How are your bush skills? - Gordon Dedman

Posted by Ettienne Montzka-Caceres on

Bushcraft and Survival Training

As Australians, we love the idea of getting out into the bush and being at one with nature. But venturing out can be a dangerous pastime if you are not prepared and don't know what you’re doing. Learning wilderness survival skills such as fire making, water procurement, building a shelter, navigation or using signalling devices, can greatly improve your chances of surviving and being rescued in the bush in the unfortunate event of something going wrong.

Chris Brown seen here with survival and bushcraft instructor Gordon Dedman showing him how to collect water from a tree using a clear plastic bag.

Survival / Bushcraft / Camping - What’s the difference?

Survival training is primarily what the military teaches our soldiers, pilots and seaman in order for them to stay alive in a hostile area or environment that they have been forced into, long enough for them to be rescued or effect self-rescue. Survival training is equipment focused and is designed to teach serviceman a variety of necessary skills in the shortest possible time. These skills include learning the basics of shelter building, fire making, water and food procurement, navigation, signalling, cooking and the survival priorities for different environments.

Training generally focuses less on knowledge and more on equipment or improvising with equipment in order to get out of that particular situation and back to safety as fast as possible.

Teaching soldiers on an army survival course how to make fire using a traditional friction fire method known as the hand drill.

Bushcraft on the other hand focuses on maximum use of knowledge and skills with “minimal” reliance on equipment. Bushcraft is the parent skill that all survival training comes from and is far more encompassing, including a much greater variety of disciplines for example shelter-craft, fire-craft, natural navigation, tool making, wood carving, fishing, tracking, edible and medicinal plant knowledge etc. Bushcraft draws from the knowledge and skills that indigenous cultures across the world have used to survive and live comfortably in the wilderness for thousands of years.

A lean-to shelter with springy bough bed, made from cabbage tree palm fronds. Being able to make a shelter from what you find around you is a principal skill in bushcraft.

Camping diverges away from the skilled based Woodcraft and Bushcraft ethic of taking minimal equipment into the wilderness, to people taking modern technologies into the woods and being completely reliant upon that technology. For example modern camping stoves, tents and high tech equipment.

In recent years, vehicle camping has become popular in Australia with more people gaining access to remote areas via use of 4WD’s. This has been both positive and negative and as it has enabled more people to see and enjoy more of our large beautiful country. However it is negative because people have become too overly dependent upon modern technology and equipment. This dependence, coupled with a poor knowledge of bush skills increases the risk of disaster, and in extreme cases, fatalities in outback areas.

This all is not to say that someone who studies bushcraft does not take modern equipment with them. On the contrary, technology is embraced where needed but it is not relied upon so that if that particular item was to be lost or stop working, the person with some bushcraft knowledge would be able to manufacture a solution from nature.

The study of bushcraft is immensely rewarding and important for all of us, particularly children and the younger generation as it teaches many valuable and practical holistic life skills. It develops self-confidence, self-reliance and helps us gain an understanding of indigenous culture and a deeper respect for nature and the environment which ultimately helps us to look after it!

Teaching school students natural navigation methods using a shadow stick and the sun.

About the author

Gordon Dedman is the founder of Bushcraft Survival Australia (BSA), an outdoor bushcraft survival school dedicated to teaching genuine and authentic modern and traditional outdoor living skills through carefully designed educational courses.

Gordon is a former member of the Australian Army 1st Commando Regiment and is presently a survival instructor in NORFORCE, an Australian Army Reserve Regional Force Surveillance Unit (RFSU). NORFORCE conducts patrols in the remote areas of Northern Australia, working closely with Aboriginal communities.

Gordon has trained at and completed numerous Survival and Bushcraft courses and certifications worldwide at schools run by Paul Kirtley, Ray Mears, Dave Canterbury, Lofty Wiseman and Bob Cooper.


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