Guidelines for leading bushwalks


  • Leading a walk is an opportunity to develop skills in communication and outdoor leadership. We are not a commercial organisation so your responsibility is to do your best as a community member rather than a professional guide: everyone is there to pitch in and have a good time.
  • Club walks are group walks, and all walkers are expected to stay together. Both leader and walkers have responsibility for this.
  • People new to the club should undertake at least one club on-track walk before being considered for an off-track walk. Walk leaders should enforce this requirement if they do not feel comfortable with a person’s ability to undertake a walk, rather than take the risk of being responsible for unprepared or unfit walkers.

Pre-, on and post-walk information and requirements

  • Leaders should be satisfied that all participants are capable of safely completing the walk and provide enough information to ensure their comfort.
  • Arrange necessary club equipment before the walk (satellite phone, EPIRB, first aid kit)

On the phone – inquiries and bookings

  • Explain that all walkers walk at their own risk, and leaders are not guides, and ensure that participants are aware of the acknowledgement of risk requirements. Members renew this acknowledgement annually, while non-members should sign a form for each walk.
  • Describe grade and fitness required for the walk, and the leader’s right to decide whether or not people participate
  • Describe route, terrain, walk duration and expected return time
  • Advise what to bring, including food, water (appropriate volume for the length and conditions), hat and sunscreen, clothing and equipment, a whistle, personal first aid equipment and money for petrol. In winter, a space blanket, matches or lighter and headlight or torch should also be considered. Explain that the leader may check inside people’s packs to ensure they have necessary items
  • Find out if participants have any medical problems which may affect their ability to safely complete the walk, including allergies, asthma, heart problems, injuries. Leaders have the right to refuse participants if they feel the participant will be unable to complete the walk within the planned time frame.
  • Offer alternatives to callers if you are not confident of their ability. These include well-known, marked walks such as Ormiston Pound Walk, Woodlands Trail at Simpsons Gap, Trephina Gorge, and the Alice Springs Telegraph Station.
  • Organise meeting time and vehicles
  • Inform intending participants of walk fees and sharing petrol costs
  • Record names and contact details of all walkers, and emergency contact details
  • Ensure you have an appropriate sized group to lead safely, and support one another in an emergency: usually between three and eight people.


At the meeting place – before departure

Reiterate information about challenges of walking in Central Australia, difficulty of the walk, requirements for food, water, sun protection, first aid, and equipment. Ensure that you as leader are confident that people will be able to complete the walk safely. The leader has the right to refuse a participant at the meeting place if they are not confident of the participant’s ability to undertake the walk, or they do not have the appropriate clothing, footwear and equipment: suggest alternative walks.

  • Remind people that as leader you have authority to alter the planned walk to suit the conditions (weather and/or terrain) and abilities of the group. Appoint a deputy leader.
  • Ensure walkers are prepared, and review inside packs to ensure that everyone has appropriate equipment.
  • Explain that photos should not be taken of Aboriginal art sites that are not well publicized, such as those at N’Dhala and Roma Gorge because of the risk of sharing and publicization of their locations
  • Provide information and show maps of the walk, including landmarks and features, and time required
  • Remind walkers to maintain contact with the group, especially when off trail; not to wander off, race ahead, drop behind; and let others know if they can’t keep the person ahead in sight
  • Ensure names of all participants are recorded
  • Organise vehicles
  • Nominate a person to be at the rear of the group
  • For walks involving key and car swap, select a second leader familiar with the walk for the other group. Both leaders should carry communication equipment, have a plan for leaving or swapping keys, and an arrangement if the other group does not arrive at the agreed meeting point. Groups need to be able to walk independently


On the walk

  • Take regular breaks (e.g. 10 minutes for every hour or as suits the group) and ensure everyone is present and rested before resuming the walk. Take head counts at each break to ensure no-one is lagging behind.
  • Carry list of participants, map, satellite phone, first aid kit; also GPS and compass if required
  • Monitor the progress of the walk, to ensure you will be able to finish the walk within daylight hours. Monitor the wellbeing of participants to ensure nobody is struggling, and everyone will be able to complete the walk. The leader has the right to turn the group around should they believe they will be unable to complete the walk safely in daylight hours.
  • Ensure the group remains together, and all walkers can always see the people behind and in front of them. If participants wander off in their own direction, or indicate they wish to undertake a route alternative to that planned by the leader, remind participants that they will follow the directives of the leader at all times during the walk.
  • In the case of an emergency, the leader is to evaluate and construct a plan to ensure the safety of all walkers, and communicate this plan to all participants. Other walkers can be consulted to formulate a plan.
  • All participants are to comply with the plan, and act as directed by the leader or deputy.


After the walk

  • Calculate total petrol money to reimburse drivers and arrange payment in cash or bank transfer. See below for rates.
  • Ensure non-members pay $20 by bank transfer, or undertake to join.
  • Ensure everyone has completed the walk before leaving.
  • Return club equipment; arrange for replacement of used first aid stores and batteries if needed.
  • Write a brief report of the walk (template from the club website). This report includes details such as group size, weather, description of the walk, any difficulties encountered (ie: thick vegetation, water crossings, difficult terrain), and anything else the leader deems relevant.
  • Lodge trip report to club secretary.

Driver responsibilities

Driving to and from the walk may be the riskiest part of bushwalking. Drivers should refrain from alcohol and other drugs, and put the safety of their passengers (their fellow bushwalkers) first. Stop or share the driving if tired or unwell. Passengers should ask the driver to slow down or pull over if they feel uncomfortable or unsafe.


Petrol money

To ensure walkers continue to agree to the use of their vehicles, costs are shared. Standard rules ensure predictability and fairness. The cost of petrol of the trip is estimated generously and divided among all the walkers. Money is pooled and shared equally among the drivers. Minimum petrol money is $5-00/person. Bank transfers are easier than cash so carry club bank details with you, we can arrange payment for drivers.

To assist leaders, a chart of each passenger’s petrol share for many of our walking destinations has been developed, and can be accessed on the link below.

Petrol sharing costs:

Update 17 March 2023