ACKMA hold guide school and conference at Caves

ACKMA (Australasian Cave and Karst Management Association) have chosen the Naracoorte Caves as their function site for 2019, celebrating the 50th anniversary of fossil discovery at the Victoria Cave.

The first event will be an interactive school for cave guides to assist them in improving their presentations to visitors, which will be followed by the ACKMA AGM, with the opportunity for ACKMA stakeholders to get together, discuss cave management issues and to see each other's caves.

ACKMA is comprised of cave managers, guides, rangers, scientists, cavers and other people interested in caring for Australasia's cave and karst. Members are primarily from Australia and New Zealand.

The Guide School will feature a range of experts from various fields, including the Naracoorte Caves' lead paleontologist, Dr Liz Reed, giving a presentation about the groundbreaking research being done at the caves, and the significance of the Blanche Cave.

Renowned science educator Dr Michael Mills will also be giving a presentation, with his speaking fee covered by the Naracoorte Lucindale Council through a community chest grant.

Dr Mills was given the Unsung Hero in Science Communication Award in South Australia and uses performance to give audiences information about data and concepts.

Andy Spate, who is the President of ACKMA, thanked the council for their support, and for making the school accessible for the young people who have flown into Naracoorte from across Australia and New Zealand. With their presence, they are also giving back to the community through boosting the local economy.

John Brush, the Executive Officer of ACKMA, explained that the guides would be given information about presentation, but also about proper caves maintenance.

"Caves can degrade if they're not cleaned properly," Mr Brush said.

"Lint, tracked in dirt, all of this can accumulate and make caves look shabby, which makes them lose their tourist appeal, and can also interfere with potential discoveries.

"Initials being carved into the rock can also be a problem. It may have been alright many years ago, but these days we prefer if people took selfies."

Mayor Erika Vickery opened the ACKMA guide school on Wednesday morning, welcoming visitors to the region, and also giving an overview of the Caves Connection Project.

The next day, Grant Gartrell, one of the original discoverers of the world-famous Fossil Cave, went into the Starburst Cave.

As it had been 35 years since Grant had been into that cave, he was keen to don the overalls and explore.

AGM participants and guide school students reported to Caves staff that they were not only impressed by our local businesses, but also the art gallery and Sheep's Back Museum.