Please see link to committee annual report here.
The slacklining community is growing here in Australia. We can see that by looking at the numbers turning up to parks across all states and territories, and to highlining gatherings across the country. The numbers of people interested is also reflected by the increase in members of social media slacklining groups. One of the key indicators of the interest in this sport has been the highline gatherings in New South Wales and Queensland. Each with over 100 participants, with NSW having a record number of highlines rigged, 24, and a new national record of 777m long highline, and Qld rigging 12 highlines over a weeklong tour around the Scenic Rim, whilst setting a new state record of 240m long highline. These numbers are high, even considering that these events have occurred during travel restrictions. It is clear that slacklining in Australia is a rapidly growing sport.
Our association membership numbers are also increasing. We currently have 178 members, which is a large change from last year. We also have an active group of core contributors pushing forward with the key objectives of the organisations, with a few new people offering to help, Matt Shnookal in the role of Assistant Treasurer, and Toni Sterai in the role of Education Officer.
However, all this growth is presenting us with issues with land managers. The sport of slacklining and highlining is moving from an underground sport to a more public facing activity, due to the rising popularity and bigger/more public highlines. Our sport is unique in that it attracts the attention and imagination of the public for good and bad, and therefore will attract the attention of land managers. This attention is something we will find difficult to avoid as our sport grows. Our association will become a key organisations in dealing with these growing pains.
Australian Slacklining Association (ASA) receives reports on access issues through our State Representatives and directly to the executive. These range in many forms of general shutdowns, to formal warnings and fines. An ASA representative usually investigates the issue and attempts to talk to land managers to determine the issues involved. In most cases land mangers key concerns are as follows:
- Safety of bystanders,
- Safety of participants,
- Environmental concerns with trees and bolts.
To deal with these access issues, ASA and its representatives use two approaches: one, engaging land managers at the senior ranger level, and two, working with policy makers to avoid these issues in the first place. As an example, in NSW, under the leadership of Arthur Pera, we have been working with the Blue Mountains National Park to get slacklining included in their Plan of Management.
Where do we want to go with access in the future? To solve the current access issues that we are facing will require the continuation of these two different approaches. The first one is to develop a network of ASA local representatives that communicate with regional land managers, i.e., senior National Park rangers, to educate and inform them on the safety aspects of our sport and how we approach our activity in an environmentally sustainable way. This has the potentially to quickly fix issues that we face.
Rangers have the mandate to ensure the safety of all who visit national parks, and if we work with them to show our sport is safe, this can prevent any fines and shutdowns. The second approach is to work with senior policy makers to develop a policy which works for both slackliners and land managers. This would form a key part of allowing slacklining to move forward in a sustainable way. This can be achieved by working together with each ASA State/Territory Representative
to share ideas on how to achieve this. Regular working groups of State Reps and the national access officer would need to be put in place to make this work. This process can also be leveraged by working with state based outdoor recreational industry groups. We currently have had success with joining up to Outdoor NSW, and we are looking at joining Outdoors Queensland. Joining these organisations will be a small expense, however it has the potential to give us the knowledge and contacts to navigate issues around maintaining access.
The association and membership pricing are setup to allow states and territories to grow their own memberships with local slacklining social clubs plugging in as affiliates to ASA. Ultimately each state would grow their own committee and network of local representatives, with the national committee
providing coordination of each project.
The future vision of ASA is to assist the greater slacklining community here in Australia while sustainable building our sport. It will do this by focusing on our three key objectives:
- Maintaining access to our slacklining locations through building our access fund, liaising with land managers through a network of local reps, help develop policy for national parks, and provide input into relevant legislation.
- Foster safe practices in all forms of slacklining along with education in all areas of the sport, and
- Form and maintain a strong inclusive community in addition to promoting the benefits of the sport.