Tim Muscat

ACE0002 Full Cave Instructor

Tim Muscat

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. 

 

Best regards, 

 

On behalf of all the ACE Directors. 

 

Tim Muscat 

President, Australian Cave Explorers Inc 

 

 

 

Access to Kilsbys Sinkhole will change on 1/3/2021 with an increase to prices and a decrease to time slots. 

The price per diver will increase from $23 per person to $32

Time slots will be reduced back to their original pre Covid-19 length of 2 hours. 

Divers may not access the property more than 30min prior to their diving time slot. 

Divers must leave the property no more than 30min after their allocated diving time slot. 

Timeslots for Pines Cave will be changing from March 1st 2021.
Changes are brought in now COVID restrictions are easing and more divers are visiting due to border openings. We hope the new slots will help make a more pleasurable visit for divers. An update is available on the booking page. If a diver has booked a dive in March with the original time slots, they will be contacted by ForestrySA Ranger to update their slot.

New sessions will be from 7am to 1pm and 1pm to 6pm
Divers can contact ForestrySA recreation@forestrysa.com.au or phone 87242811 for more information.

Forestry SA have advised us that due to the new Covid-19 Restrictions in place in South Australia, all cave diving and adventure caving access for the next 14 days will be cancelled. 

The booking portal will be updated to reflect these changes asap.

Any Members that have booked onto any sites during the closure time will be refunded as soon as possible. 

Kind regards, 

Tim Muscat 

President Australian Cave Explorers

Australian Cave Explorers are proud to announce that Members may now dive at Kilsbys Sinkhole. 

Members holding a Cavern Diver rating or above may dive unguided provided their buddy is also an ACE Member.

We’ve worked hard as an Association to allow our Members to dive in this amazing site and we support the Kilsby family’s vision for its future. As such we are more than happy sharing the sinkhole with others including snorkelers and recreational divers. Our Regulations allow Members to dive at the same time as other users, which is a great chance to promote cave diving to our recreational diving counterparts.

Kilbys bookings can be made online through the ACE website booking form here: https://caveexplorers.com.au/index.php/kilsbys-sinkhole/ and are subject to availability.

The cost to members is $23 per diver per time slot. 


If you hold a recognised Cavern Diving certification or above, you can easily become an ACE member today. We are a progressive and inclusive organisation with the goal of providing cave diving access to as many qualified divers as possible. Sign up now.

ACE ensures only appropriately qualified divers are permitted to access sites. To confirm your ACE diving access level click here


Safe Diving! 

Tim Muscat 

President, Australian Cave Explorers 

Welcome to the first ACE blog post. We aim to have a regular post keeping you informed and even entertained!

Today we are proud to announce that ACE now has access to ForestrySA sites with many other dive sites in the final stages of negotiation.

This has been a huge undertaking with the support and enthusiasm of cave divers, locals and landowners to support our endeavour being pivotal to our success.

I want to answer some questions, to give you some information on what we’re all about.

Why create a new cave diving Association? 

All founding Directors are passionate cave divers and agreed there was a need for freedom of choice on who represents them, who provides access and under which agency they gain their cave diving certifications.

We were further encouraged when landowners and Council representatives expressed their desire to have more international and interstate guests visit this region, providing valuable tourism income (covid notwithstanding).

What training do you offer?

All ACE training and certifications are through internationally recognised training agencies and provided by independent Instructors registered with 

ACE which ensure our divers are prepared for diving internationally, the training remains relevant, up to date and universally recognised. At the time of writing we have officially recognised Technical Diving International (TDI) training programs and instructors, the call is out to all other internationally recognised diver training agencies with cave diving programs to contact us and have their programs and Instructors added to our recognised list.  

I’m a cave diving instructor, can I teach cave diving courses using ACE access? 

There are a few steps involved to be registered to teach using ACE access. 

First, the training agency you teach for needs to be recognised by us to allow its instructors to teach under our access. 

Some of the criteria they have to prove is instructor course minimum experience requirements, topics covered and quality control processes. 

Second you need to apply to be a registered instructor. You will need to provide evidence of certification as a cave diving instructor, third party liability insurance covering cave diving, a minimum of 20 cave dives in the region you wish to teach and proof of authority to work in Australia, such as a working visa or permanent residency/citizenship.

In all it’s a simple and streamlined process.

I am already a cave diver; will my certifications be recognised?

We recognise the certifications provided by almost all training agencies that offer cave diving training and are World Recreational Scuba Training Council (WRSTC) members. We also recognise some certifications by agencies that are not, such as the NACD and CDAA. 

This means that if you have a certification issued by one of the recognised agencies, you can join up and be a member. We do not mandate crossover courses or assessments, but we do require all members to pass a short online quiz on our Constitution, Regulations and site access rules. This ensures that you are aware of the regionally specific diving conditions and our rules governing our conduct and safety practices to provide safe and equitable cave diving site access to as many persons as possible. 

I’m an international or interstate diver and only want to visit the region once a year at the most, do you have visitor permits? 

We have based our organisation on visiting divers, in reality there’s only a handful of local cave divers. We don’t have a visitor permit as we believe that all members should have equal rights.

That is why we have created the one year and one-month membership terms.

For interstate or international divers, you can sign up for one month just before your trip to cave country and enjoy all the benefits of full membership during your stay, but not have to pay for it for the rest of the time when you’re not using it. There is no limit to how many one-month memberships you purchase in a lifetime, or even in a year, but it is about half that of a full year to cover administration and insurance costs.

Do I receive a membership or certification card?

We are looking towards a sustainable future and in this pursuit we have endeavoured to reduce or eliminate the environmentally unsustainable use of hardcopy for applications, memberships and membership/certification cards. This is why all indemnities, applications and forms are in a digital format and your membership card is in the form of a digital card. This has opened up some new opportunities, such as the ability to check other members have the correct credentials to dive a particular site or if you allow it, for your contact details to be searched by other members to arrange dives!

What happens if a Member doesn’t follow the rules?

We are very serious about ensuring our members abide by our Constitution and Regulations which were written to maintain safety, access and general behaviour standards. We do not however see ourselves as a policing authority, we encourage our members to self regulate and solve issues at the lowest possible level. If the organisation is involved, our processes for investigation and deliberation follow best practice and give all members ample opportunity to represent themselves, or to be represented. Our matrix for penalties is designed around the premise of re-education and re-offence minimisation, only in the most serious safety or conservation breaches are suspension or exclusion considered. 

Explorers is in the name, is it just a name?

Our founding directors are passionate cave explorers. We have formed our Association around the premise that exploration feeds new diving opportunities. It is so engrained into our beliefs that the second objective of the Association (after provide dive site access) is to promote the exploration, and conservation of caves. Stay tuned for public invitations to exploration projects and some really exciting announcements on what we have recently discovered!

We can now offer an alternative, forward-looking and contemporary organisation that has had its constitution and regulations deliberately written to ensure inclusivity, fairness, openness and above all that the organisation remains focused on providing access to cave diving sites to its Members.

It is only looking positive for the future of cave diving in Australia and we welcome you to join us and make a contribution!