FROM ALICE TO ANTARCTICA: Dave Atkins’ great outdoors

For 15 years, Dave has been helping our kids get outdoors, push their limits, and connect more and more to both themselves, and this beautiful country of ours.Dave, and the love of his life, Georgina, also have two gorgeous children, Scarlett and Mac. This mad keen mountain biker is living a life of epic adventure, and it all began in a very prestigious part of Melbourne.“I grew up in North Carlton, with my Mum, Amanda, my Dad, John- who was a barrister, and my sister Naomi- who’s gone on to become a respiratory physician,” he said.“I started at Ivanhoe Grammar, and then went to Melbourne Grammar. It was a good time, I was playing lots of hockey. Then we’d go and spend our weekends on the Howqua River, out of Mansfield.“My grandparents had a property there, so we’d be there every weekend, and we’d spend school holidays there on the farm.“I had some pretty amazing trips going through school, with the compulsory camps we went on.“I still remember my Year 11 creative sculpture teacher letting me ride a Pegasus down a flying fox! It now makes me shudder to think about it!”While occupational health and safety requirements have changed over the years, Dave’s love of animals and nature has not.“My grandparents had horses and we’d disappear for the day riding in to the local bush,” he said. “From about 16, I worked for the local trail ride company there. I might be responsible for about 25 horses going through the bush. It gave me an insight in to leadership and being responsible for large numbers of people.”One horse in particular captured Dave’s heart. It was his own horse, Herman!“I had Herman from about the age of 12, in to my early 20s. You really learn to respect such a big animal. He weighed around 400kg, and I was a little 23kg kid on top- who’s going to win that battle,” he said. “I’d watch him grow up from when he was a foal. He gave me lots of lessons in perseverance and public humiliation! There were times he’d take me under a tree and I’d get stuck in that. Then when we’d compete at gymkhanas, he’d go and chase any white horse he saw.“We competed in novelty racing in Mansfield, Shepparton and Benalla. He loved racing!”Immediately after finishing Year 12, Dave deferred uni, and took up a gap year gig, working with the prestigious girls’ school, Lauriston, at their outdoor education campus on the Howqua.“It was a group of Year 9 girls, so it was like moving in to a situation of dealing with 70 or 80 people your sister’s age,” he said.“First term wasn’t easy, but it ended up being a pretty amazing experience as the year went on, having all those girls out there up on the snow and skiing.” Dave then packed his bags and moved to uni in Bendigo, studying an arts major in outdoor ed. He also did a Teaching Certificate and Diploma of Education.After a summer mountaineering in New Zealand, Dave thought he might be short on cash, so threw his hat in the ring for an ‘impossible’ job.He got the impossible job. Fresh out of Uni, Dave became Head of Outdoor Education at the coveted secondary school, Loyola. Twelve months later, he was off to another of Melbourne’s most sought-after schools, De La Salle.During four years as head of outdoor ed there, Dave also took time in lieu to head up to Alice and help St. Phillips with their Year 11 Leadership Program.Then in 2007, Dave made the permanent move, taking up the top job in outdoor ed at St. Phillips. MORE TRIBES OF THE TERRITORY One great man, two great cultures: The Steve Hatzimihail storyHERBIE NEVILLE: Front and centre for 50 yearsEVERYBODY LOVES PARKY: The Heather Parkinson storyThe St. Phillips outdoor ed program, run by Dave, is one of the most well renowned in Australia.Dave says he loves seeing the students grow as people. “Through the program, I think we have a bit of an impact on most of the kids. When you do a camp that’s nine or 10 days long, kids can really have time to reflect on who they are as people,” he said. “Kids actually become more appreciative of their parents too. I’ve had some parents contact me and say, that when their child got back from camp, they’d talked as a family like they never had before. “It’s that time and space to reflect on who and where they are.”Twelve months in to Dave’s time in Alice, he met the love of his life, Georgina. Dave says he knew he’d found the one.“It’s not often we find ourselves meeting someone who you’d want to spend the rest of your life with,” he said. “George is very understanding and compassionate. She’s pretty amazing!“And I have lots of respect for someone that has gone through childbirth a couple times!”Dave took on a six-month posting- essentially- at the South Pole.The Australian Antarctic Division hires outdoor education specialists to work as field training officers, skilling their workforce in how to deal with the elements down there. “I was stationed at Davis, on the continent. I came in on the boat, the Aurora Australis. We got stuck in the ice. It took 21 days to get there,” he said. “We got there and they jammed the ship in to the sea ice, and then they start unloading, and 30 tonne trucks were driving across the ice. I was thinking, ‘How is this OK?”“One night the tide was cracking as we were getting back towards home. Then a king tide came in overnight, and a kilometre of sea ice broke up.“I was thinking, ‘I was out there just 24 hours ago, and now all the ice we went across is broken off and floating away in little pieces.’”MORE TRIBES OF THE TERRITORYEVERYBODY LOVES PARKY: The Heather Parkinson storyBound for glory: The Nick Moody storyTHE GREAT ONE: The story of Ted EganThe average temperature was minus-2.2, getting down as low as minus-40 in ‘bad weather’.“During the summer you’re putting sunscreen on at 2am. With 24-hour daylight, the sun never really dips. You’d spend a night out at a camp, and you can’t really sleep,” he said.Dave got back to Alice just in time for the birth of daughter Scarlett, who is now 11. Son, Mac followed not long later, and he is 9.“Scarlett is quite an amazing individual! She’s very quirky, and she enjoys her performance and creativity,” he said. “Mac is quite active. He loves animals! We have guinea pigs and chickens.“We are in to progressing the kids’ activity levels. We are always growing and developing, and having some adventures help them along the way. We have plenty of family time, and it’s about creating those shared experiences.”Earlier this year, the family did stage one of the Larapinta Trail, 25kms, across a 24 hour period. A couple years ago they spent two months skiing the Chamonix Valley in France.Next up, is the Jatbula Trail!Dave is a long-time member of the Alice Mountain Biking Club- the Central Australian Rough Riders.He is now vice-president, and carrying on the wonderful legacy of those who have gone before him, such as the late great Paul Darvodelsky.NAT – Stay Informed – Social MediaDave says he owes a huge deal of credit to his own Mum and Dad, Amanda and John.“My parents were very supportive all the way through. When you go to Melbourne Grammar, there is this pressure to do business, or become a lawyer or a doctor,” he said.“Then it’s like, ‘Oh, you’re going to be a teacher’.“There’s a real stigma there. And I experienced that from other people, but never from my parents. They were unbelievably supportive of me and the decisions I’ve made in life.”Dave Atkins has followed his heart and had fun! And by taking himself on the adventure of a lifetime, he is helping our young people find their own inner adventurer and zest for life. What a ripper bloke!

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