School camp industry in dark over post-Covid return

Anthony Hall wants clear guidelines from the government on when they can host school camps again. 254225_02 Photo: STEWART CHAMBERS

A leading outdoor education provider based in Gembrook is calling on the State Government to help the industry get back on its feet post-lockdown.

Anthony Hall, managing director of Hall’s Outdoor Education, said like many industries, those who provide outdoor education and camp services to schools had been severely impacted by Covid-19 in the last 18 months.

“As soon as schools shut down, we’re out of business,” Anthony said.

“It’s been tragic on the industry.”

But Anthony said there is yet to be any clear directives from the State Government on when they will be able to operate again.

“What the industry is seeking is to be added to the roadmap for release, for example to be open when the state reaches 80 per cent full vaccination, and for this to be announced soon so that camps and schools can plan to be on camp,” Anthony said.

“You need time to organise permission forms, have medical forms returned and sort out dietary information.”

Anthony said schools are “knocking down the doors” to book into camps before the school year is over.

“However, with the current government lack of information we are unable to confirm or reject schools’ ability to attend,” he said.

“Unfortunately, because the Health Department and the Education Department have not linked a return to camp to the roadmap we are no closer to knowing when we can return to camps.”

Hall’s Outdoor Education run camps at Gembrook, Emerald and Paynesville as well as alpine and bush journey programs that include hiking and camping from point a to b.

In a usual year, Hall’s Outdoor Education hosts around 20,000 children, mainly from metropolitan schools.

This year, they’ve had 9,000.

“Term 1 this year was gangbusters,” Anthony said.

“But now there are 5500 staff sitting on disaster payments waiting for the information as to when they will return to work.

“The looming fear is that two weeks after the state reaches 80 per cent fully vaccinated that the disaster payments for our staff will disappear and we will still have no clear direction from the government.

“Not only does it affect 195 camps across Victoria and 450 licenced tour operators but there is a cost to the community on the mental health of students.”