Bush school to teach survival

DISCOVERING: Damien Compton teaching his daughters Evelyn and Shayla about foraging. Pictures: Piia Wirsu

DISCOVERING: Damien Compton teaching his daughters Evelyn and Shayla about foraging. Pictures: Piia Wirsu

Sticks crunched underfoot and cutting grass whispered loudly. 

A crow cawed overhead as dappled sunlight fell through from the canopy overhead. 

Damien Crompton thinks he is the lucky one, looking proudly across his bush block. 

He has big plans for the place. He wants to share it. 

Originally from South Australia, the Crompton family moved to Tasmania for a tree change four years ago.

Arriving in the Huon Valley, they lived an alternative lifestyle in an off-grid house. 

Always into the outdoors, Mr Crompton studied bush lore skills on the mainland. He learnt to forage for bush tucker and use the natural materials from the landscape around him to make cord, containers and shelter. 

Now living just outside of Beaconsfield, still off grid, Mr Crompton has been learning about what the Tasmanian bush has to offer. 

“Tassie’s a bit different, apart form the basic bush skills of making your own fibre cordages and shelter and purifying water, a lot of the fruit and vegetables and flora and fauna are really endemic just to Tassie,” Mr Crompton said.

“The biggest learning curve for us has really just been learning those specific to here.” 

Damien Crompton with an edible wattle variety he found in the bush, which he said is full of food.

Damien Crompton with an edible wattle variety he found in the bush, which he said is full of food.

Mr Crompton said he always found himself naturally sharing his knowledge with others. 

This led to a dream, of a bush school where he can pass on the knowledge of the land to others. 

“It [is] more about imparting knowledge onto the next generation so they’ve got a better foundation with which to work,” Mr Crompton said.

“Rather than saying, ‘Well I want everything done for me now and everything automated,’ our kids hopefully, and other kids that want to join in the program, will then turn around and say, ‘Well, I don’t need to rely on technology, it’s actually quite simple and quite rewarding to do it myself’.”

He plans to run two courses on the property, one will be a two day immersive camp, where the children learn and then practice bush survival skills. 

“At night time they’ve got to start their own fire, cook their own food, make their own cooking and all that sort of stuff,” Mr Crompton said. 

The other is a five week course where children come for one day a week to learn about the “five C’s”.

“Which is cutting, combustion, cordage, containers and cover. So they’re the five basics you need to learn for survivability,” Mr Crompton said. 

Making a cord by twisting natural plant fibres found in native bush.

Making a cord by twisting natural plant fibres found in native bush.

As he spoke, Mr Crompton broke off a length of native grass and split the fibre, explaining as he went. 

“It’s a natural cordage so it’s actually fibre spun in a spanish twist and it actually creates quite a strong rope or cord.”

Mr Crompton said this technique can be used to make cord strong enough to carry 25 or 30kg. 

His belief is that learning these skills, and teaching children to be competent in bush lore is a good way of developing confidence. 

“It gives them a sense of independence and self reliance, which I’ve found is a big thing for confidence because a lot of our kids these days are quite inverted and shy,” Mr Crompton said. 

Mr Crompton looks back with fond nostalgia on his own childhood, which he describes as “like out of Huckleberry Finn”.

“I’ve always had a love of nature of being outdoors and just sustainability and just the environment. I guess a modern day hippy, I just love it,” he said. 

Despite being a self proclaimed tech enthusiast, Mr Crompton doesn’t think the technological revolution is necessarily good for generations growing up. 

“The internet itself and social media, while it’s broadening our doors with the rest of the world, it’s closing us off to community so you've got all these kids who do nothing but go on their X-box and PS4’s and computers,” he said. 

“I’ve done a lot of it stuff but I’ve always had that balance of being outdoors.”

Mr Crompton hopes to start running his courses in a year, although it may be earlier if he receives a Whites Rural grant, as he hopes.

He believes the skills he can teach are valuable not only in a bush setting, but can also be applied elsewhere.

“Even though it might look like a bit of a tribal hut kind of course, in the term of a natural disaster creating something like a blackout, the skills that we’re hoping to teach these kids are going to enable them to survive, if not thrive, in a situation like that,” he said.

Evangeline Crompton with a walking stick, learning bush craft from her father on their bush property.

Evangeline Crompton with a walking stick, learning bush craft from her father on their bush property.

Mr Crompton and his wife Niki Crompton’s four children are homeschooled, and Mr Crompton thinks there is no better classroom for them. 

They encourage self directed learning and Mr Crompton said their eldest at 10-years-old, Shayla, takes a notepad and pencil and disappears in the bush. She tells them what she’s seen and learnt and what she would like to learn more about. 

Mr Crompton has a strong community focus, and wants to share his program, and the sustainable farm he is also developing, with others. 

But, living in such a special place, off-grid and in a sustainable way, is reward enough for Mr Crompton.

He described being on his bush block, away from the demands and rush and pulls of life as “earthing out”.

“The best thing for us … we can just take 20 steps and be surrounded by nothing but nature and just chill out and relax get away from the troubles of the world,” he said. 

Smartphone
Tablet - Narrow
Tablet - Wide
Desktop