Australian Cave Explorers – First Annual Report
Hello cave divers and current ACE members – this is our first Annual Directors address after a year of being an Incorporated Cave Diving Association in Australia.
Firstly, on behalf of myself and the other Directors, I’d like to thank all our members who have signed up to Association in our first year and express our immense gratitude for the contribution and support you have already made to the organisation. It has been an extraordinary year for ACE and cave diving in Australia – introducing a new way to access and learn to cave dive in our country. Recognising the significant challenges faced in forming a new Association, we are very proud of what has already achieved and even more excited as to what will be accomplished in the future.
The formation of ACE has had some overwhelming support, in particularly from the community of Mount Gambier. We have established several benefits for our Members that are aimed at giving back to the region (especially post-COVID). For example ACE Members receive:
- 10% off meals at Belgiornos
- $25 off a night at the Avalon Motel
- Discounts as Noski and Herberts Wineries (just on the outskirts of town)
We are firmly committed to bringing our members to Mount Gambier for more than just the caves, by showcasing all that the Limestone Coast region has to offer. With the majority of ACE directors current residents of Mount Gambier, you can rest assured the organisation will bring a plethora of further offers and hidden secrets to all our members as we progress. This will include quirky tourism ideas, meal and accommodation discounts, air fills and more.
We will also grow our affiliations with other dive shops around Australia as we endeavour to facilitate a well connected community of Cave and Technical Divers beyond the Mount Gambier region. Presently we have an arrangement with The Dive Tub in WA for 10% of selected dive equipment.
Our Association has also become affiliates of the Mount Gambier Chamber of Commerce and have established promising relationships that will aid our goal in supporting the community and encouraging diver tourism in the region.
We are very proud of our successful integration using Forestry SA cave sites and have already run several TDI Intro to cave and Full Cave courses. In the ever-changing landscape of Cave Diving Instruction – Forestry SA introduced a commercial operators fee for Instructors to teach in their sites. As an Association, we understand how difficult it can be to conduct cave diving courses with multiple sites requiring seperate commercial licenses. In order to address this, ACE offers an Instructor collective agreement where all ACE Instructors are included in our license – saving hundreds of dollars of fees to instructors who may only run a few courses a year.
Last year we also became a booking agent for Kilsby’s Sinkhole and our agreement allows for appropriately qualified Members to dive in any time slot they want, regardless if there are recreational divers around and unsupervised by a dive guide or professional. No other booking agent is able to provide a service like this to their Members.
Our attempts to acquire new diving sites are going very well and will have more updates on this shortly.
We have also been working with The Australian Speleological Federation (ASF) on some promising collaborative ideas. Although this collaboration is in its infancy, we anticipate some exciting prospects for the future.
As can be expected, the formation of a new organisation in any sport or hobby, will inevitably be met with hurdles and challenges – many of which ACE has faced in the past year or so as the apparent ‘newcomers’. Indeed, given that the CDAA has been the sole access provider and instructing agency for Cave Diving for almost 50 years in the region, it is not surprising that ACE has experienced some significant opposition and criticism during its inception. But like all good cave divers, we have taken it in our stride, appreciating that nothing should come easy. We expect to have to need to ‘earn’ our stripes in the broader cave diving community; rigorously assess our standards, thoroughly establish our constitution, continuously review our regulations and most importantly ensure all diving practices are upheld to the highest level of safety. Always.
We appreciate the ongoing work and dedication that has been put in by thousands of members of the CDAA over the past 5 decades to bring Australian Cave Diving standards from where it was in the 70s to where it is now and we intend to continue with that same good work. In the formation of ACE we have gained inspiration from the progress of the CDAA in its long standing history and intend to drive that progress to an internationally recognised level in conjunction with other long-standing organisations, whilst maintaining a sustainable number of new cave divers and instructors in the pipeline both nationally and internationally going forward.
On a sadder front, it appears that some individuals affiliated with the CDAA have taken it upon themselves to denigrate ACE in its mere infancy to landowners and cave divers alike, in an attempt to destabilise our relationship with others. Whilst this has had little impact on our success to date, we are keen to still work together with the CDAA to avoid such behaviour into the future, as we understand that any perceived conflict will only harm all cave divers – an outcome we would like to avoid. On this note, we have sought to establish good relationships with the organisation, sending several correspondences to the National Director to seek clarification and collaboration on a number of issues – all of which have been unfortunately ignored. We have confidence however, that we can find a way to work together cohesively and constructively as ACE grows into the future and foster a positive relationship (to benefit all cave divers) together.
Thanks to the focus of our first, dedicated group of Directors in this past year – Australian Cave Explorers has had a remarkable start – making the Association the best it can possibly be to support its members passion to dive. We will continue to do so into the future and we thank everyone of our members who have supported us this far and to those that will join us in the coming years.
On behalf of all the ACE Directors.
President, Australian Cave Explorers Inc