer?

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Student Requirements

  • If a student is in difficulty, can other students immediately stop what they are doing while staff help the student? If students encounter difficulty, has the activity been organised in such a way that staff can provide immediate assistance?
  • Over what area/distance will the students be spread?
  • Are students familiar with the activity emergency procedures? Can they implement the procedures?

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  • Does the activity require any special equipment or protective clothing?
  • Is the equipment appropriate for the ages of the students?
  • Does the equipment to be used meet industry standards?
  • What can go wrong with the equipment and can this be dealt with?
  • Are there any relevant safety checks that can be carried out on the equipment? Have they been done? Are they current?

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  • Where is it and how regularly is it used for this activity?
  • Is it used for novice participants?
  • How familiar is the leader with this location? At this time of year, and under the forecast conditions?
  • Has advice or permission been sought or gained from the land management authority?

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Outdoor Recreation Operators

  • What outdoor-specific qualifications do the operator's staff hold?
  • Where applicable, what licence or access rights does the operator have to use National Parks, State Forest or other public or private lands (not owned or operated by themselves)?
  • What child protection training has been undertaken?
  • How does the organisation and staff maintain the currency of their skills and qualifications?
  • What insurance does the organisation or operator possess?
  • What emergency communication systems or strategies does the organisation or operator have in place?

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  • What preparatory activities are undertaken?
  • Have the students been tested for any prerequisite skills?
  • What will the students gain from participation in the activity?
  • Could the same benefits be achieved more easily another way?
  • What is special about this activity that achieves these benefits?
  • How remote is the activity from sources of assistance?
  • How long would it take to get help after an accident?
  • How would help be called?

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Further Information

  • Are there any laws or regulations (Commonwealth or State) governing participation in this activity?
  • Are there organisations or clubs that conduct this activity?
  • Have they developed a standard code of practice?
  • Does the organisation or club have an information or a development officer who could be approached for advice or assistance?
  • Do these groups conduct training courses that teachers could attend? How accessible are they?
  • Have these groups any experience at introducing students to the activity?
  • Are there any guidebooks that describe the particular venues for the activity?

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