Book teaches Aussie kids bush survival skills

Penny ThomasThe West Australian
Alan Greenwood and Rick Sloan
Camera IconAlan Greenwood and Rick Sloan Credit: Supplied

Giving children the practical skills and confidence to survive getting lost in Australia’s harsh and unrelenting bushland is the aim of a new book by Alan Greenwood and Rick Sloan.

The easy-to-understand guide, Junior Bushcraft Life Skills, teaches kids practical ways to stay alert and safe if they ever find themselves in trouble in the bush. And with more Aussie families choosing to explore our big beautiful country instead of heading overseas for a holiday, the release of this book could not have come at a more appropriate time.

From locating safe drinking water through to avoiding dangerous insects and animals, co-author Sloan says the techniques included throughout the book could be applied to a range of settings, not just the bush or outback.

“Junior Bushcraft Life Skills is built around the acronym LOST — look, observe, stop and think,” he said.

“While it’s predominantly about what you need to do when you head out bush, the principles we cover are just as relevant for kids who never venture out of their urban environments.

“Practising LOST teaches kids to take control of their decision making, own their mistakes, think outside the square and help others do the same.”

Junior Bushcraft Life Skills by Alan Greenwood and Rick Sloan
Camera IconJunior Bushcraft Life Skills by Alan Greenwood and Rick Sloan Credit: Supplied

With illustrations by Michael Wilkin, the 24-page book follows the journey of two bilbies and their friend Bushy — an experienced bushman who knows a thing or two about surviving in the hot and dry Australian environment.

“The exercises in the book help introduce kids to the amazing world we live in,” Sloan said.

“It covers life-saving actions such as finding safe food and water, setting up camp, always remaining aware of your surroundings and avoiding dangers. And most of all, this book gives kids the confidence they need to go forward if they ever find themselves lost or in trouble.”

Growing up in regional WA and owning and managing pastoral properties with his family in the North East Goldfields, Sloan said bushcraft had always been a part of his life. The same goes for his good mate — and co-author of the book — Greenwood, an Aboriginal Elder based in Geraldton.

“Alan and I connected over our shared passion for life in the bush,” Sloan said.

“We both have first-hand experience of losing someone in the bush and although our situations ended well, the emotional roller coaster you go on is frightening.

“We think about all the kids, and adults for that matter, who’ve gone missing in remote bushland and can’t help but think if they had read the book they might still be here today.”

Though the book is designed for juniors, it contains pertinent information for older travellers too — especially those who want to safely explore some of the most spectacular and remote regions of our country.

Bushy with Bilby and Jilby from Junior Bushcraft Life Skills.
Camera IconBushy with Bilby and Jilby from Junior Bushcraft Life Skills. Credit: Michael Wilkin

“A lot of people have no idea what to do if they get lost — they tend to start panicking, big time,” Sloan said.

“That sort of pressure can be deadly, plus being lost is not a fun situation to be in. Having the ability to slow down and think about what’s happening can help you get control over the situation. We try to put it in a simple context in the book, where you look at everything objectively and work out the best way to get out of it.”

Kids who grow up in the bush have the advantage of learning bushcraft skills from the day they are born, while those in cities and towns need to acquire the techniques at home or in the classroom.

“We wanted the book to be something parents, grandparents and teachers can read and discuss with school-age kids,” Sloan said.

“Really you can’t start this sort of life education too young. In the bush kids are taught at a very early age to be safe and make better decisions at all times.”

Before writing Junior Bushcraft Life Skills, the authors would share their tips and tricks for staying safe in the bush by doing regular talks at local schools and community groups.

Their passion caught the attention of leading educational publisher and early literacy champion Dame Wendy Pye, who is now based in New Zealand but grew up in regional WA and learnt bush survival skills from a young age.

Aware of the importance of children learning these sorts of life skills, Dame Wendy published the book under her Sunshine Books publishing house and hoped it would become part of primary school curriculums all over Australia.

For more information, visit

Junior Bushcraft Life Skills

Alan Greenwood and Rick Sloan

Sunshine Books ($9.95)

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