Life Membership is the highest honour that QORF can bestow and Life Members will be held in the highest esteem.
Born: 26 May 1936, Brisbane, Queensland
BA (Geog & History major UQ)
MSc (Environmental Science GU) on Landscape Aesthetics
Awarded QORF Life Membership: 2010
OAM (2001) for Services to Orienteering and Outdoor / Environmental Education
Fellow (1992) Outdoor Educators Association of Queensland
Australian Sports Medal, 2000
Silva medal (1995) for services to Orienteering in Australia
A retired geography and OE teacher and Principal, Rob Simson’s passion for landscapes, environment and experiential learning saw him become a pioneer of Outdoor Education in Queensland.
He was instrumental in: the introduction of environmental studies into the Queensland Secondary geography curriculum; leading some of the first school excursions into Carnarvon Gorge; the establishment of Queensland’s first dedicated Outdoor Education Centre at Maroon Dam (MOEC), the formation of Outdoor Educators Association of Queensland and the development of the sport of orienteering in Australia.
Widely admired for his years and breadth of service, QORF was thrilled to honour Rob with Life Membership in 2010 in recognition of his services to outdoor recreation in Queensland.
Read on to be inspired by his amazing accomplishments that include publishing three books and still, at 80, setting routes for the Australian Orienteering championships.
Initially trained as a geography teacher, Rob was one of those teachers who went above and beyond. While teaching at Mount Gravatt High School he led the school bushwalking club and each year, every Easter, long week-end and for a week in August he would take students on trips to places such as the Whitsundays, Warrambungles and Mt Kaputar. In 1966 he led the second High School into Carnarvon Gorge after Monty Morris from Salisbury High went there in 1963. This was followed by two trips in 1969 and 1972.
“My knowledge of the area came through my membership of the Royal Geographical Society of Queensland, which in the 1930s and 1940s had done much to publicise the newly declared Carnarvon National Park (1932).
“We would walk in the gorge and do a few side trips up on to the plateau. In those days, I was able to let students break into small groups of 4 or more and decide themselves where they wanted to go for the day and they would go off and explore and come back at the end of the day. We did have one party stranded on top of the main range once. We also were there when it flooded. This was way before radios. We managed. It was all about encouraging them to be adventurous.”
The 1970s were a busy period for Rob. In the early ’70s he became Chairman of the Queensland Geography syllabus committee where they introduced an environmental strand into senior geography.
In 1973 he was instrumental in securing the Maroon Dam Construction Village as Queensland’s first dedicated Outdoor Education Centre, which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2015.
During 1974 and 1975 Rob led three more student expeditions to the Carnarvon ranges as part of Project Arcadia, made possibly by a federal grant. He also did a six-month secondment at the University of Queensland as a Geography lecturer.
“Mount Gravatt was a terrific school and I did feel torn over leaving there and joining MOEC, which I did when I joined as Deputy Principal in mid ’75.”
That same year Rob started orienteering in Queensland and was a foundation member of the Toohey Forest Orienteering Club in the southern suburbs of Brisbane. He has been committed to the sport ever since, contributing in a substantial way as a mapper, competitor, event official and coach.
Rob was also a founding member of Outdoor Educators Association of Queensland (OEAQ) when the organisation was formed in 1981.The following year year he organised the third National Outdoor Education Conference at MOEC, securing Colin Mortlock from UK as the Keynote speaker. OEAQ honoured his services to the organisation by making him a Fellow in February 1992.
After serving as Principal at MOEC he was Principal at Holland Park State High, Oakey Statey High School and Redbank Plains High School before retiring.
In his golden years Rob has enjoyed spending more time in the orienteering world and holidays overseas with his wife to attend international orienteering events and discover the places where their ancestors lived. One of these holidays took him to Finland, which is a setting in his forthcoming novel (Working title, The Ospreys’ Doll )
It will be his fourth book after Banksia: A Kangaroo’s Tale; Cave Hill; and To and From God: A Memoir of Finding and Losing Faith, as well as geography text-books earlier in his life.
There have been three main ones:
1. The Project Arcadia innovations program 1974-5 – three expeditions in the Carnarvon Ranges, which I organised with Paul Feeney.
“I was delighted to win a School’s Commission Educational Innovations Grant offered by the Whitlam Government in the 1970s. It paid for me to recruit three different parties of senior secondary students and take each group of 30 for ten days trekking and exploring in the Carnarvon Ranges.
“Project Arcadia was immensely successful, the results documented in three separate reports and a paper published in Geographical Education, the Australian Geography Teachers’ Association Journal. Certainly the students gained a great deal from the experience.”
2. Setting up Maroon Outdoor Education Centre (MOEC) – foundation staff member and later Principal
“In 1973 when I worked at Mount Gravatt High as a Geography teacher a parent told me that the construction village at Lake Maroon was going to be abandoned. We thought it would make a good site for an Outdoor Education Centre. With my Mt Gravatt Principal, I wrote to the Director General of Education proposing the Queensland Department of Education secure the property. To our surprise they said yes and Maroon Outdoor Education Centre (MOEC) was born in 1975, making it the first dedicated OE Centre in Queensland. Previously there was Tallebudgera down the coast but it was more a national fitness holiday camp that the Department used.
“I was on a learning curve at Maroon regarding canoeing, sailing and rock climbing, however I’ve never been a fan of ropes courses, thinking them rather ‘artificial’ as then the environment is not the challenge, just the backdrop.
“They (Education Queensland) now have a network of environmental outdoor centres and Outdoor Education Centres across Queensland: North Keppel Island, Fairbairn Dam near Emerald, one near Mackay, A host of one-teacher schools taken over as day visitor centres such as Bunyaville State Forest, Jacobs Well and Stanley River. The move to these Outdoor Ed centres was initially driven by two Education areas: 1) Physical Education and 2) The Agricultural Studies Branch that looked after forestry plots wanting to develop environmental learning centres.”
3. Establishing the Australian Schools Orienteering Championships, with OA and School Sport Australia.
“With Helen Sherriff I started the orienteering programs at Maroon OEC. Orienteering soon became one of my passions. I went on to produce over 30 orienteering maps, founded the Toohey Forest Orienteering Club, hosted many events, and promoted school orienteering. I was National Secretary for School Orienteering with School Sport Australia from the first year of the Association in 1989 for ten years and heavily involved in setting up and running the Australian School Orienteering Championships. This is a national competition where school teams of 20 from each state and territory and sometimes New Zealand compete over a week. There are boy and girl teams, Juniors (up to 15 years) and Seniors (16 – 19 years) as well as short-, mid- and long-distance and relay events.”
“We were a scouting family. My dad was the first scout leader at Morningside but because of a back injury in a car accident gave it away. Sadly, we never got to go on any hikes together. I went through Cub scouts and Scout troop hikes and camps. During the war years we used to wander a lot around the suburbs and out to the bush at Seven Hills on our bikes.
“I found growing up, the more I went bushwalking the more I loved it. From age 10 I was very interested in maps and landscape aesthetics. When I was at Churchie, a group of us went and spent a week at Lamington, Binna Burra and from there I developed a passion for the scenic rim.
“I married Dorothy when I was 21. We have four children, all very successful in life and in orienteering – a family sport. My 3 sons have won the Australian orienteering relay competition 5 times and have represented Australia in the sport. My second son is president of our club. He is a state selector and coach for Queensland schools team. My third son is still ranked third in Australia in the Men’s 45 – 49 age group.”
What is your favourite motivational quote?
“A man must learn to endure agony, to endure and endure again, until the agony itself is beaten out into joy.” Robert Falcon Scott.
(I, like most others, cannot live up to that).
“Back in the 1980s the Commonwealth government charged the states with protecting their state forest, national parks and conservation reserves. This included some guarantees that certain state forests remain as logging enterprises and plantation forests for the timber industry. Outside of that, the areas that were protected had to become national parks and conservation reserves. A lot of groups using the state forests felt our recreation interests were threatened. I was there (in a consulting group) representing orienteering and bushwalking.
“In orienteering many of our events were held in states forests but off track. Scouts were in a similar situation as they would navigate routes through the forests and find a suitable camp spot. If these state parks became a national park we would be confined to running our activities only on the tracks. There were a number of areas in greater Brisbane that we were concerned about, in particular Bunyaville and Daisy Hill and others further afield like Mount Walsh and Mount Crompton.
“So during this process of turning forests into national parks – called the Regional Forest Agreement process – I was part of a consulting group from outdoor groups that morphed into the Queensland Outdoor Recreation Federation. I then represented Queensland Orienteering as a founding member of QORF, and was made a Life member of that organisation in 2010.”
“During my association with QORF there were a few significant developments:
- QORF was able to establish itself as a representative body for the outdoor recreation and outdoor education industries.
- We were able to get in the government’s ear to promote and campaign for recreational access to national parks. Orienteering can still get a permit to use state forests and national parks, but very few.
- The annual awards was a great initiative, particularly the categories that recognised those who had made major effort over time, not just in one particular year.”
“I never held a position on council however I was part of those establishment years. The Outdoor Ed fraternity was a major user of National Parks for camping and expedition programs. Having been the foundation president of OEAQ, I had lots of contacts and experience – knowledge that was useful to QORF. Plus through my orienteering life we had mapped a lot of areas particularly forests in South East Queensland, which was of value to the organisation.”
Hopes for QORF
A stronger voice in protecting environmental values.
The next 20 years for QORF
… challenges and opportunities
Being alert to opportunities to have a say on outdoor issues.
… staying relevant
Listen to your members, take up their environmentally sound causes without fear or favour.
LIVING LIFE OUTDOORS
QORF’s Motto is Live Life Outdoors. How do you do that?
“Through orienteering, mapping, coaching, course setting and competing, though I can’t really run anymore I just go round the short 4km course.
I still enjoy bushwalking days and the odd multi-day trips. I also ride a hybrid bike, sticking mostly to bike paths these days, sometimes heading into Toohey Forest, close to where I live. And I still play tennis regularly.”
Orienteering plus Bushwalking trips
“I’ve always loved taking students outdoors and on geography field excursions. I have organised countless field study trips, bushwalking trips with busloads of students, orienteering training camps etc.”
“Carnarvon Ranges, such a special place scenically and culturally, because of the indigenous heritage (Garinbal and Bidjara country) in the area. An excavation at Kenniff Cave in the Mt. Moffatt section of the National Park by Professor John Mulvaney revealed a period of occupation dating back 19,500 years – an extraordinary length of time for one cultural group. As well, the area’s bio diversity, flora, rock spires and arches make it a special place.
“My favourite spire has to be Mt. Mooloolong in the KaKa Mundi section, but there is also Lot’s Wife in the Mt. Moffatt area, The Sentinel, the Three Sisters in Salvator Rosa, and The Candlesticks in Lonesome National Park; while every visitor is sure to remember Goothalanda, The Devil’s Signpost, that tall rock statue that salutes you from the cuesta ridge as you enter or leave Carnarvon Gorge on O’Briens Causeway.
“I first took Mt. Gravatt High School students there in 1966. We were all thrilled at the spectacular landscape. My family and father-in law were with us. We got stranded by heavy rain and had to wait two extra days till Carnarvon Creek went down and we could get our bus out. We sent a walking party to the nearest cattle station for emergency food. I took Mt. Gravatt High students there again in 1969 and 1972, and have been back often since. Today there is a resort lodge and Takarakka Camping area with a shop just outside the National Park.“
“Venerate the natural landscape and show this love of the natural world to others. I did my thesis on Landscape Aesthetics – it was first study I know of that addressed the issue of the value of landscapes as a resource – not just for recreation but for scenic aspects. It is something I further explore in my book, To and From God: A Memoir of Finding and Losing Faith and on my blog: https://robinsimson.com”
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