Frequently Ask Questions (FAQ)

The following are answers to frequently asked questions reading the Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and Good Practice Guides (GPGs).


What is the aim of the AAAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and Good Practice Guides (GPGs) provide a good practice framework for safe and responsible planning and delivery of outdoor adventure activities with dependent participants.

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 are an example of this.

What are the benefits of adventure?

The Australian Outdoor Adventure Activity Benefits Catalogue (Refer note 1) concluded that “outdoor adventure activities have been shown to have a positive impact on self, others and the environment.”

The benefits it lists includes but are by no means limited to things like:

  • self-confidence/self-efficacy,
  • tension release,
  • sense of accomplishment,
  • increasing knowledge
  • physical fitness/wellbeing,
  • connection to others and nature,
  • building trust and cooperation,
  • goal setting,
  • problem solving/thinking skills,
  • “character building”,
  • developing positive values and
  • of course, having fun and enjoyment.

Note 1: Australian Outdoor Adventure Activity Benefits Catalogue, Tracey J. Dickson, Tonia Gray and Kathy Mann, University of Canberra, Aug 2008 is available at www.outdoorcouncil.asn.au/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Outdoor-Activity-Benefits-Catalogue-Final-270808.pdf

What are the benefits of having a national AAAS?

The overarching goal of the Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) is to provide the good practice framework for safe and responsible planning and delivery of outdoor adventure activities with dependent participants. Moving to a national framework has additional benefits such as:

  • Use a common format and guidance simplifies risk management for multi-state operators
  • Increasing professional portability of leaders throughout Australia as they all use a common framework
  • A community led project helps lead to wider acceptance and usage
  • Easier maintenance of the AAAS and GPGs as this can be done once for all jurisdictions
  • Enables efficiencies for maintenance and review by avoiding duplication of reviews
  • A centrally managed AAAS and GPGs allows jurisdictions to focus more on helping providers improve risk management with flow on effects for both actual and perceived participant safety
  • It allows utilisation of the best ideas and pooling of expertise from all jurisdictions.

More detail

Who is a dependent participant?

A dependent participant is a person owed a duty of care by the activity provider, who is reliant upon the activity leaders for supervision, guidance or instruction to support the person’s participation in an activity. It is for each provider to determine based on their own individual circumstances, if they are working with dependent participants or not.

Examples of dependent participants often includes participants under the age of 18, participants lacking the ability to safely undertake the activity, or participants reasonably relying on the activity provider for their safety. The degree of dependence may vary during an activity.

Considerations for determining if a person is a dependent participant may include, but is not limited to:
• the foreseeable level of competence of the participant in the activity and the associated level of reliance this creates on the activity leaders
• the level of foreseeable self-reliance of the participant to reasonably manage their own safety
• the possible variation throughout the activity of the level of reliance
• the variation of the degree of dependence throughout the activity
• the individual context, nature and circumstances of the activity
• the relevant circumstances and particular facts relating to the responsibilities assumed by the provider.

Who is an activity provider?

An activity provider can be any organisation – business, community group, government agency, school or any other groups – that organises and leads adventure activities. Individuals can also be an activity provider, if they have the ultimate legal duty of care to participants.

In general, the Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) relate to a provider as a ‘whole organisation’, rather than to ‘specific roles’ within the providers organisation.

Is there a difference between commercial and non-commercially led groups?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) aim is focused on anyone providing a led outdoor adventure activity to a dependent participant. The safety framework used for participant activities is not related to if they paid money for the activity or not. So, there is no distinction made between commercial providers or non-commercial providers.

Do you have to use the AAAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) are a voluntary framework. Our understanding is that on their own, they have no legal status and there is no requirement to comply with them.

However, they can become mandatory if called up in State and Commonwealth legislation or regulation.

For example, land managers may regulate to require their use as part of licencing or access requirements for commercial activities when using public land. Education Departments may also require using the guidance as part of their requirements.

Although they are voluntary, using them is strongly encouraged.

Having been developed by outdoor sector and activity experts, they offer guidance based on the best available knowledge and past experience.

Who should use the AAAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) have been created 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.

These documents use the term provider to represent who is responsible for the activity. Some providers may have their own standards or guidelines appropriate to their duty of care. It is recommended that these be reviewed periodically to ensure current duty of care expectations are met.

The AAAS and GPGs may aid such reviews. Having been developed by outdoor sector and activity experts, they offer guidance based on the best available knowledge and past experience. Using them is strongly encouraged.

What is not covered in the AAAS?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs) is not intended to:
• Identify all common law obligations or legal and regulatory requirements
• Foresee all possible uses and situations that may occur while conducting an activity
• Provide advice on particular circumstances or situations
• Provide legal advice.

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

Is private recreation covered by the AAAS?

Private recreation activities are not intended to be covered in the Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and associated Good Practice Guides (GPGs). The AAAS is focused on providers delivering led outdoor adventure activities with dependent participants. Where there is a private activity that includes dependent participant(s), it is strongly encouraged that the AAAS and associated GPGs are referred to.

The AAAS and GPGs provide general guidance through suggesting frameworks, principles and processes to undertake outdoor adventure activities in a safe and appropriate manner. As they can be adapted to the specific circumstances, they help guide all participating in outddoor recreational activities to address hazards and risks.

How do the AAAS and GPG compliment Dept of Education policy and procedures?

The AAAS and GPGs provide general guidance through suggesting frameworks, principles and processes to undertake outdoor adventure activities in a safe and appropriate manner.

Dept. of Education policy and/or guidelines present the education departments framework, procedures, risk management systems, supervision ratio requirements etc. for providing activities for students.

A provider working with schools needs to reference relevant Dept. of Education policy and guidelines to ensure they meet any relevant Dept. of Education statutory and regulatory requirements.


What is the thinking behind the recommended supervision ratios?

To help clarify what was intended regarding supervision group sizes & ratios, the key concerns being addressed by the recommended ratios are:
• how many participants can an activity leader effectively supervise during the activity?
• how many participants can an activity leader effectively supervise when something goes wrong?
• what situations may change the number of participants that can be effectively supervised?

The context or circumstances are important. For example, the supervision needed for a group of participants that are school students may be less than that needed for a group of adults who are living with a disability. So, there is the possibility of needing to have a smaller number of participants with a larger number of activity leaders in a range of situations.

It is not possible for the GPGs to foresee every possible situation. So, it presents the recommendations based on “general” contexts that are regularly encountered.

Supervision ratios (i.e. how many participants an activity leader can effectively supervise) is a topic that is constantly discussed. As each situation is unique, the Good Practice Guides (GPGs) are unable to provide specific advice on individual circumstances. So, they include recommended ratios to give some general guidance. The FAQ Why include ratio recommendations in the AAS? goes into more detail as to why it was important to include this general guidance.

Variation of the recommendation

Following the GPGs suggested ratios or group sizes without appreciation for the specific context was never the intent. Providers need to review their individual circumstances – see the disclaimer at the start of the GPGs. The recommendations in the GPGs may vary based on the specific circumstances, as in the above example.

The individual circumstances may make it reasonable to decrease the number of participants per activity leader. This should be justified by the providers risk management process. Individual risk management plans might identify in specific circumstances, risks are lower or using additional risk management procedures allows an increased number of participants per activity leader.

Ultimately providers need to justify their risk management decisions. The GPGs can give guidance, but providers need to undertake their own individual risk management assessment, planning and decisions based on their individual circumstances.

Why include supervision ratio recommendations in the GPGs?

Supervision ratios is a topic that is constantly discussed. There are many opinions regarding both their use and what the appropriate ratio may be. Supervision ratios are about providing guidance as to the number of dependent participants an activity leader can reasonably supervise during an activity. For example, 6 participants to 1 activity leader.

The Australian AAS Steering Committee reviewed the use of supervision ratios prior to inclusion in the Good Practice Guides (GPGs). Guidance was provided to the Technical Working Groups as to how to handle this issue, so that all activity GPGs addressed supervision ratios in a consistent manner.

The attached document outlines what the Australian AAS Steering Committee considered in concluding that supervision ratios should be provided in the GPGs.

This is a historical document. It was written in November 2015.

Therefore, as you read this document know that AAAS now refers to AAAS and GPGs. Release of the document is to help the sector understand both strategic issues and considerations relating to supervision ratios at that time.

Download the briefing: Why include supervision ratio recommendations in the GPGs?

Leader competence

How can providers recognise leaders competence in different activities?

There are many ways in which people can gain the skill, knowledge and experience to lead activities. The Core GPG suggests four ways on how to make sure leaders have the right skills and knowledge. These are discussed further below. It also allows for suitable adjustment of what skills and knowledge leaders require depending on the actual circumstances, as one size does not fit all.

The key to understanding leader competence is to consider:

  • What skills, knowledge and experience does the leader need, for the specific context of the activity?
  • What is the most suitable way to make sure the leader has the required skills, knowledge and experience?

Competent leaders improve safety

Dependent participants (see FAQ Who is a dependent participant?) may not have the skills and knowledge to keep themselves safe. So, it is critical that adventure activity leaders leading activities with dependent participants, have the right skills and knowledge to manage their own safety and the safety of others.

Activity providers are best placed to decide the skills and knowledge needed.

The same type of activity can differ in context. For example:

  • there are differences in the competencies needed to lead rock climbing on an artificial climbing wall to rock climbing on a natural cliff face
  • bushwalking can vary, such as day walks or overnight, on a well-worn track or off track through dense scrub, with school students or people living with an intellectual disability.

The competence a leader needs depends on many factors. So, it is up to the provider to consider those factors and then decide what competencies a leader in that situation needs.

Leaders need to be competent

Leaders can get experience, skills and knowledge in many ways. They may have gained it through others showing them what to do, reading a book, watching a video or trial and error. This could have been improved through active participation such as ‘personal trips’ and ‘other experience’. In Australia we are fortunate to also have a range of training available for outdoor activities.

So, getting the competence necessary to be a leader is likely to come from a variety of ways.

If competence is gained through different methods, then for example, needing to have a TAFE (Vocational Education & Training (VET)) qualification to demonstrate competence, is not a method that will work in every situation. That is why the AAAS & GPGs focuses on the ‘competence of the leader’ and not ‘leader qualifications’.

Four methods to check leader competence

A combination of pathways may be used. While a qualification is one way an activity provider might recognise a leader’s competence, it is not the only way.

The Core GPG suggests 4 ways to ensure leaders are competent:

  • training qualifications and/or a training course (e.g. University degree, TAFE qualification)
  • outdoor sector or organisational accreditation system (e.g. Paddle Australia guide or instructor award)
  • leader registration scheme (e.g. NOLRS)
  • peer recognition and verification process (e.g. provider has leader demonstrate their competence).

A means of determining leader competence is via a “peer recognition and verification process”. This usually has a competent and experienced leader, verifying a potential leader’s skills and knowledge before they can lead activities.

Some organisations and groups have their own “organisational accreditation system” to ensure leaders, coaches, instructors, facilitators etc. have the appropriate skills and knowledge. The context in which these are issued might be very specific situations (e.g. accredited to lead rock climbing on a specific climbing tower) or more general situations (e.g. guide kayaking on class 3 rivers).

Leader competence summary

The key points are:

  • The AAAS & GPGs provides recommended Units of Competence (UoC) that describe the ‘skills and knowledge’ for leading groups of dependent participants – Also see FAQ What is a unit of competence the GPGs refer to?
  • Activity providers need to decide what skills and knowledge are appropriate for their own context and circumstances – this might vary the units and/or particular ‘skills and knowledge’ needed
  • Activity providers need to use some method to check that leaders have the required competence and currency
  • there are four recognition pathways to choose from and this might use a combination of methods.

What is a ‘unit of competence’ the GPGs refer to?

The AAAS and GPGs make reference Unit of Competence. These references are to Units of Competency (UoC) within Vocational Education Training (VET) Packages.

UoC describes the skills and knowledge required of a particular activity function (e.g. navigation). When several UoC are combined they can describe a persons role (e.g. bushwalking leader).

For example, a bushwalking leader role may require skills and knowledge in navigation, bushwalking skills, group management and overnight campsite management. UoC exist for each function listed and together describe the role. An example of part of a UoC for navigation is provided below.

Below is a part example of the UoC SISONAV201A Demonstrate navigation skills in a controlled environment:

How do I find a Unit of Competency listed in a GPG?

Units of Competency (UoC) are publicly available at http://training.gov.au

You can do a search for either the UoC Code or Title. Below is an example of using the code:

Why are ‘units of competence’ used in the GPGs?

Units of Competence (UoC) are a means of providing a benchmark for assessing leader’s skills, knowledge and experience.

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and Good Practice Guides (GPGs) refer to the UoC from the Outdoor Recreation training products in the SIS10 Sport and Recreation Training Package for Vocational Education and Training (VET). The state Adventure Activity Standards also refer to the Outdoor Recreation UoC.

The UoC from the Outdoor Recreation Qualifications within SIS10 Sport and Recreation Training Package are referred to because:
• these UoC were developed in consultation with and endorsed by the outdoor sector
• the UoC are free to view and download from http://training.gov.au.
• many providers do not have the resources to develop their own list of skills and knowledges for every activity they conduct
• even where providers that have the resources to create their own, create their own list from scratch is inefficient.

The GPG Technical Working Groups have identified the relevant UoC in the Core GPG and activity specific GPGs. This assists providers to benchmark the skills and knowledge they require of their leaders to operate their adventure activities.

It is important that activity providers consider if the recommended leader’s skills and knowledge may or may not be required based on their own context and operations. In all cases the skills and knowledge should be relevant.

For example, there may be no need to have competencies for ‘compass navigation skills’ when the activity is on a ‘paved and sign posted footpath’. But having bushwalking ‘land-based navigation’ skills is likely to be insufficient to be competent in ‘marine navigation’ for sea kayaking.

Why weren’t the new ‘units of competency’ used in the GPGs?

The AAAS project has been conducted at the same time as the SIS10 Sport and Recreation Outdoor Recreation qualifications were being reviewed, culminating in updated qualifications and Units of Competency (UoC). Final versions of the materials in the two projects were published within weeks of each other. While the projects were conducted concurrently, they were managed independent of each other, with separate project timelines and different procedural requirements. However draft documents were made available to working teams of both projects for reference.

It was impossible to hold both project’s completion dates until one or the other project was completed. So, a solution was identified during the process to account for the introduction of the update Outdoor Recreation UoC refer to FAQ What will happen when the Units of Competency are updated?

What will happen when the ‘units of competency’ are updated?

The Units of Competence (UoC) listed in the Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and Good Practice Guides (GPGs) references UoC from the Outdoor Recreation Qualifications within SIS10 Sport and Recreation Training Package.  This training package has been updated on 12 September 2019, rendering all previous UoC superseded as of that date.

Both the superseded UoC and new UoC will be available on training.gov.au. They are also directly interlinked. So when searching a UoC code/name listed in the GPGs, the search will direct you to the superseded UoC but also provide a link to the new UoC. Examples of this are below.

Also see FAQ Why weren’t the new ‘units of competence’ using in the GPGs?

Below is examples of current and superseded UoC for bushwalking navigation at training.gov.au

Superseded UoC example: Navigation in tracked or easy untracked areas

Current UoC example: Demonstrate navigation in a controlled environment

Why are there no qualifications listed in the GPGs?

The Australian Adventure Activity Standard (AAAS) and Good Practice Guides (GPGs) do not mention qualifications as typically they have elective component(s) to the coursework. So many qualifications don’t state what activities the person is competent in.

This is irrespective of being Higher Education such as University, Vocational Education and Training (VET) such as TAFE, or issued overseas. Two people with a qualification of the same name may have different activity specialisations/competencies. For example, one may have climbing, sea kayaking and skiing, while the other climbing, rafting and mountain biking.

A transcript (i.e. a list of subjects or UoC completed) and/or a logbook may be more beneficial in determining the specific activity competence and experience level of the person.

As stated in the FAQ How can providers recognise leaders competence in different activities?, the focus is on the leaders competencies and capabilities to deliver the activities. Not the title of the qualification.

I want to become an outdoor leader – what qualifications do I need?

While the Good Practice Guides (GPGs) do not list qualifications for activities – see FAQ Why are there no qualifications listed in the GPGs? – obtaining a formal qualification may help meet a potential leaders goals within the outdoor sector. It is recommended that potential leaders do some research about what type of provider and activities they are interested in.

Providers will have different requirements. For example:
• a provider that who does multi pitch climbing on natural surfaces will need a leader with different skills and knowledge to a provider that has an artificial climbing wall at a campsite
• similarly, a residential camp may require leaders to have different skills to a provider who conducts multi day wilderness programs.

There are several factors involved in finding out what training or qualification best fits your goals.

Sources of information include:
• Checking your ‘outdoor peak body’ website for information about the outdoor sector
• Check current job advertisements (especially for the activities you are interested in) and see what competencies/qualifications employers are asking for
• Talking with possible providers and employers about what they are looking for
• Check with Registered Training Organisations, Universities and other training providers to see if they deliver the training either activity providers are seeking or activities you are interested in
• Check with ‘activity’ peak bodies ‐ if there is one ‐ and if they provide training
• Check if there is a relevant activity leader registration scheme and what the requirements for registration are e.g. National Outdoor Leaders Registration Scheme (NOLRS) is one such scheme ‐ see http://www.outdoorcouncil.asn.au/nolrs/
• See if there is an activity specific leader registration scheme e.g. Paddle Australia. (Some qualification competencies will also match these external scheme requirements – so checking to see if providers or employers look for either.)

Potential leaders need to investigate what training is best for their learning style, the type of activities they want experience in and the style of outdoor activity or program they eventually want to conduct or work in.

Traditional owner acknowledgement

The Outdoor Council of Australia and the Australian AAS Steering Committee would respectfully like to acknowledge the Traditional Owners, their Elders past, present and emerging, for the important role Indigenous people continue to play in Australia and most especially on the land and waters used for outdoor activities and recreation.