Eyes Wide Shut: A History of Blindness Towards the Feminine in Outdoor Education in Australia

  • Carol Lee Birrell
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Gender and Education book series (GED)


Thirty years ago, the author entered the field of outdoor education, was bruised, and then demanded an alternative to traditional “eyes wide shut” approaches, one that would admit female ways of being. It was a vision of a different way of knowing and learning in the bush that acknowledged an attentive response to one’s surroundings, created time and space for stillness and silence, with a view of humans as an integral part of the natural world, not humans wishing to dominate or control Nature. Through a single-sex lens, each place provided its own store of transformative potential of what females could do unshackled from the demands of narrow “macho” curriculum imperatives.


Gender Outdoor education Girls’ education Wilderness Adventure Curriculum Feminism 


  1. Bartley, N. L., & Williams, D. R. (1988). Gender issues in outdoor adventure programming: An outdoor leadership model exploring gender, personality, soft skills training and leadership style of outdoor leaders. The Bradford Papers, Annual, 3, 1–9. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University.Google Scholar
  2. Belenky, M., Clinchy, B., Goldberger, N., & Tarule, J. (1986). Women’s ways of knowing: The development of self, voice, and mind. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  3. Blum, A. (1980). Annapurna: A woman’s place. San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books.Google Scholar
  4. Brady, V. (1996). Can these bones live? Leichhardt, NSW, Australia: Federation Press.Google Scholar
  5. Campbell, J. (1968). The hero with a thousand faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  6. Carey, P. (1998). Oscar and Lucinda. St Lucia, QLD, Australia: University of Queensland Press.Google Scholar
  7. Chevalier College. (2016). Retrieved from
  8. Deem, R. (1984). Co-ed reconsidered. Milton Keynes, UK: Open Universities Press.Google Scholar
  9. Ditchburn, G., & Martin, J. (1986). Education for girls in Catholic and independent schools in the western suburbs of Melbourne and Gippsland. Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Participation and Equity Project.Google Scholar
  10. Dworkin, A. (1974). Woman hating. New York, NY: Dutton.Google Scholar
  11. Gray, T. (2018). Thirty years on, and has the Gendered Landscape changed in outdoor education. In T. Gray & D. Mitten (Eds.), The Palgrave international handbook of women and outdoor learning (pp. 35–53). London, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  12. Gray, T., & Birrell, C. (2015). A case study on women and adventure “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing”: The lure of adventure travel for women. In R. Black & K. Bricker (Eds.), Adventure programming and travel for the 21st century (pp. 201–207). Andover, MA: Venture Publishing.Google Scholar
  13. Hahn, K. (2016). Retrieved from
  14. Harrison, M. D., & McConchie, P. (2009). My people’s dreaming: An Aboriginal elder speaks on life, land, spirit and forgiveness. Warriewood, NSW: Finch Publishing.Google Scholar
  15. Johnson, C. (2007). John Howard’s ‘values’ and Australian identity. Australian Journal of Political Science, 42(2), 195–209.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Kabat-Zinn, J. (2012). Mindfulness for beginners: Reclaiming the present moment. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.Google Scholar
  17. Knapp, C. (1985). Escaping the gender trap: The ultimate challenge for experiential educators. Journal of Experiential Education, 8(2), 16–19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lewis, L., & Williams, C. (1994). Experiential learning: Past and present. New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, 62, 5–16.Google Scholar
  19. Migration Heritage Centre. (2016). Retrieved from
  20. Miner, J., & Boldt, J. (2002). Outward Bound USA: Crew not passengers. Seattle, WA: Mountaineers Books.Google Scholar
  21. Mitten, D. (1985). A philosophical basis for a women’s outdoor adventure program. Journal of Experiential Education, 8, 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Mitten, D. (1992). Empowering women and girls in the outdoors. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation and Dance, 63(2), 20–24.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. O’Connell, T., & Dyment, J. (2011). The case of reflective journals: Is the jury still out? Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 12(1), 47–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ogleby, C. L. (n.d.). Terra nullius, the high court and surveyors. Retrieved from
  25. Ransome, W., & Moulton, M. (2001). Retrieved from
  26. Rohnke, K. (1984). Silver bullets: A guide to initiative problems, adventure games and trust activities. Dubuque, IA: Project Adventure.Google Scholar
  27. Schaef, A. W. (1985). Women’s reality. Minneapolis, MN: Winston Press.Google Scholar
  28. Vockell, E., & Lobonc, S. (1981). Sex role stereotyping by high school females in science. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 18, 209–219.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Warren, K. (1985). Women’s outdoor adventures: Myth and reality. Journal of Experiential Education, 8(2), 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Woodhouse, J., & Knapp, C. (2000). Place-based curriculum and instruction: Outdoor and environmental education approaches. Retrieved from
  31. Yates, J., & Firkin, J. (1986). Student participation in mathematics. Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Curriculum Assessment Board.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Carol Lee Birrell
    • 1
  1. 1.CoogeeAustralia

Personalised recommendations