Tuesday, 30 April, 2013 - 00:00
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Together you will push yourselves to the limit, try something different, learn something new and forge new dimensions to your relationship. But it’s absolutely crucial that you do it all within a safe environment. At the end of the day, you have a duty of care towards your students – and your camp preparation needs to reflect this.

Departments of Education in each state and territory have policies and procedures that teachers and caregivers must follow when preparing camp itineraries and activities. The guidelines ensure that:

  • Camps adhere to appropriate occupational, health and welfare requirements
  • Teachers and caregivers understand their duty of care towards students and other camp participants
  • Children with disabilities are not discriminated against
  • Activities reflect the National Junior Sports Policy.
Ideally, the risk management process you instigate in the months and weeks leading up to camp should take a collaborative approach, so that a wide range of perspectives are taken into account.
Apply the risk management process to all elements of your camp – not just the adventure activities. And remember to communicate the plan to all adults involved in the excursion.
Appropriate camp planning will include specific strategies to cope with minor and major injury, illness or other crises. Ensure that all camp leaders have knowledge of these emergency procedures and are well versed in the actions they need to take should the unexpected occur. These actions will depend on your location, the mix of leadership team members and students, and the type of crisis at hand. However, what they will all share in common is:
  • An action plan in the event a student becomes lost, injured or ill
  • Emergency evacuation plans covering storm, flood, fire, accident etc.
  • A means of communicating with the school contact person in the event of an emergency
  • First aid provisions
  • Provision of health and personal care support to students with special needs
  • Knowledge of the distance and potential time your party will be from medical help – and the quickest and safest route there
  • A list of telephone numbers and locations of emergency services
Remember to leave a copy of your contingency plan, together with your camp itinerary, list of participants and relevant medical information with appropriate local authorities.
Before you leave, you will need to conduct a safety assessment of the area and site of your camp in order to ensure that the camp is conducted safely and will satisfy occupational health, safety and welfare requirements.
Organisations such as the Australian Camps Association (ACA) offer accreditation schemes that include an independent and comprehensive evaluation of site standards, safety and hygiene.
Ensure that you have an appropriate teacher/student ratio for your camp. Remember that while parents and caregivers will frequently volunteer to assist, teachers and camp leaders retain the ultimate responsibility for supervision of students. Ensure that all parents, caregivers and volunteers are properly briefed on all safety and behaviour measures prior to the excursion and that they complete all appropriate paperwork (including paperwork around Working with Children).
Remember that one of the key aims of participating in activities such as camps and excursions is to encourage students/children to develop responsible attitudes. Guided by their age and maturity, try to involve them in as many facets of planning as possible, ranging from food and clothing requirements to strategies for minimising environmental impact. The latter is an ideal opportunity to discuss with students the environment impact of your camp – and ways you can reduce it. For example, you can discuss ways your camp can conserve water, minimise its impact on the surrounding flora and fauna, recycle and minimise the use of non-recyclable and non-renewable resources on camp.
If your camp is being held in a state or national park, you will also need to adhere to conservation rules set down by the park. Refer to your relevant authorities to check this.
Avoid planning camps or excursions in high bushfire danger areas during the hot summer months. If that is not possible, ensure your forward planning covers contingencies in the event of a fire. For example, in advance of the camp: inform the nearest Country Fire Service (CFS) or Metropolitan Fire Service (MFS) station of the dates the group will be in the area; discuss the itinerary with local schools or authorities and become familiar with their bushfire contingency plans; identify nearby safe refuge locations, including those at the campsite; be aware of the needs of those participants for whom a fire can precipitate special first aid needs, e.g. smoke acting as an asthma trigger; inform parents of the procedures the school will adopt on a day of extreme fire danger or in the event of a fire.
Ensure your student camp checklist includes sun cream, hats and other protection measures they may require on camp.
Finally, remember that you are required to report ‘incidents’ that occur on camp. An incident is generally something that causes disruption to the excursion; creates a danger or risk that could significantly affect individuals participating in the camp; impacts on the effective operation of the camp; attracts negative media attention; or is an incident deemed by WorkCover to be a ‘serious incident’ which must be reported by law.
Guidelines & Procedures
All states and territories in Australia have guidelines and procedures covering school camps and excursions. Many of the tips in this article were sourced from these resources. For further information about requirements specific to your state, contact:
The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has a dedicated Safety Guidelines for Education Outdoors website at
The procedures for school excursions in Queensland can be found at the Department of Education and Training website at
New South Wales
For information about the policies and procedures that apply to school excursions in New South Wales, visit the Excursions Policy Implementation Procedures available on the New South Wales Department of Education and Training’s website:
South Australia
The Camps and Excursions Guidelines for Schools and Preschools is an excellent resource for schools. The Guidelines are available as a PDF document at the Department of Education and Children’s Services (DECS) website at
The Department of Education in Tasmania website has a dedicated Outdoor Education Guidelines section on its website at
Australian Capital Territory
The Department of Education and Training in the ACT has an Excursions Policy on their website at
Western Australia
The WA Department of Education’s policy and guidelines for educational excursions can be found at
Northern Territory
The Northern Territory Department of Education and Training policy and guidelines for educational excursions are found on their website at