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by Tony Watson
(as published in Australian Scout, June 2004, Pages 12-13 and
Interchange, Volume 25 Number 3, April 2004, Page 8)
At the 2003 Victorian Scout Leader's Conference, the new "Scout Badge Book" was introduced. Among other changes, several new challenge badges were listed, one of them being for caving.
The Victorian Branch Caving Team has worked to resolve the important questions regarding "safety", "conservation", "land owner concerns", "government regulations", and "insurance issues".
A Risk Management plan had to underpin the Scout Caving Program. All controls had to be unnoticeable by the Scouts and their activity kept real and individually challenging.
The first caving weekend for Scout Troops was held last weekend in March (2004) and it was a super success.
Thirty Scouts from four Troops attended the two day camp at Mt Eccles National Park, a volcanic area in south western Victoria.
After breakfast on Saturday, the Scout Leaders were co-opted for the weekend, as "trainee caving leaders" with the Victorian Scout Caving Team. This meant that they had to actually go into the caves. Not really a problem, as they were as keen as the Scouts.
Scouts having fun in a real deep and dark cave
Prior to the weekend, each Scout had to learn two rope knots used by cavers and other related information contained in a pre trip kit and necessary to qualify for the new "Scout Caver Badge".
Their knowledge was tested by the V.S.C.T. instructors during the weekend.
The Scouts also received additional training on cave conservation and safety.
The Scouts and their leaders were each issued with a caving helmet and then divided into two groups to reduce the numbers in each cave and allow closer communication between Scouts and caving leaders.
The leaders of the two groups were in touch with each other by mobile phone.
At lunch time the groups amazingly arrived together outside "Smoko Cave", in the middle of the bush and an hours walk from camp (at least).
Outside "Smoko Cave"
During the course of the weekend, the teams visited "Tunnel Cave", - "Smoko Cave", - "North Pole Cave" - and "Gothic Cave". In "North Pole Cave", the Scouts tested the effect of the "North Pole rock" with a compass.
They also completed a one hour walk along the Lava Canal and a crater rim walk around the volcano and learned about the relationships between these surface features and the formation of the caves.
There's a cave here somewhere??
On Saturday afternoon most of the Scouts had a short swim in the cold waters of the crater lake "Lake Surprise".
After tea in their Troop camps and a short review meeting between the leaders and the Caving Team, the Horsham Scouts invited everyone to their Troop site for a campfire evening. A great end to a great day.
At the final parade on Sunday, each Scout was presented with a "Certificate of Attainment" by the Caving Team, and the "Scout Caving Badge" by their Scout Leaders.
A very successful Scouting and caving weekend.
Final parade - First Scout Caving Badge awards
Arrangements for this first caving weekend for Scouts has been nine months in discussion and planning, involving Commissioners, Scout Leaders, the Victorian Scout Caving Team and Parks Victoria.
Already we have a list of Scout Troops who have expressed interest in attending future trips and the Caving Team is reviewing two cave sites closer to Melbourne with a view to running another weekend later this year.
The Victorian Scout Caving Team has been in operation for over 23 years and is mainly involved with the Venturer and Rover Sections, leading monthly trips to caves across Victoria.
The new Caving Badge for Scouts
To obtain further infortmation about the V.S.C.T., our details are in the Victorian Scout "Info Book", and also under "Activities" on the Victorian Scout Internet Web Site, http://www.vicscouts.org.au/
For specific information about future Caving experience trips for Scouts Contact - Tony Watson (BAL Caving), phone 03 9704 7750, e-mail .
For any leaders or Rovers who would like to become members of our Caving Team and learn about caves and cave leadership in a Scouting context, please contact Tony Watson for information, or perhaps a trial trip with us. We urgently need new Caving Activity Leaders to continue these programs.