You’ve worked for Hillary Outdoors, World Challenge and numerous search and rescue organisations. What role do you think outdoor education plays in developing our rangatahi to be resilient members of society?
There is something so grounding about partaking in challenges whilst in the outdoors. It is such an amazing medium to really distill down what really matters, get rid of the noise that we fill our heads with sometimes. Get rid of the TV, get rid of social media, get rid of cell phone and Wi-Fi reception for a while.
I think mental health is a huge issue for all of us, and in the outdoors life can be distilled down to the basics, food, drink, warmth, shelter, support of good friends. When the ‘noise’ of society is taken away it becomes clear that these simple things are the most important.
Not what we look like, who we think likes us or not, politics within family or school life. Outdoor education is so powerful in part because the lessons are sometimes so subtle that younger folk especially don’t feel like they are being forced to learn stuff. It’s about the soft skills, the human interactions. By being challenged in the outdoors, without even realising it people are learning skills and strengths that can be transferred into their ‘real’ lives.
Can you tell us what a normal day looks like for you as a survival training instructor on Macquarie Island?
Well, firstly Macquarie Island is halfway between NZ and Antarctica but is owned by the Australians who I work for when I am not in NZ.
Macca as it is affectionately known is what I would call a ‘big little island’! It is only 35 km long and only 5km wide but it is super exposed to the furious 50’s (the latitude we are in) weather.
Strong winds, rain, and cloud are fairly commonplace here, but that is all worth it for the fabulous wildlife and the amazing walking around the island we can all do.
So back to the question, my main role here is to make sure everyone is trained in skills they need to stay safe when they are out and about on the Island. There are 6 huts on the island and people can go to these huts for work or recreation. My job is to train folk to stay warm, dry and safe when they walking across the island. I will teach people how to read maps, use GPS, radios, what clothing works best in bad weather, what to do if something goes wrong, how to not get lost! And what to do if you do get lost!
As there are only 16 of us on the island (Station leader doctor, chef, plumber, carpenters, electricians, mechanic, weather forecaster, coms technicians and wildlife rangers) we are all our own fire team and Search and Rescue team. I teach everyone SAR skills in case we need to rescue one of our team that has hurt themselves when they are ‘down island’ so if we had to put someone in a stretcher and get them up or down a slope how do we do this with ropes to make it safer.
My other job is to be the store's caretaker for the year. I get to drive forklifts around and manage any cargo that comes down and gear that needs to go back! Too much fun!