The Outdoors Victoria team acknowledges this has been a very tough time for the entire Outdoors sector due to the Bushfires and now COVID-19.

As well as our usual projects, we’d like to take this opportunity to address questions about the ‘behind the scenes’ work we’ve been engaged in,  as an organisation, and in collaboration with other organisations and government.

As part of the recently re-established Outdoor Industry Recovery Taskforce, Andrew Knight has been

  • connecting with the outdoors sector to gather data from those directly affected by the bushfires.
  • Taking feedback to government enables more strategic support for the recovery effort.
  • The taskforce worked with the Department of Education (DET) in encouraging Victorian school principals to continue supporting excursions and camps in regional areas.
Outdoors Victoria has encouraged Parks Victoria and DELWP to reopen Parks and Reserves swiftly, by engaging Licensed Tour Operators and their staff to assist with re-opening activities (similar to after 2009’s Black Saturday) by assisting with restoring the environment, opening up tracks and trails etc. We continue to await a decision from government, on what we think is a very effective initiative, and will inform readers as soon as we know what’s happening.

We have also actively explored other employment opportunities for the bulk of our workforce affected by bushfires and COVID-19, by connecting with sectors like the agricultural arm of State Government and the Victorian Farmers Federation, highlighting the synergies of skills available in the outdoors workforce. The recent announcement of JobKeeper has assisted somewhat for a number of workers and businesses.

We have participated in the State Inspector-General’s Inquiry into the 2019-20 Victorian Fire Season online forums and are currently submitting a number of suggestions. Key areas we are raising:

  • We would like to see more resources allocated to overcoming the air quality measuring and forecasting issue  across Victoria (poor air quality information and forecasting cost millions of dollars in lost income to nature based outdoor activity providers this Summer),
  • Encouraging schools and community groups to embrace the idea of engaging in outdoor activities, excursions and camps across more months of the year, rather than focussing mostly on the Summer months. This could have quite a positive flow on effect for a range of outdoor activities in the months of April, May and June.
  • As stated above in our direct work with Parks and DELWP, we are suggesting a standing workforce through the 500+ LTO’s for DELWP and Parks Victoria to call on to assist in re-opening activities post-natural disasters;
  • Exploring the expansion of DELWP’s Forest Fire workforce, offering relief to around half of the Parks Victoria staff who engage in fighting fires across the State for an ever-extending fire season, rather than focussing in maintaining resources of the parks and reserve that remain open.

Some positive outlooks

Without diminishing the extreme health and financial challenges we all face, crises, such as the bushfires and COVID-19 can lead to new opportunities and positive change.

As a Board member of the Outdoor Council of Australia (OCA), Andrew Knight, and the new CEO of Outdoors NSW, Lori Modde, are advocating for an industry-specific category listing within several of the largest job sites in Australia. This new opportunity will hopefully provide a more central job portal to connect both employees and employers in the the outdoors sector into the future.

The SRV and ACA partnership has offered OV Affiliate Members free expert financial advice. Please contact Andrew via email ceo@outdoorsvictoria.org.au, to express your interest in this complimentary service.

Communications

We have Increased our collaboration with other state peaks and organisations, working together to align our communications. One recent example was collectively promoting the value of camping to families, even in these difficult times: “The Great Aussie Camp Out at Home” was widely reported on. The ABC took up the ‘Good News’ story which lead to similar campaigns being launched over Easter, including a Junior Ranger promotion run by Parks Victoria.

We have a newly appointed Minister, Ros Spence.  This is a new portfolio created by the Victorian Government, Community Sport. Andrew has met with the Minister and her team and Outdoors Victoria look forward to working closely with them over the coming months to help speed up the sector’s recovery.

The Outdoors sector delivers a wide range of physical activity, mental health and social connectedness benefits to the Victorian community, as well as contributing to the generation of 71,000 jobs and 6.2 billion dollars contributed annually to the Victorian economy.
The whole Outdoors Victoria team is proud to work to support you and we sincerely hope that your futures will be back on track soon!
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