The Deputy Minister of Education, Arts and Science; pledged to support youth development as an alternative to stabilise communities at a conference in 1961.
A consequent needs assessment for the provision of recreation services was introduced and followed a grading of all recreational facilities nationally.
A “National Strategy” was adopted that stipulated that Local Authorities have to provide recreational facilities together with the Business sector and National Government to provide required funding and strategic alignment.
Although this “conceptual framework” was adopted, scepticism regarding Government involvement was on the increase (Heunis: 1991).
The South-African Government tabled a five-year plan during 1981.
A Government sponsored NGO, SAFSLOR (South African Federation for Sport Leadership and Outdoor Recreation) was established and TRIMSA (Trim South Africa) as a specialist section of SAFSLOR, was formed with the mandate to register all organised adventure and recreation service providers in South Africa.
Another aim of TRIMSA and NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa) was to coordinate the fragmented South African Adventure and Recreation industry
TRIMSA was task in 1992 to appoint Mr. Peter Robins former Head of the Kinloch Rannoch Adventure School in Scotland In 1982.
His employment contract included:
A. To determine the demand for adventure recreation training in SA
B. Identify and apply rigorous assessment criteria to identify a suitable site to serve as a first national Adventure and Recreation Training centre
C. Compile a national training guide for outdoor activities
D. Training of adventure leaders to present adventure training programmes at provincial level.
The following guidelines were introduced to identify a suitable site for a National Adventure and Recreation Training Centre:
1. A wide variety of outdoor adventure experiences should be available
2. Exposure to extreme weather conditions and training of students that wish to specialise in specific activities
3. The training facility should be accessible by road, close to a major airport and infrastructure
4. Medical back-up and easy access to fresh supplies
5. Access to mountain ranges, caves, wilderness areas and rivers or a dam (with no threat of participants being exposed to polluted water, bilharzia-or malaria)
6. Mountains should provide access to rock climbing and hiking expeditions.
7. The training centre should provide basic infrastructure for accommodation (dormitory), communal ablutions for males and females, electricity, telephone lines and reasonable access by road.
After a year of intense research – Peter Robins identified a Water Catchment Reserve of 7000 hectares that belonged to the Municipality of Oudtshoorn.
This area was surrounded by 120 000 hectares wilderness area that formed part the Swartberg Mountain range and managed by the Department of Nature Conservation was established as the first national adventure training centre.
Government soon realised with the deployment of Mr. Robins, that a national training centre should precede ad hoc training of instructors at provincial level.
The first South African National Adventure and Recreation Training Centre was opened in 1986 by the Minister of National Education. The plan was then to develop similar facilities in other provinces of South Africa.
With this facility becoming reality, Government gave the first step towards provision of facilities to execute its five-year plan.
The following organisations became stakeholders in the National Training Project and sponsored certain services:
1. Directorate Sport Advancement: Represented on the Governing Body of the Adventure and Recreation Training centre.
2. Department of National Education: Who was tasked to Appoint and employ a manager/specialist in adventure recreation training.
3. Oudtshoorn Municipality: Administration services.
4. National Adventure Committee of South Africa: (NACSA) provided an accreditation of training programmes and introduced standards and quality control measures.
The Adventure and Recreation Training Centre became known as CARO (Cape Adventure and Recreation Centre Oudtshoorn)
Contrary to the policy of the Nationalist Government at the time, this facility was open to all nationalities and races.
The manager of CARO, Mr Chris Heunis, was informed by the Minister of National Education that the future of the National Training Centre would be short lived and jeopardised as Government subsidies, on which the centre relied, would discontinue in the near future as a result of the financial impact and political changes that were foreseen on government resources.
He was advised that the only way to guarantee the future of CARO would be through sponsorship from the business sector or privatisation of the centre by providing paid for certification, of all training programmes, presented at CARO and endorsed by NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa) as a funding vehicle for the centre
In 1996 the Municipality of Oudtshoorn and the Directorate of Sport Advancement decided to end its responsibility to CARO.
The Team Building Institute PTY (LTD) (TBI)successfully secured a ninety-nine year lease of CARO. The dream of a National Centre for adventure leadership training once again became reality, this time without government involvement.
The South African economy was characterised by a high inflation rate, since 1982 and regardless of this weaker economic environment during the late eighties – CARO experienced an increase in the demand for adventure leadership training. (Heunis (1991)
The services, provided by NACSA (National Adventure Committee of South Africa), were formally adopted by SAFSLOR in 1989 – at an organised National Conference for the future of Adventure and Recreation Training, which was held in Bloemfontein.
Delegates, at the conference, representing a broad range of service providers in the outdoor adventure and recreation industry indicated that NACSA did not totally fulfil all the requirements of the Adventure and Recreation Industry in SA. This gave rise to a notion that a need existed for an association – that could fully represent the broader Adventure and Recreation Industry in SA.
The outcome of the conference was that the Outdoor Adventure Recreation Association (OAA) was officially founded based on the aims and objectives of NACSA. The first chair person of OAA was James Cantor of Outward Bound who endeavoured to align OAA to international guidelines and to establish OAA as a professional member organisation.
OAA continued to provide a service to CARO by endorsing the training programmes administered by NACSA. During an annual OAA Conference held in 2002 – the name of OAA was changed to ARA (Adventure Recreation Association). This was mainly for strategic reasons that included more inclusiveness to a wider range of offerings within the industry.
The task of the ARA elected Executive Members were to focus on the following “wish list”to assist in further professionalising ARA:
• Providing a clear voice to represent the interests of participants or clients to access information by means of newsletters; an informative website and access to various membership categories that will increase membership.
• Formation and implementation of the ARA Code of Conduct – that would act as a guideline to members and allow for registration of members on the ARA database register.
• To liase with international role players within the same industry that represent similar interests that would enhance the knowledge, expertise and safe practices within the industry as a whole.
• Record keeping and updating of volunteers and full time instructors’/facilitator’s qualifications.
• To create a forum for debate and ways to adapt the changing nature of the Outdoor and Adventure Recreation Industry.
• Create a logo/badge that represents the purpose of the organization with a clear description of the meaning of the logo.
• Engage the Insurance industry to negotiate a tailored insurance package that suits the needs of the industry.
• Prevent bureaucratic stumbling blocks that could frustrate members and service delivery by rather simplifying the work to be done.
• Develop standards Code of Professional Ethics and Safety compliances to licence private outdoor adventure and recreation centres.
• To introduce an ARA Award system that could be used to acknowledge outstanding practices and further the .
• Provide specialist training according to distinguished “generic” training courses, that would fit the specific context of application at outdoor and adventure /ABL centers.
ARA then proceeded to render revised training and certification services to CARO and also focused on the accreditation of private outdoor recreation centres across the country to those centres and providers who abided by the Code of Professional Ethics, and the maintaining of safety standards – whilst delivering a variety of adventure and recreational activities.
The introduction of adventure experiences to thousands of learners who attended CARO and other ARA training programmes – introduced participants to healthy lifestyles and opened up opportunities of a career path in the Outdoor and Adventure Recreation Industry.
The training scheme introduced by ARA makes provision for Level 1 to Level 1V adventure and recreation instructor/facilitator training programmes with options in adventure recreation activities for ABL programmes depending on the needs of a specific outdoor centre.
The activities within the ARA Training Scheme varies from recreational indoors and outdoors or perceived low and medium risk activities; that include specialised technical training in artificial environments, with strict limitations – that are benchmarked against international standards
During 2003 Members of ARA were formally nominated and appointed by legislation to serve on the Standard Generating Body (SGB) for Guiding and Adventure Tourism of the Sectorial body for Tourism Hospitality, Training and Education (THETA) including the adventure and recreation industry.
This appointment included establishing of certificate qualifications and skills training programmes to the Adventure and Recreation Industry, based on the National Qualification Framework (NQF) criteria as part of an initiative by the National Government.
The ABL (Adventure Based Learning) SGB section of the Guiding and Adventure Tourism SGB leads the development of qualifications based on ABL unit standards.
The chairperson of the ABL-SGB section Mr Lood Spies, who was one of the founders of ARA was nominated to represent South Africa on an international workshop. This historic event was organised by the Australian National Training Authority between Canada, Australia, Britain and New Zealand to learn and share best practices,trends and challenges with regard to Vocational training initiatives in the Adventure Based Learning Industry (ABL) worldwide.
During June 2008 the Adventure and Recreation SGB section known as the ABL –SGB completed Phase 1 of writing NQF qualifications for the ABL Industry. NQF Levels 4 and 5 ABL Management qualification was registered with the South African Qualification Authority (SAQA) and the level 3 ABL qualifications regarding hard (technical) and soft (leadership and facilitation) skills training were submitted and awaiting final approval from SAQA.
ARA has never derailed from its original mandate to offer entry level training for the ABL Industry without compromising any quality and safety standards. ARA continues to offer training and certification programmes for instructors and facilitators and caters for the demand within the ABL and Outdoor Recreation Industry.
Over the last few years – ARA was faced with all kinds of challenges ranging from adversity or challenges from other similar industry role players that were competing in the same sphere, together with economical & political factors that lacked governmental backing or enforcement and a general uneducated industry perseption – that negatively influenced the organisations impact. During the month of MAY 2020 the ARA Executive Committee launched a Zoom meeting where the executive was mandated to rebuild the organisation – as the industry as a whole was in dire need of a voice and a specific organisation that could represent specific interests.
The following important action steps were identified:
• Create an updated and new website and to make online provision for free membership application and accreditation
• Build on the sound trek record of ARA and maintain the commitment /dedication to survive in tough times
• Visit and assess all ARA administrative policies and procedures
• Assess and relook the ARA Training Scheme which was tested and researched over many years with huge success
• Create an organisational culture characterized by professionalism and compliance
• To turn negative comments into positive solutions and opportunities
All like minded people in the ABL Industry are invited to enhance the ABL Industry by supporting a professional Governing Body to represent the views,interests, training needs,safety standards and good practice
We are looking forward to bring a new and revised ARA to lead, serve and facilitate solutions within a professional organization that will endeavor to serve and benefit the ABL industry in South Africa