All the info and inspiration you need to be an outstanding outdoor educator
INTRODUCING LIAM SULLIVAN
Director of Outdoor Education,
Presbyterian Ladies’ College, Perth
How did you get into Outdoor Ed? Where did you study? What did you do?
I completed my Grad Dip Outdoor Ed at Grifftih Uni 1997. I had a Business Degree (marketing) that I didn’t really want to use (no passion there). I wanted to work with young people, but not in classroom. I was inspired by my Year 9 Outdoor Ed programme at Meebunnbia (South East Queensland near Rathdowney).
I went on to finish Masters 1998-1999 (because the subjects I got to do were great) then 8 years later I did a Diploma of Education (Middle Schooling) in 2006, so that I could get Teacher OE jobs. I chose Middle Schooling because MYS philosophy aligns with my OE philosophy. I did this qualification in Perth simply because I wanted to live somewhere new.
What is your work History? Why you made those choices?
I freelanced through Co-Efficient in Brisbane as an outdoor instructor to gain a wide variety of skills and mentoring, then I took on the role of Programme Coordinator at PCYC – Bornhoffen. This was a good job in the Numinbah Valley in the Gold Coasts hinterland. After a while I moved to and worked in the UK because I love to travel and wanted to keep doing OE there. I came back to teach Cert IV in Outdoor Recreation in Cairns to help build the next generation of instructors.
Then I moved to Perth and did my Dip Ed and then got a position with Scotch College Perth. It was a great school with an excellent programme. At the end of 2010 I moved back to Queensland for family reasons and took a job as OE coordinator/Head of House and Head of Personal Development at Pacific Lutheran College. This required my developing new skills and overcoming new challenges, especially in my Professional Development role. At the start of 2012 I moved back to Perth to take up the role of Director of Outdoor Education at Presbyterian Ladies College (PLC – a private girls’ school in Perth). It’s a great programme, with wonderful support and students.
What do you love about working in outdoor education?
I love seeing kids step out of their comfort zones and move from fear to achievement. Watching leadership develop (personal and group) is rewarding, as is watching groups help each other. Taking people to amazing places and seeing them in awe of the natural world is another highlight.
What are the challenges of working in outdoor education?
Perhaps the biggest is time commitment – time away from family, lots of “after hours” work, lots of “extra/unpaid” work. There is also the requirement to maintain many qualifications.
What would you like to do in your OE future?
I’d like to eventually step away from direct involvement, so I can be home with my family more. Potentially this would lead to my heading into school management and hopefully making / influencing some strategic decisions to benefit OE.
What have been some of the highlights of your OE career to date?
Some of the amazing places I’ve been (Karijini, Ningaloo, Tanzania to name a few). Taking a group of very apprehensive girls to Kalbarri and having them develop into an amazing team, who just got so involved in everything: team work, nature observation, expedition skills, helping each other out, enjoying the time in the gorge, appreciating life). Learning from other instructors, teachers and the students I work with are all up there for me.
How have you grown through your OE work?
I’ve absolutely grown! Particularly in the areas of self-confidence, leadership and resilience – areas I hope my students develop in as well.
What advice would you give to people just getting into outdoor education?
Get as many quals as you can, including teaching. Start off broad – freelancing could be an option – and work with as many different people, in as many different environments as you can. Look ahead and try to work out what you need to allow you to stay in the profession and then work towards that.