The following frequently asked questions provides additional information about the Australian AAS, what effects it might have and how it will be developed.

You can also download the shorter two page FAQ.

What is the main aim of Australian AAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standards provide the best practice framework for safe and responsible planning and delivery of outdoor adventure activities with dependent participants.

Standards are about setting out procedures designed to ensure “services and systems are safe, reliable and consistently perform…”

They are intended to strike a balance between providing guidance on the safety of dependent participants and also ensure appropriate behaviours while conducting activities. Appropriate behaviours are those that help protect our environmental and cultural heritage and helping to respecting the rights of other users. Environmental sustainability principles is an example of this.

Who should use the Australian AAS?

The standards will be designed for use by anyone who is leading dependent participants in outdoor adventure activities, whether this is done commercially, not for profit or in a voluntary capacity.

Dependent participants are “a person or persons who while participating in an adventure activity, depend upon the leader [and/or assistant leader] for [supervision, guidance or instruction] to ensure [reasonable precautions] are taken to [prevent harm].” This definition is still being refined. They do not have the skills, knowledge and/or experience to maintain their own safety during the conduct of the activity. This places a responsibility of the provider or leader to ensure their safety and generally this will mean that at duty of care is evident between the activity provider and the participants.

Even when not leading dependent participants the standards offer guidance for any person conducting an outdoor adventure activity. For recreational users completing personal activities many of the frameworks, principles and procedures offer good guidance on safety and responsible behaviour. However, some sections may not be relevant and could be disregarded when not applicable.

Do you have to use the Australian AAS?

The Australian AAS is a voluntary standard. On their own, the standards have no legal status and there is no requirement to comply with them.

However they can become mandatory if the standard is “…called up in State and Commonwealth legislation.” For example land managers may require use of the standard(s) as part of licencing or access when utilising the environment that they may manage.

Although they are voluntary using them is strongly encourage. Having been developed by the industry and activity experts, they offer guidance based on the best available knowledge and past experience. The standards are not able to foresee every circumstance that might occur. So they aim to allow users to adapt the content to their own particular context, needs and requirements.

What is not covered in the Australian AAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standards is not intended to:

  • Provide legal advice
  • Foresee all possible uses and situations that may occur while conducting an activity
  • Provide advice on particular circumstances or situations

It provides general guidance through suggesting frameworks, principles and processes to deliver outdoor adventure activates as safely as possible. Users of the Australian Adventure Activity Standards should adapt the guidance provided to their specific circumstances.

What are the benefits of having an Australian AAS?

The overarching goal of existing Adventure Activity Standard is to provide systems of that support participant safety during activities. Moving to an Australian AAS has this plus additional benefits such as:

  • Use a common format and AAS would simplifying risk management for multi-state operators.
  • Increasing professional portability of leaders would occur as all leaders would be operating under the same AAS.
  • A community led project will help lead to wider acceptance and usage of the standards.
  • Easier maintenance of the AAS as this can be done once for all jurisdictions.
  • Reduce industry sector costs for maintenance and review by avoiding duplication of reviews.
  • Having a centrally managed AAS would allow jurisdictions to focus more on the promotion of AAS and helping improve operators risk management through supporting its use. Improving sector use and understanding would then have flow on effects for public safety.
  • It allows utilisation of the best ideas and pooling of expertise from all jurisdictions.
  • Develops a common process for consultation and review would enables efficiency’s.
  • Simplifies identification of jurisdiction specific requirements (e.g. specific environmental considerations such as alpine or tropical conditions). An addendum where necessary would allow for jurisdictional differences and work the differences easily identifiable for users.

How will the Australian AAS effect private recreation?

The Australian AAS is focused on those delivering outdoor adventure activities with dependent participants. Therefore private recreation activities are not covered in the Australian AAS. In the event that a private activity includes a dependent participant(s) then it is recommended that the Australian AAS is used.

It is important to remember that the Australian AAS is a voluntary standard and therefore no one is compelled to use them unless there is a law or regulation that requires it. Although they are voluntary and not designed for private recreation, we strongly encourage their use by everyone conducting an activity. The standards provide general guidance through suggesting frameworks, principles and processes to deliver outdoor adventure activities as safely as possible. Users of the Australian Adventure Activity Standards can then adapt the guidance provided to their specific circumstances.

How will the Australian AAS effect commercially and non-commercially led groups?

The Australian AAS is focused on anyone providing an outdoor adventure activity to a dependent participant. No distinction is being made as to whether this is a commercially led activity or not. So commercially and non-commercially led groups should use the Australian AAS.

It is important to remember that the Australian AAS is a voluntary standard and therefore no one is compelled to use them unless there is a law or regulation that requires it. Although they are voluntary we strongly encourage their use by everyone conducting an activity. The standards provide general guidance through suggesting frameworks, principles and processes to deliver outdoor adventure activates as safely as possible. Users of the Australian Adventure Activity Standards can adapt the guidance provided to their specific circumstances.

How does the Australian AAS work with land manager requirements?

The requirements of land managers is determined by them.

At times they may utilise other publicly available documents such as standards to help them outline the requirements for conducting activities on the land that they manage. In the past land managers have required operators or providers to conduct activities as per adventure activity standards for purposes such as licencing requirements. This is at their discretion. It is therefore likely that land managers may require the Australian AAS to be used in certain situations.

When developing the Australian AAS, the technical working groups may take into account this possible usage of the standards.

How does the Australian AAS operate with Education Department requirements?

The requirements of Education Department’s is determined by them. The Australian AAS will not replace their requirements.

At times they may utilise other publicly available documents such as standards to help them outline the requirements for conducting activities on behalf of the Department. In the past some Education Department’s have required operators or providers to conduct activities as per adventure activity standards. In other cases they have provided their own standards or guidelines that are to be followed. This is at their discretion.

The Australian AAS has be specifically designed to focus on dependent participants, a key reason why Education Department’s may require there use. It is therefore a possibility that Education Department’s may require providers to use the Australian AAS in the future. The intention is to align the Australian AAS as far as possible, with the frameworks and processes that Education Department’s use.

Please check the specific requirements of the Education Department for which you are providing activities for as this can vary.

What documentation is required to comply with the Australian AAS?

The Australian AAS is unlikely to specify what documentation if any, is required to demonstrate compliance.

Documentation is likely to depend on the context of the individual provider’s situation. It could also depend if the standards are called up by government legislation/regulation such as becoming a requirement of land managers or education departments. If used in these circumstances there may be documentation required. It would not be specified in the Australian AAS but in the external requirements.

However, documentation may assist in proving that the Australian AAS is being complied with. This might assist the provider in a range of situations such as assist with legal claims, obtaining licensing and demonstrating compliance for prospective clients or insurers.

What are the legal effects of the Australian AAS?

We are unable to provide any advice or guidance on the legal effects of the Australian AAS.

Our understanding is that the Australian AAS is a voluntary standard and therefore on their own, the standards have no legal status and there is no requirement for compliance with them. However, they can become mandatory if the standard is ‘…called up in State and Commonwealth legislation.’ Land managers and education departments may also make the standards part of their requirements. This is at their discretion.

How does the Australian AAS effect insurance?

The insurance industry is interested in all means by which risk can be managed. The Australian AAS is likely to supersede the current jurisdictional AAS in due course. Therefore insurers may ask or require providers to use and/or prove that they use the relevant standards. This is at their discretion. So in the future the Australian AAS may be the standard that insurers require providers to use.

How does the Australian AAS help providers in recognising leader’s skills and experience?

The intention is for the Australian AAS to provide a framework to help providers assess leader’s to ensure they have the skills, knowledge and experience to lead the activities competently. There is many ways in which people are able to gain this skill, knowledge and experience and so the framework will seek to allow a number of ways by which a leader can be determined as competent.

For example competency might be assessed via:

  • An organisational accreditation or qualification system
  • Peer recognition and verification
  • Formal training qualifications
  • Leader registration schemes

As there is many ways to gain the competency need, there is a number of ways providers can assess that they meet their requirements. What will be key is to have a benchmark to help compare skills, knowledge and experience from the different means of gaining them.

In the past, standards have referred to the vocational education and training (VET) packages as a means of obtaining a benchmark for assessing leader’s skills, knowledge and experience. The VET sector has completed significant work and consultation in developing training packages for many of the activities. They are also freely available online at http://training.gov.au/Home/Tga . Therefore it is possible that these training packages will again be used as the benchmark.

While there are other possible community qualification and ways of gaining the requirements, providers may then compare these to the VET training packages to help determine if they meet the specific experience and skill needs of the provider.

Can specific State and Territory changes be made to the Australian AAS?

If there is a compelling reasons for jurisdictional amendments or additions then there will be an opportunity for them to be included. However, it would be expected these are minimal. In the first instance attempts would be made to resolve the issue to avoid the need for a separate amendment.

It is envisaged that a separate appendix for each jurisdiction would add in which any specific changes would be recorded. This is likely to be only a very small number of significant issues, otherwise it would undermine the benefits of moving to a national standard.

Another method would be ensuring the provisions are generic and not relate to say a specific jurisdictions legislation. For example child safety laws would be referred to as needing to be addressed, without specifying the exact law for each jurisdiction. This law might be referenced in the appendix for particular jurisdictions or it could be left to providers to determine what the specific requirements are in their jurisdiction.

 

What are the financial advantages of using Australian AAS?

There are two perspectives to consider. That of the AAS users and that of the developers of the various AAS.

From the user’s perspective, those working across jurisdictions will benefit from the harmonisation that would occur. They would not have to utilise different AAS in different states and territories.

For developers there is economies of scale as each jurisdiction does not have to fund development and review on their own AAS.

Is there currently issues with the existing AAS that can be addressed?

There is a problem when organisations work across jurisdictions, as each jurisdiction has their own standard. A national AAS will resolve that problem.
However, there is also other issues:

  • From a usability perspective the AAS can be long and complex. Simplification and structure is important to assist users identify important points.
  • The repetitive nature of content across different activities makes it difficult to isolate important issues specific to a particular activity, as it is buried in crosscutting information.
  • Education departments which are a key stakeholder have additional requirements which are possibly not covered by the AAS. Providers therefore have to utilise two “standards” documents with potentially duplicated requirements to ensure they meet education department requirements.
  • Integration with other existing standards may not be fully explained. For example the risk management framework and principles in the Australian Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000:2009 Risk management – Principles and guidelines. This can cause possible confusion or conflict between the Australian Standard for risk management and the activities standards.
  • The use of wording in the various AAS may not be consistent, defined and/or align to other AAS and the Australian Standards. This might cause confusion for users that are referring to both a jurisdictional AAS and Australian Standards e.g. for rock climbing. An example is the use of the word ‘must’ to signify mandatory provisions in some AAS, while the Australian Standards drafting guidelines use ‘shall’ to indicate that a statement is mandatory.
  • The AAS needs to be self-contained and avoid where possible reliance on another outside mechanism to function. For example leadership requirements should not rely solely on a particular registration system. This is because there are many ways in which leadership competency may be assessed and doing so would exclude these other valid mechanisms. In addition it would put total reliance on the external system for that portion of the AAS to succeed.

What are some potential solutions to the current issues?

  • Have a separate activity standard for all common elements that occurs in all the adventure activity standards thereby reducing repetition. The layout and numbering for both the common elements and specific activity AAS should be consistent for easy reference.
  • Use separate callouts, fonts or typesetting techniques to highlight requirements that are specific for a particular activity or a particular jurisdiction.
  • Information that is likely to change over time e.g. leadership qualifications could be either included in an appendix to enable easy referral and updating or simply referred to and the user needs to obtain the latest requirements from the source. (Also see the how to recognise leaders competency Q&A).
  • Integration of some of the education department requirements in the Australian AAS
  • Use the ISO/Standard Australian word usage drafting guidelines to bring the Australian AAS into line with those standards
  • Provide an explanation of word usage in the AAS, so users can make the distinction between mandatory, recommendation and options as per the Australian standards drafting guidelines
  • Where appropriate, remove additional or extra information and include this in a separate guideline document, an appendix or refer to the original source.
  • Ensure there is no reliance within the AAS on outside mechanisms that could make part of the AAS unworkable.

What is the process for developing the Australian AAS?

A steering committee has been established to manage the development of the Australian AAS. This currently has members who manage the AAS in all the jurisdictions. This is a mixture of peak bodies and government departments depending on the jurisdiction. See the about page for details.

Technical working groups (TWG) will be established with members who are experts in the activities and represent a wide array of community interests such as tourism operators, volunteer groups, clubs, recreation, education and government. They will draft the Australian AAS based on the existing AAS from the various jurisdictions that have them. The Steering Committee will seek nominations for members in due course. Those nominations may come from interest groups, industry bodies and individuals. Nominations will be reviewed and decided upon based on the technical expertise and experience of the nominee, along with ensuring various sector interests and experience with different dependent participant type’s are represented.

Sign up for the news alerts if you are interested in being a TWG member. We will alert you to when we are forming a TWG so that you can express interest in being a member.

Once drafted the AAS will be open for public comment via a web based platform. After the consultation period is closed the technical working group will review the feedback and finalise the AAS. The Australian AAS will then go to the Steering Committee before being adopted as the national standard.

Each state or territory will then look to adopt the Australian AAS in due course. Each of the organisations responsible may complete an adoption process prior to the Australian AAS being used in that jurisdiction.

The intention is for the Australian AAS to be held by a national body on behalf of the Steering Committee members with that body being the Outdoor Council of Australia.

What decision making system is used by the Steering Committee?

It is based on a consensus model. Consensus need not mean everyone agrees.

The definition used for consensus is “Consensus — general agreement on the content of the publication is reached with no sustained opposition by any important interests”.

What decision making system will be used by the technical working groups?

The technical working groups decision making will also be on consensus (see decision making by steering committee).

The steering committee may take advice from the technical working groups and make any final decision that the technical working groups cannot agree upon.

When does the consultation occur?

Given the Australian AAS will be a change for all jurisdictions, all parties in all jurisdictions will be consulted before acceptance. We have to remember that the Australian AAS will be based on existing AAS that have been developed using previous community consultation. Technical working groups will be made of representatives from a variety of representatives. They may consult with the community as necessary while developing the Australian AAS.

At the final draft stage the Australian AAS will be open to the public for anyone to comment on and provide feedback. It will be available via a web platform so that as long as you have internet access you can get involved and share your thoughts during the consultation phase. When open for consultation this will be advertised on the australianaas.org.au website, via the Australian AAS newsletter and via the various participant organisations such as the Steering Committee member organisation, Technical Working Groups member organisations and other interested parties.

The consultation may also depend on the representative bodies in each jurisdiction, with some possibly running additional opportunities for consultation like public meetings.

Sign up for the news alerts if you are interested in being involved in the consultation phase. We will alert you to consultation being undertaking both at a national level and any specific consultation happening in specific jurisdictions.

How would acceptance of the Australian AAS occur in the various jurisdictions?

Australian AAS would develop the common standards for all jurisdictions. Prior to acceptance in a jurisdiction there may require additions or changes to be added in an appendix (see here for further details).

The organisation responsible for the AAS in the jurisdiction would then publish the Australian AAS for use in that state or territory. Each of these organisations may complete an adoption process prior to the Australian AAS being used.

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