Outdoors Insight #2 February 2015

Victorians participate in organised outdoor sport and recreation primarily through outdoor sport and recreation clubs. While clubs remain central for many activities, new forms of organisation, such as online social networks, are changing how people engage in outdoor activities.

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  • Document Name: outdoors insight 2
  • Author: Club Numbers: Outdoors Victoria data, 2015. Participation: Australian Sport Commission, "Participation in Exercise, Recreation and Sport, 2010"
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  • Last modified: February 28, 2015

1,211 outdoor sport and recreation clubs are the main form of organised outdoor activity in Victoria.

Outdoors Victoria research has identified a total of 1,211 outdoor sport and recreation clubs in Victoria as of February 2015, summarised in the table below. In addition, OV has identified 26 state peak bodies for various categories of outdoor activity. There is great diversity in the membership, operations and assets of recreation clubs. Some clubs have significant facilities and assets, paid staff, and membership in the hundreds. However, far more typical are clubs which are operated entirely by volunteers, with some support through grants, state peak bodies, and membership fees. Data on participation in different outdoor activities is not well developed, particularly since the annual “Participation in Exercise, Recreation and Sport” surveys conducted by the Australian Sports Commission were discontinued in 2010. The ABS collects some pertinent data, but comprehensive information on participation in specific categories is not publicly released.

While recreation clubs remain vital, online networks and other forms of organisation are on the rise.

Participation in outdoor activities in Victoria

Participation in Outdoor activity in Victoria graph

Clubs and state peaks remains vital pieces of social infrastructure for many outdoor activities. However, they coexist with other forms of organised activity, and are changing with technology and social trends. For youth, participation is assisted through Victoria’s 635 Scouts and 382 Guides groups, as well as through programs such as the Duke of Edinburgh awards run through Award Victoria. For some activities, such as rock climbing, skiing, and surfing, club numbers are relatively less prominent, given the high participation rates. For these activities, specialised retailers and tour operators may play a significant role as a hub for activity. In other areas, activity may centre on a particular community asset, rather than on a club structure. This is predominantly the case with skateboarding and rollerblading, for example. And some newer activities have evolved that rely heavily on informal online networks, rather than a formal club structure. For example, Victoria’s geocaching community operates entirely through online networks, which includes coordinating events and exchanging information on hundred of actively maintained geocaches to thousands of participants. In recognition of the shift towards social media as an organising tool, some traditional recreation clubs are adopting more flexible member – ship strategies, or even shifting away from formal membership altogether, as well as moving communications to social media tools.

Recreation clubs face challenges from social trends……which supportive government policies could help alleviate.


Recreation clubs are facing significant challenges, including:

  • increasing costs for accessing some recreational assets or participating in some activities;
  • increasing compliance and risk management obligations;
    a broad social shift away from participation in formal institutions; and
  •  time pressure on people’s lives, including from screen-based leisure activities. Supportive and innovative government policies could help alleviate some of these pressure and encourage greater participation in outdoor activities. Such policies could include:
  • covering the costs of club membership for concession card holders (as is done in some other states)
  • exploring innovative community grant programs that allow recreation groups to leverage volunteer effort, business sponsorship and similar support
  • encouraging and facilitating the ability of recreation groups to contact the community through local government, schools and other institutions
  • building outdoor recreation as a core component into health, education and social service programming.
  •  social impact bonds for recreation clubs that deliver positive outcomes