Jon Gray, Bushwalking NSW Vice President and Young People in Clubs (YPIC) Working Group
14 July 2023
Bushwalking clubs throughout NSW and the ACT do not appear to be attracting younger members. This raises concerns regarding the ongoing regeneration, health and long-term viability of our clubs. I believe a change of our image is required.
I fear that bushwalking clubs, bushwalkers and the activity of ‘bushwalking’ do not have a dynamic and exciting image in the wider community, particularly with younger people. We and our beloved activity are generally not perceived as exciting or ‘cool’ but regrettably as rather staid and boring, and this is discouraging younger people from joining our clubs. This is a real shame, because most of us are in fact adventure seekers who believe in living life to the full. I believe we need to project an image of adventure and excitement to reinvigorate the whole movement.
My belief is that some change in the naming of our clubs is required to boost our image. Our names should give greater emphasis to ’outdoor adventure’ related activities, which I believe sounds more exciting and inspiring than the somewhat dull ‘bushwalking’ alone. I know that the term ‘bushwalking’ is held dear by many of us, therefore, I am only suggesting the simple addition of extra words into our club names, for example ‘Highlands Bushwalking Club’ changing to ‘Highlands Bushwalking and Outdoor Adventure Club’. At a broader level, I am also advocating a change from ‘Bushwalking NSW’ to ‘Bushwalking and Outdoor Adventure NSW/ACT’.
Also important is that most bushwalking clubs in NSW and the ACT typically do so much more than just ‘bushwalking’. Other activities such as cycling, canyoning, caving, kayaking and cross-country skiing are also widely undertaken. Furthermore, the term ‘bushwalking’ is not always apt when walking in alpine, or desert environments, or for overseas activity such as in Nepal, where terms such as hiking, trekking or the recently coined ‘wildwalking’ are more appropriate. Where clubs are just called ‘bushwalking clubs’ there is no suggestion they are involved in these other activities. It seems we are selling ourselves short.
It is interesting to note the gradual decline in the term bushwalking in Australia over the past two decades, based on Google search trends. From Figure 1 below, it is evident that in 2004 bushwalking and hiking had similar usage, but now hiking has a 20-fold wider usage. The term adventure currently has a 40-fold wider usage than bushwalking.
Figure 1: Comparison of trends in use of “bushwalking” and “hiking” terms in Australia, 2004 to 2023.
In summary, I believe a change in the naming of our clubs is necessary to foster a more exciting and dynamic image within the bushwalking movement across NSW and the ACT. I believe the addition of terms such as ‘outdoor adventure’ to club names, and to BNSW itself, will help to reinvigorate the whole movement. We want and need young and adventurous people to think ‘Wow, that sounds like an exciting group! How can I get involved?’ I believe other measures we might adopt to attract younger members, such as increased promotion through social media, are unlikely to be successful in the long term without an underlying change of image.
What do you think? Please discuss this issue amongst your fellow club members and email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. BNSW hopes to soon conduct a survey amongst existing club members and also the wider community to help gauge perceptions of bushwalking and outdoor adventure terminology.
Jon Gray, Vice-President, Bushwalking NSW