Using Practical Risk Management to Create Training Pathways for Program Leaders

Mr Rob Stillwell1, Mr Jonathan Bannister2

1Scotch College Adelaide, 2Scotch College Adelaide

Creating safe learning environments where adventurous learning can occur is a challenge. Documented risk mitigation through identifying hazards and matching them with processes, skills and experience is critical in today’s litigious society. This is particularly true where programs demand skills from leaders beyond those taught and assessed through readily available qualifications. This presentation discusses a South Australian private school’s project to leverage 50 years of program experience to populate a modern risk management framework and ensure safety and learning outcomes are achieved during its unique expedition program to an offshore Island.

Over a 12-month period the project team developed a highly focused and structured approach to hazard identification and risk management. Critically, this process captured lessons learnt since the program started in 1966. Concurrently, a framework to store all risk mitigation activities was developed with the overarching principles of being lean, practical in the field and never duplicating information. In this structure, critical skill sets for leaders could be identified and training pathways developed, closing the loop between hazards and processes and skills. These training pathways make it possible to safely use non-specialist teaching staff to support activities on program. The new structure was implemented in November 2016; feedback from school staff and external instructors was overwhelmingly positive. The structure made program leaders feel more prepared and less exposed. While intensive to develop, the framework is thorough, lean, practical and ready for continuous improvement. This approach could be adopted to other outdoor education programs in schools or commercial environments.


Rob Stillwell, Head of Outdoor Education, Scotch College, Adelaide. Rob is passionate about holistic education and using the outdoors to learn about sustainability, resilience building, leadership and group development. After cutting his teeth as a freelance instructor, Rob completed a Masters of Teaching in 2010 and has spearheaded Scotch’s OE program since 2014. An outdoor enthusiast at heart, Rob also recognises the importance of professionalism and responsibilities as a leader. This characteristic has facilitated the industry leading approach to risk management at Scotch College. When not at work Rob is searching the uninhabited coastlines of South Australia for waves.

Jonathan Bannister is an Old scholar, engineer, entrepreneur, occasional OE instructor and outdoor enthusiast. Jonathan is a firm believer in the skills learnt through outdoor education and their application in other areas of life. Drawing on professional experience gained working as a Mechanical Engineer and running two businesses, Jonno has continued to support Scotch College’s OE program to ensure it continues to add value to students lives, like it did to his. A strong background in offshore and dinghy sailing, as well as personal climbing and kayaking adventures, the combination of professional career blended with outdoor activities provide a unique perspective on risk.

About the Association

Outdoor Education Australia (OEA) was established in 2006 as a national network of outdoor education associations. The organisation facilitates communication between state and territory outdoor education associations about the practice and delivery of outdoor education; advocates for outdoor education across primary, secondary and tertiary education; and provides policy advice.

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