Celebrating our Past, Harnessing our Future as a Collective Voice: Exploring feminism for men and women in Outdoor Education

A/Prof. Tonia Gray1, Sandy Allen-Craig2, Dr Cathryn Carpenter3, Dr Val Nicholls4

1Western Sydney University, 2Australian Catholic University, 3Independent Scholar, 4Independent Scholar and Practitioner

The purpose/aim/research question of the presentation

At the 17th NOEC in 2016 Sandy, Cathryn and Tonia challenged the long held assumption that the OE profession was a level playing field in a presentation entitled: Selective Hearing: The Unrecognized Contribution of Women to the Outdoor Profession.

The audience indicated a strong desire for further opportunities to explore contribute and reflect on the issue in greater depth.

Using a number of creative approaches, we will enable a reflective, restorative and story gathering opportunity for the voices of the men and women.  In short, we aim to ensure the Outdoor Education (OE) profession continues to have a healthy dialogue in this space, whilst also working towards pathways for gender parity.

This workshop will be using creative approaches to eliciting personal narratives in response to the stimulus questions:

  • What was a defining moment in your life, related to gender?
  • What does gender in OE mean to practitioners in the field?
  • When was the first time you understood how your gender would affect your career longevity in OE?

If possible we ask participants to bring four photos to the session that captures the essence of our stimulus questions. The presenters will have alternate creative stimulus available for those in the audience who don’t have photos.

Following up on that lively discussion and the ensuring the field continues to have a healthy dialogue in this space, we suggest to progress the OE profession in a number of key ways.

Undoubtedly, men need to be part of this discussion and help shape future directions. We are mindful of this impending challenge and will create a ‘safe space’ for both genders to participate freely and openly.

  • The issue or problem under consideration

As a direct outcome of the challenge that; the OE profession was not as inclusive, democratic and egalitarian as it appears; Gray (2016) created a tangible list of threats that women face in OE profession and proposed that Feminism is not just a woman’s issue. We will highlight the willingness of men in OE profession to engage and respond to this contemporary debate as well as address positive outcomes already emerging from the identification of threats and misconceptions within this space.

The contemporary landscape: What have we done and written about in the time that has elapsed between 17th and 18th NOEC?

In short, a tsunami has been happening behind the scenes and we wish to harness our momentum with like-minded professionals, both men and women.

Gray, T. (2016). The ‘F’ word: Feminism in outdoor education. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education, 19(2), 25-41.

Mitten, D., Gray, T., Allen-Craig, S., Loeffler, T.A., & Carpenter, C. (in press). The invisibility cloak: Women’s contribution to outdoor and environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education.

Gray, T., Mitten, D., Loeffler, T.A., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (accepted 2018).  Defining Moments: An examination of the gender divide in women’s contribution to outdoor education. Research in Outdoor Education, Special Edition

Gray, T., & Mitten, D. (in press). The Palgrave Macmillan International handbook of women in outdoor learning. London, England: Palgrave Macmillan.

Gray, T., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (2017). Selective hearing: The unrecognised contribution of women to the outdoor profession. Journal of Outdoor and Environmental Education. 20(1). 25-34.

Gray, T., Mitten, D., Loeffler, T. A., Allen-Craig, S., & Carpenter, C. (2016). Defining moments: Women’s contribution to outdoor education leadership and an examination of the gender divide. Paper presented at The 7th International, Outdoor Education Research Conference, Nova Scotia, Canada, 4-8 July (pp. 45-46).

  • The implications

Exploring Ways forward:

Alignment of past experiences of all workshop presenters helps shape the female narratives to be presented in this workshop. Social inequalities and blind-spots still abound in the profession and we will attempt to illuminate the ongoing issues. The task of the presentation is to elevate our contributions as well as galvanize the work that needs to be done to make these spaces inclusive.

We anticipate that creative strategies will generate insightful reflection from both male and female participants and foster consideration of topics such as gendered language on OE, potential bias and impacts within curriculum v pedagogy; quantitative v qualitative research approaches.


Tonia Gray Ph. D. is a Senior Researcher at Centre for Educational Research WSU and Chair of the Australian Tertiary Educator Network (ATOEN). She has been involved in OE for 35+ years as a practitioner, researcher and curriculum developer. In 2014 she received the prestigious Australian Award for Excellence in
University Teaching for her work in OE. Tonia is an associate editor for JOEE, past editor of the AJOE and
on the review panel for JEE and JAEOL.

Sandy Allen-Craig is the National Coordinator for the Outdoor Leadership and Outdoor Education and is responsible for the curriculum development and program delivery of Outdoor Leadership units across the multi campuses of the Australian Catholic University. She has been awarded an Australian Learning and Teaching Council citation, for outstanding contribution to student learning.

Cathryn Carpenter Ph.D. is currently an independent scholar and past senior lecturer in youth studies at Victoria
University. Cathryn has also contributed to the outdoor profession for 30+ years as an instructor, a teacher and curriculum developer in both secondary and tertiary institutions, and through research. For the past ten years she has been actively involved in the development and articulation of Adventure Therapy nationally and internationally.

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