Girls own adventure!

Empowering women and girls to get outside is a deep seeded passion of mine. A passion that started early in life, as a teenager while most of my friends were reading Dolly magazine I had my head stuck in the adventure magazine Wild. My part time job wages were spent buying hiking boots, a tent and simple camping gear.

During High School, I miraculously found myself in a group of multi-age friends who embraced the outdoors. We hiked, biked and camped our way through our teens, mostly a group of girls we learnt confidence, positive body image and had faith in our own abilities. It really was a girls own adventure! We could confidently navigate from a map, set a route and cover some serious kilometres with heavy packs. Weekends were spent overcoming challenges; leeches, cold nights in tents, hard uphill sections and mentally challenging long walks. However, the resilience I built up during these activities only promoted me to keep going both in the bush and in everyday life. The confidence I had in my physical ability to walk, scramble and climb was considerable. Body image was more about if I felt strong enough to get up the mountain than how I looked in my jeans. When I was physically and mentally able I was happy. Fundamentally, I believe the skills I leant in the bush gave me a solid foundation for the challenges of being a teenager and becoming a woman.

These physical and emotional capabilities have become cornerstone to my life, still in the bush is where I am most alive. Scrambling through the last few years of finishing a PhD, starting a small business and life uncertainty has been tumultuous. However, just like when I  was as a teenager, the outdoors has got me through it. Earlier this year my partner Matt and I set off on a 35 day hike, walking the top of the South Island of New Zealand. It was a challenge for us emotionally and physically, while both experienced walkers this was the longest we’d been out on the trail for. The huge days up mountains, carrying up to ten days of food at once, injuries and walking 10 – 40km a day were some of the best experiences of both of our lives, and we know we will go back!

 

While the outdoors is not an antidote to modern day society, it is a chance to slow down the pressures, be and do something different. You don’t have to head off for days or weeks into the bush. Small snippets in our everyday lives are also really beneficial. Nature offers the opportunity to be mindful, show gratitude and focus on our wellbeing. This upcoming holidays we are planning something special, a day just for 12 – 15 year old girls.

A day outdoors with supportive female mentors; walking, journaling, stretching and creating could be just what your teen needs. We’d love to have as many girls along for our leisurely walk of the Kiama coastal track with many pitstops along the way. While for some it may just simply be a great day out and a chance to unwind, for others it may spark an interest in the outdoors and the beginning of a life of adventure. The day is suited to all interests and abilities, every teen girl is super welcome! Expressions of interest are invited by replying to this blog or send an email to amanda.lloyd@outdoorconenctions.com.au

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See you out there!

Amanda

Green time replaces screen time!

 

More and more we are hearing from parents that their children are addicted to screens. The iPads and devices are the main source of entertainment. This concerns parents as their children are having difficulty concentrating, not interacting with their peers and are finding it hard to focus.

Our holiday activities are designed to counter the screen time. Empower children with skills to go outside and PLAY! Yes that’s right – PLAY and do it independently! We scaffold the day, provide resources and mentor children to access the outdoors. A day with Outdoor Connections often provides children with the confidence to explore their place, build cubbies, make nature creations and enjoy being outside.

Why not book in your child for a day this coming holidays?

https://www.trybooking.com/eventlist/natureplay

An adventurous day out for the girls…

As two women passionate about the outdoors and adventure, Penny & Amanda are keen to help foster this connection with the young women in our community at that time in their lives when they often retreat inwards. Both emotionally and literally as more and more our girls stay put in their rooms, homes or other indoor environments (the shops!). To help our teens foster their connected-ness to the incredible environment on our doorstep – which is theirs to explore – we are offering a Girls Adventure day for 12+ high school girls.

The full day (9am – 3pm) will involve a substantial walk of approx 10km, an exploration of nature journaling (all materials supplied) with Penny, (our in-house artist), some mindfullness and tips for stretching with Amanda, (our in-house walker/adventurer par excellence). And maybe even a swim in a hidden rockpool for the mermaids within (shh don’t tell anyone). Bring lunch and swimmers!

At the moment we are taking expressions of interest and will run this day once we have min 10 bookings, max 15. We will let you know when you can book once we get enough to run so share with your friends and networks!

$80 pp includes a nature journal kit and the usual fantastic Outdoor Connections expertise to create a memorable day out.

Please register here

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Home School Nature Play and Outdoor Learning

We are back this term with more home school sessions in two locations!

Outdoor Connections facilitates Home School sessions that focus on inquiry learning during nature play, discovery and exploration. Our sessions foster friendships and build a sense of community amongst the families.

We have a strong focus on developing resilience, social skills, confidence and friendships. Activities are designed to foster teamwork and encourage individuality.

Our sessions are focused on aspects of the curriculum and presented in engaging ways. We conduct scientific investigations, complete geography fieldwork and encourage creativity in story play.

Sessions are suited to 5 – 12 year olds, parents/ guardians stay with their child/ren to assist and join in the fun. Younger siblings attend free of charge.

We welcome back returning families and are excited to meet new friends. Individual needs can be catered for and we actively promote access to the outdoors for all.

Bookings are pre-booked at https://www.trybooking.com/eventlist/natureplay

Cost: $40 per child/ session $100 per 3 child family/ session

Time: 10 – 2

Session Details:

Seven Mile Beach National Park
Wednesday 6th June
Feathers, Fur, Fins and Fieldwork
Geography – Maths – Science
Which animals can we find in the environment?

Narrawallee Inlet
Friday 15th June
The Science of a Shelter
Science – Maths – English
What materials male strong and waterproof shelters?

Narrawallee Inlet
Wednesday 27th June
Feathers, Fur, Fins and Fieldwork
Geography – Maths – Science
Which animals can we find in the environment?

Forest Schools in Australia? Is it time to consider place-based outdoor learning as more than a drag and drop approach?

There has been a recent interest in the Forest School movement in Australia. Here is some background of the Outdoor Connections team and a link to a recent paper written by Amanda, along with her PhD supervisors.

Forest School in Australia is a controversial topic. Where do you stand? Yes? No? Somewhere in the middle? A blend of what you already do? Part of a puzzle of training?

No matter where you stand on the issue there is no doubt that the intentions of Forest School training and practice are great! Essentially, it is about getting kids outside more often in meaningful ways. BUT there are a few things to consider namely:

* We need to acknowledge the actual origins of Forest School come from Scandinavian outdoor learning.
* The practices of the UK Forest School model are from a vastly different physical environment, weather and culture.
* If Forest School is about connecting children to the outdoors, we should be connecting children to their local outdoor environment – in local ways.
* Especially in schools, what is the underlying pedagogy for outdoor learning?

Where do Outdoor Connections two founders sit with this issue?

Interestingly, Amanda and Penny were two of Australia’s first Forest School Trained Practitioners. Narrowly missing each other on courses back in 2009. True story, to this day we wonder how they both ended up living in a town of 3000 people? We don’t know but lucky us and lucky town hey!

A decade ago, Penny was living In the UK with her family and after her training continued on to run a Forest School in London. She had been living in the UK for an extended period and also completed landscape design, so was very in touch with her surrounds. These experiences have led Penny to work in a variety of outdoor settings in Australia, most recently at Bundanon where her considerable arts based practice comes into it’s own.

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To complete her training, Amanda went on a study tour to the UK funded by the ACU Bob and Margaret Frater Scholarship. Notably, Amanda had taught in London for a couple of years as she roamed around the world back in 2001/02 – so the UK education system was known to her. She went on to complete a wall full of certificates in outdoor learning, a superb study tour to Denmark and teach literally hundreds of children outside. Eventually, her Phd focused on place-based outdoor learning in a primary school setting.

Both Amanda and Penny gained considerable amounts from their Forest School training. Additionally, the practical experiences Penny gained in the UK offered her the opportunity to really put the training into practice in context.

Fast forward almost a decade from when Penny and Amanda completed their training and there are many Australian Forest School leaders. Trained both in the UK and Australia, with a variety of training providers. The problem now is how does this “fit” in an Australian cultural, environmental and educational space?

Sure, the Forest School program is wonderful! However, it is just that a “program” with a highly structured set of routines and practices that need to be followed. Adding to the confusion, is our understanding of what and what does not constitute a “Forest School”. Can we learn from the program – absolutely YES! Is it the be all and end all – absolutely NO!

Outdoor Connections prides itself on utilising Forest School practices as part of a very large puzzle of training, experiences and culture. In our holiday and homeschool programs we adapt the training to our very Australian settings. In our teacher PD programs we broaden and theorise this practice into a sound Australian place-based outdoor learning pedagogy. Ours is one of many QUALITY Australian programs that is responsive to place, taking into account childhood development, local community and culture.

What do we really think about outdoor learning/ nature play etc etc etc (insert term here)? Australia trust yourself! We have amazing outdoor educators, nature play practitioners and superb teachers. Look towards OUR culture and environment, explore the links to the valuable Indigenous culture in your area. Value local knowledge and be responsive to place.

Is outdoor learning suitable for Australian schools? You bet!! The early childhood community has embraced it and primary schools are catching on. Outdoor Connections is extremely proud to be able to offer accredited training for teachers. Last weekend in the blazing heat and then rain (so south coast weather!) our group of teachers were super keen to see the spread out outdoor learning in Australia, using place-based pedagogies to inform their practice.

The ever insightful Dr Mark Leather, from the UK started rumbles a few years ago that there was more to outdoor learning than Forest Schools, so he wrote a paper on the topic. He then called for experts in the field to respond to his thinking.

For those of us interested in the academic opinions of Dr Amanda Lloyd and her two PhD supervisors Associate Professor Tonia Gray and Dr Son Truong … here is their response, Place-based outdoor learning: Moe than a drag and drop approach. (Unfortunately, it’s a subscription article so you’ll need to be in a library system to access it… but I suspect those interested will have their means to grab it).

In a nutshell …. Amanda, Tonia and Son say ..


The Forest School movement offers children valuable outdoor experiences; however, pedagogically it is under-theorised and lacking research in diverse contexts. As a result, it has at times become a “drag and drop” program, which does not necessarily acknowledge local place, environment or culture. Alternatively, place-based outdoor learning is examined as a place-responsive approach, where a year-long outdoor program was implemented and evaluated in an Australian primary school. Place-based outdoor learning is a broader integrated approach that is interconnected with place, curriculum and learners. It re-envisions a perspective on outdoor teaching to individualise meaningful learning in nature, within specific contexts.

Whatever you think about the issue, in the end really the message is simple. Go outside, take the kids with you and have fun!

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Outdoor Connections at the National Outdoor Education Conference

In April, Amanda is headed down to the National Outdoor Education Australia conference. She is presenting on our popular holiday activity programs; the who, what, where and why. The conference program looks great! Dr Bob Brown is a keynote speaker, as is Dr Mark Leather, from England, who will be presenting on the very topical area of Forest Schools – outdoor experiences similar to our holiday program.

Amanda and Penny are two of Australias’ very first Forest Schools UK trained instructors, (yes you read that right and somehow they both landed in Gerringong a town of 3000!). We are very proudly two of Australia’s leaders in the nature play field. Our holiday programs are all centred on connecting children to the local environment, building resilience in nature based play and the social connections between the group. To the children themselves, it is just simply a great day out! (Albeit a rather tiring day for some).

Amanda is very keen to present sound based evidence about our holiday programs, and as part of this would like to hear what our parent community think about our programs.

 

Your responses would be greatly appreciated. If you would like to pop over to the conference website you can find it here http://www.noec2018.com

 

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Celebrating our 1st year of Outdoor Connections

As we gear up for our Summer Holiday sessions starting on Monday, Amanda and I reflect on our first fabulous year in business. We launched on the 16th of January 2017 and have fitted in lots of outdoor holiday fun since.

Of course with a year having passed, we are in the process of reviewing and reflecting. And Penny has been making a whole new set of hi-viz tags for the kids to wear. Other groups kit the kids out in mini hi-viz vests but we find these pretty hot and they aren’t a road crew after all…..  is it just “crazy OH&S” again?? This is something we do re-assess and reflect on. Safety and our policies are a fundamental part of our business development and we can only offer outdoor play, the very nature of it being, well, a little more risky at times, if the underpinning principles are well planned, all risks considered and mitigated. With the hi-viz kit, we can see at a glance on the beach or public reserves who is with us and where they are. Some kids love the “uniform” so much they have taken them home at the end of the day. The last set were made of recycled bedsheet and some fluro rip-stop nylon from a past venture into kite making. This new set will hopefully see us out for another full year.

We are yet to do a full interrogation of the booking system to count up how many children have come out with us for the day but we are confident it’s a good number. And we have been very encouraged by the repeat customers. Thank you!! We have some expert nature-players coming out with us now! So we have to thank each and every family who have given us a go and sent their children along for a session or even 10. You have also provided the best advertising there is, word of mouth. For this we are very grateful and we will be sending all families who have booked a session with us this year a discount code for future bookings so please watch out in for our email. Plus, those who have booked 10 or more sessions so far will receive a further discount.

Moving forward, we want to see our little business grow. We are so lucky our local area has so much to offer our children and we love getting out there with them. So if you have enjoyed coming along for the ride with us this year and have any thoughts about what we could do differently, better, other things we could offer that your kids will love please let us know. We would love to engage the older age group too as we are finding few over 10 years are joining us. Perhaps we need to target some sessions by making the age group 10-14? 12-15? If you have any insights let us know via this form:

As 2018 unfolds we are heading into a new sideline which is Professional Development for Primary school teachers. Amanda has worked extremely hard to get her courses on Outdoor Learning and curriculum, focussing on English, Maths, Geography and Nature art outside, as well as a course on how to maximise the potential of school grounds for outdoor learning, accredited with the Educational standards body NESA. So wish us luck with this. Any teachers amongst you can find more info here.

Thanks for reading this far, for all your support in our first year. We hope to see you in 2018.

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Christmas Nature craft

School has but a week to go and then Christmas is around the corner. Quiet moments are few and far between at this time of year but if you do have some time and inclination, here’s a really fail safe and easy Christmas craft idea. I tested it last week at the Women’s Outdoor Adventure expo and had enthusiastic responses.

Before you start you need to go foraging for natural items that will leave a good impression. Gum nuts and Casurina seed pods are good for stamping and rolling. Casurina needles make lovely linear patterns and Banksia leaves are great for zig-zaggy impressions. Firm leaves work best, some fern fronds can look lovely too.

Bicarb dough is easy to make, soft and pliable to use and bakes a lovely clear white.

recipe:

  • 1 cup bicarbonate of soda
  • 3/4 cu cornflower
  • 1/2 cup warm water. Mix dry ingredients together in a bowl. In a saucepan, stir the dry into the water. Stir over a low heat until it comes together as a soft dough. Keeps in a ziplock bag  in the fridge for days.

Take a small handful of dough and roll out on a non-stick surface. Not too thin as you will roll further to make impressions. A bit thicker than you’d roll for biscuits. Then cover the piece with items that you want to make patterns with. Roll them into the dough. Stamp into the dough too – the ends of Casurina pods make gorgeous starry patterns, I’m sure you’ll make some great discoveries too.

Use biscuit cutters to cut out shapes and make a hole in the top somewhere with a bamboo skewer so you can thread string and hang them up later.

Line a tray with baking paper and transfer the ornaments to the tray. Bake in the oven at 100 degrees C for 1 hour. You can paint them once they have baked too. Decorate your home with lovely nature inspired decorations!

If you need some time to yourself in the first week of the holidays we are offering 2 days of nature play and crafts where we will be doing this activity. Wednesday 20th is a 3 hour morning session at Bonaira nature reserve in Kiama and Thursday 21st is a full day session at Seven Mile Beach. So if you don’t have time for Christmas craft,  Outdoor Connections are here to help!

Thanks for all the support in our first year of business. Amanda and I have had a great time and really appreciate how much our local community has got behind us. We look forward to more fun outside connecting kids to nature and memorable play experiences. Have a great Christmas everyone. See you in 2018!

 

Kids Speak – Why the Outdoors is Good for Me

As we plan the Outdoor Connections 2017-2018 Summer Holiday Nature Play Program I reflect on an article written for Wild Magazine earlier in the year. As Australia’s premier outdoors magazine it was a real privilege to be the children’s columnist for 2017 to write about kids in nature. Here is an article about our own holiday programs and what the kids thought of their day with Outdoor Connections.

 

Kids Speak – Why the Outdoors is Good for Me

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Kids in nature. The benefits may seem obvious to ‘grown ups’ and they are widely reported on. But what’s going on inside the minds of children who have experienced these benefits directly? Do they realise the enormous potential of the outdoors for their development? During the summer school holidays, I spent a couple of weeks educating with Outdoor Connections at their holiday programs and  out what the kids thought of nature.

During the summer school holidays, I spent a couple of weeks facilitating kids’ nature play activities. With a flexible structure including shelter building, beach play, games, art and exploration, the outdoor model of vacation care is an emerging trend in Australia. At Outdoor Connections, the five to 12-year-olds are dropped off at 9am and collected at 3pm, somewhat dirty and recounting stories of adventure, and carrying some eclectic nature artwork to adorn their shelves at home.

As an educator, I perceive the benefits of kids being outdoors to be substantial. Watching them play in local parks using binoculars, discovering how to build beach shelters or rig up zipline in a tree reflects a day experiencing nature through exploration. When children recognise a bird, use natural resources in artworks or discover the habitats of sand creatures, there is a strong sense of children engaging in their environment.

However, the children themselves are ultimately the experts, so I decided to ask them what they thought the benefits of being outdoors were.

During a holiday program at Seven Mile Beach National Park, I found some experts digging in the sand. Nine year old Jorja tells me, “I want to spend more time outdoors because when you are inside you do not get to be active. You watch the TV and play the Xbox”. Perceptively, Jorja has voiced the same concern many experts have identified as a growing trend.

Research claims children playing outside are generally more active and develop gross motor skills. Alarmingly, the prevalence of myopia is increasing, with the perceived reason being our eyes are constantly focused on screens and not engaging our vision outside.

Jorja goes onto say: “The outdoors makes me calm and I can interact with the environment”. Spending time in nature promotes our overall wellbeing, including our ability to regulate our behaviours to be calm.

Siblings Hannah and Tom, take their mum straight back down to the beach at the end of the day’s program to show off their marlin sand sculptures. They are instantaneously connected to the place we spent our day. A connection to place is the beginning of a care and love for the natural world, a bond that can only truly be developed as we experience our environment. Interacting with the outdoors encourages deep learning about the places we visit, this is known to increase the environmental stewardship presented in later life.

 

For many children attending outdoor holiday programs it’s the newly made friendships that are their focus. Sitting in a tree tying rope, seven year old Harry tells me, “When I’m outdoors, I can make friends. When I’m inside my house there are not many people there, outside people want to play”. Next to him, nine year old Ben says outdoors he can “be with friends. I can build and play with my best friend”. These kids are connecting to each other as much as with the environment they are experiencing.

When nine-year-old Nathan falls out of the tree, he picks himself up and, after composing himself, continues playing. “I’m ok,” he mumbles and continues making a tree swing with rope. Taking risks is part of outdoor play, and having the resilience to carry on is one of the biggest learning curves. Nathan says, “I used to find climbing the tree hard, I still do. But I am ok now. I’ve worked out how to do it”.

From the kids perspective being outside is a good thing for them, it must be true – after all they are the experts. Grown up Wild readers already know why they go outside. The play children engage in is the beginnings of these engaging, fun and meaningful experiences for them. For the kids, outdoor fun is hopefully the beginning of a life spent nurturing their own health and spirit of adventure.

 

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Article link: https://wild.com.au/people/kid-speak-outdoors-good/

Amanda Lloyd is an educational consultant and teacher specialising in outdoor learning. This is the second column she has produced for Wild, appearing in issue 158.

Destination Outdoors: Primary Teacher PD

Destination Outdoors: Outdoor Learning for Primary Schools

24th and 25th February, 2018.

Outdoor Connections is excited to be able to offer Destination Outdoors: Outdoor Learning for Primary Schools as a comprehensive course designed for educators. It is an Australian designed course specifically suited to the Australian and NSW curriculum documents. The course is suitable for Primary School Teachers, Primary School Executive Staff, School Support Officers – Primary (Early Childhood Educators, Special Education Staff and others are also very welcome – please get in touch if you have any questions).

Destination Outdoors: Outdoor Learning for Primary Schools is located in the beautiful natural environment at Gerroa, just 90 minutes south of Sydney. Get some teacher friends together and make a weekend of it! Or come along and meet like minded new colleagues. The beach, bush, enriching professional development and outdoor learning skills for your everyday teaching, Destination Outdoors: Outdoor Learning for Primary Schools really does have it all.

Destination Outdoors: Outdoor Learning for Primary Schools will contribute 10 hours of NESA Registered PD addressing 2.1.2, 2.3.2, 3.2.2, 3,4,2, 4.2.2 and 4.4.2 from the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers towards maintaining Proficient Teacher Accreditation in NSW.

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What to expect:

  • Indoor theory sessions to introduce place-based, experiential and constructivist pedagogies.
  • Practical lesson planning utilising the NSW K-6 Syllabus documents.
  • Outdoor sessions, immersed in nature where you learn the skills to teach outside the classroom.
  • To gain the practical competencies to program for and teach outdoors.
  • A collaborative, safe and supportive environment to learn new skills, share ideas and learn from industry experts.
  • Reading list for further info and research.

Course content:

  • An introduction to the outdoor learning; routines, games, resources, practicalities, weather, risk assessment and benefit
  • Curriculum modules; literacy learning and story play, messy maths, creative arts, geography fieldwork and nature play.
  • A guide to educational playgrounds for outdoor learning.

 

 

Location:

  • Approximately 90 minutes south of Sydney.
  • Gerroa Neighbourhood Centre – 37 Stafford St, Gerroa
  • Seven Mile Beach National Park – We are proud supporters of National Parks NSW and hold ECO Pass credentials to use their land.

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Your instructors

The NESA registered course was developed by Dr Amanda Lloyd for Outdoor Connections Australia Australia 2017, she is an Australian leading expert in outdoor learning, Planet Ark Spokeswoman and keynote speaker. Amanda leads the Outdoor Connections Australia Professional Development Team, utilising her extensive educational knowledge. She is equipped with 17 years teaching experience, including time spent in leadership positions. Her impressive qualifications include a: Bachelor of Education (Primary), Graduate Certificate of Outdoor Education, Masters of Environment (Education for Sustainability) and Forest School Level 3 Instructors Training. Amanda’s PhD examined place-based outdoor learning in a Primary School. Her passion is assisting other teachers to implement outdoor learning in their programs.

Penny Sadubin has a distinctive set of experiences and qualifications that make her a vital component of the Outdoor Connections Australia Professional Development Team. She is an artist, landscape designer and educator. The landscape around us is the vital thread that links all of Penny’s work. Penny’s qualifications include a: Bachelor of Fine Arts (Painting), City and Guilds Garden Design, Vectorworks for Garden Design and Forest School Level 3 Instructors Training. Drawing on her varied experiences and qualifications, Penny leads the Creative Arts and Playgrounds workshops.

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Costs & booking:

$495.00 pp

  • Cost includes: qualified and experienced instructors, a completion certificate, a guided bushwalk, day outdoor equipment use, craft supplies, first aid, hall hire, NPWS land fees, booking fee, tea and coffee (a real coffee from the Blue Swimmer for morning tea each day), simple BBQ and salad lunches* cooked in the National Park and an end of weekend celebration cake.
  • Bookings at https://www.trybooking.com/eventlist/teacherpd

*Vegetarians and other diets can be catered for, please let us know your needs.

Outdoor Connections are an inclusive organisation and we strive to make our workshops and sessions accessible to all. If you have a disability or particular needs please let us know your requirements so that we can take necessary measures to accommodate you.

 

Outdoor Connections Australia ABN: 56511427639

All enquiries via email please as we are often outdoors and away from good phone service. We aim to answer all enquiries promptly.

amanda.lloyd@outdoorconnections.com.au