Serve, To Strive & Not to Yield"
What is Outward Bound ?
In Australia, “Outward Bound” has developed into a
national treasure with more than a quarter of a million people having
done one of its courses (out of a population less than 20 million).
Currently based in Thawa in the ACT, the basic purpose of the Australian
Outward Bound School remains the same as the original school, established
during WWII in Great Britain to teach survival skills to young merchant
That is, to produce “Indomitable people”.
Put simply “People whom the only way to stop them is to
During World War II terrible destruction was inflicted on the British
Merchant Marine and, as ship after ship was sunk, a strange fact
became obvious. The survival rates of young, fit, merchant seamen
were much lower than their older colleagues. The owner of one of
the shipping lines affected, “Blue Funnel Line” sought
help with this problem from the educator Kurt Hahn, who theorised
that the problem was a lack of confidence rather than a lack of
To deal with this problem, Outward Bound was born.
Based in the hills of Wales, not at sea, its mission was to help
the young sailors develop the internal confidence needed to survive
the harsh challenges of the war at sea; escape from a torpedoed
and burning vessel followed by possibly weeks adrift in the Atlantic
in a lifeboat.
It did this not by teaching them specific survival skills. Instead,
through increasingly difficult challenges, it set out to destroy
their ideas of what their limits were and showing them just how
much it is possible to achieve.
As a means of helping young men find the confidence to survive
the war at sea, Outward Bound was outstandingly successful as survival
rates for graduates dramatically demonstrated. Further, the strengths
that it helped young people find were of such general value that,
despite the end of the war, the school continued and spread across
The same principles are used today in this, the world’s oldest
and most widespread, “Adventure Training” school.
Outward Bound Australia offers a range of courses, from "School
Courses" such as the ones the characters in these novels
went on, to month long “Challenge Courses”.
The basis of these courses is challenge and the purpose is to undermine
the participant’s confidence in what their limits are. People
do have limits, all of us do, but the limits of the young are normally
so far beyond what they think they are that pushing them is quite
safe. Outward Bound instructors are, of course, well trained in
making sure that their charges don’t get too carried away.
A typical course will be based in the Australian Bush, will involve
extensive (very extensive) bush walking, abseiling, rock climbing,
caving and rafting. Participants are encouraged to push themselves
as far as they can, and then further. As each challenge is surmounted;
challenges that look impossible when first approached; their understanding
of what their limits are changes, expands, transforms, until they
are really quite unsure as to where those limits are and become
willing to try just about anything.
That at least is how it was for me, when I joined my 15 colleagues
in team “Alyward” for a month in the bush in
the pouring rain on the December 1988 “Challenge Course”
(called a 'Standard Course' at the time).
I learnt more about myself in those 22 days, about what I can do,
about fear and persistence, about friendship and support, than I
have before or since. It was easily the most worthwhile month I
have ever spent (though I should also say, the most miserable and
the most difficult) and I highly recommend an “Outward Bound”
course to anyone under 30 (the general age cutoff). Regardless of
who you are and what you think you can do, you are probably selling
yourself short and Outward Bound will happily show you where.
I would expect that the Australian Outward Bound School and Outward
Bound Schools around the world would be very proud of their fictional
graduates, the characters from John Marsden’s “Tomorrow”
Series who, to me, are the embodiment what Outward Bound Schools
strive to develop.
Bound Australia's Website