Orienteering Victoria – our first 50 years

Celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Victorian Orienteering Association

1970 to 2020


Prepared by Belinda Dale,


Kooyoora WOC85 Courses |  Chinamans Flat 1995 | Banksia Park 1990 | University of Melbourne 2016
click on maps for downloadable copy

OV – Our first 50 years: PDF version is available for download HERE


About the time that man first landed on the moon (21 July 1969) advertisements started to appear in Farrago (the Melbourne University student paper) and on the walls of the Richmond Harriers Athletic Club Rooms and other athletic and bushwalking clubs – about another first – the first ‘real’ orienteering event to be held in Victoria.

The event was organised by Tom Andrews and Peter Wills-Cooke (from Richmond Harriers).  Peter‘s father owned a property in Upper Beaconsfield, 40 km south east of Melbourne.

On the 23 August, 1969, 33 people, mainly members of Richmond Harriers and MUMC (Melbourne University Mountaineering Club, who had run 24 hour walks for over 20 years), turned up at the Pine Grove Hotel in Upper Beaconsfield.

They were given a map – a black and white adaptation of a 1 inch to the mile army survey map, enlarged to ‘about’ 4 inches to the mile which covered about 20 private properties.  Two courses were offered, the longest being about 5 miles (6.9km) with 9 controls.

Before they started, competitors plotted their course on the map from grid references.  After they started they had the option to check a master map showing the actual location of the controls – David Hogg checked it.  Ron Frederick (the eventual winner) didn’t.

The terrain was mainly steep orchards, fields and forest, with thick, scrubby, prickly gullies. Fences and many small tracks and gullies were not marked. It was hit and miss.

There were no magnetic north south lines – you needed to deduct 11 degrees declination for taking bearings.  Some had prismatic compasses with wobbly arrows.  Others had a base-plate compass, some reading the instructions (for the 3 stage process to take a bearing) on the run.

Controls were 4 gallon (4 kg) metal fuel bins painted with a red and white stripe.  Control descriptions included such as “The clearing with the great view’, “In the orchard”, “In the scrub”.

Recording was by self-inking stamp (for the first 5 controls) and a pencil recording of a code (for the remaining controls) on a control card.

33 competitors entered, 13 finished, including current orienteers Ron Frederick (1st) (now NK), in 1hr 45 mins, David Hogg (5th) (now RR – ACT) and Mike Hubbert (8th) (now BK).

The first woman (7th) was Annabelle Roth, celebrated in The Truth newspaper, on p7 as “The Girl with the Lacerated Legs” and on P8 sub-headed “Shower was her Reward”.

A program of events followed over the next three months – at Portsea Officers Training School (attended by Ron Clarke), Bambara (Mt Disappointment Forest) and Healesville (Elliot Lodge Scotch College Scout Camp), culminating in the first Victorian Orienteering Championships at the You Yangs on 21 December 1969.

Cardinia Reservoir did not exist, but plans were on the drawing board.

The Pine Grove Hotel was built in 1884 by Hubert Lenne, the first hotel in the Beaconsfield area.  Its referred to by The Vagabond (a travelling journalist) in 1885, as ‘a great stopping place …[they] made the occasion of my visit an excuse to knock off work and imbibe colonial beer.”  The wooden hotel burnt down in 1918 and was replaced by a brick building in 1920. It was burnt down again in 1983 and rebuilt in 1984.


In the early 70s, events were held close to Melbourne including the steep, thick, swampy terrain of areas such as Gembrook and Kinglake – we were rough and tough then.  Later we ventured further out into blander, still tricky, spur gully landscapes such as Kimbolton.

In the early 70s we used “abysmalblack and white photocopies of army survey / forest commission maps, “about” 1:25,000 scale, with 15 metre contours.  Coloured pens / pencils were used to colour in the drainage lines, forest edges, tracks etc. (Quotes from Alex Tarr.)

Later in the 70’s the first coloured maps appeared, the first being Mt Egerton in 1973.  Field work improved mapping accuracy and added features.  Maps were drawn by hand using tracing paper (5 separate sheets for 5 colours) and dot or line screens added by such as Letratone.

A B C D and Novice courses (being different levels of difficulty) were offered at club events.   Courses were marked up by hand using red (purple tinged for the colour blind) pens at the master map area, kneeling down on a tarpaulin, bums in the air.

In the early 70s, controls were orange buckets and stamps / pens were used to mark a code on a control card. Later the orange and white cloth markers on metal stands appeared with punches (like nail staplers) which made a unique pattern for each control in the control card.

Manual entry and finish processing (via different coloured punch cards) was the norm.  Finish times were yelled out as the finisher passed, recorded on a list, then allocated to the bundles of cards collected and kept in order. Elapsed times were calculated by hand / head. The first computerised results system was introduced at the Australian Champs in Tallarook 1975.  Results slips were displayed in plastic pockets on magnetic strips on sheets of galvanised iron.

 The first international competition – Australia-New Zealand Challenge – was held in 1971 in Tooborac (Puckapunyal).  This event was also the first Australian Championships.

Our first WOC team (1974) included Victorians Peta Whitford, Tim Dent and Alex Tarr (all YV).

A night park event was held at Studley Park in 1970 and a street event at Blackburn Lake in 1974.  Regular street events were held from 1976.  The first permanent course was established at the You Yangs in 1972.  The first ski O was in 1972 at Mt Baw Baw, the first Vic Relay Champs in 1973 at Bostock Reservoir, the first bike O event at Kurth Kiln in 1975 and an international 5 days in Ballarat in 1978.

A 10th anniversary event was held on the original map in Upper Beaconsfield in 1979.

The VOA and OFA were founded in 1970.  David Hogg (now PO ACT) was the first President (replaced by John Lewis in early 1971), Bruce Caldwell the first Secretary (replaced by John Poppins in early 1971) and Ron Frederick (now NE) the first Treasurer of the VOA.

Clubs were formed (italics = still exist).

  • 1972: Red Kangaroos formed by the Richmond Orienteering Club (former Richmond Harriers), Bayside, Yarra Valley Orienteering Club, Tuckonie, Super Turtles (mainly Monash University Bushwalking Club members) then disbanded in the late 70s, St Leo’s (College) and Peninsula Orienteers (absorbed into Bayside in the mid 70s). The existing Melbourne University and Latrobe University Mountaineering Clubs had previously added orienteering to their sports.
  • 1973: Rockhoppers, YHA (adding orienteering to its sports). 1974: Navigators.
  • 1975: Eltham College, Geelong, Warby, Eureka, Albury-Wodonga, Active Ants (not very active)
  • 1977: Bendigo.
  • 1976: Brumby (formed by the Dalheim family leaving YVOC).
  • 1979: Dandenong Ranges (formed by the Key family leaving YVOC).

The Tarr family
The Dalheims
Graham Davies (OMEGA)-John Lewis (Readers Digest)-Eric Planinsek (Furs)


We discover gold and granite!  We can now orienteer above and below the natural ground level.  Spur gully terrain is still used but fewer new spur gully areas are being added.

New bush maps are 5 colour, fully field-worked and hand drawn, focusing on gold mining (eg. Nerrina, Castlemaine Goldfields and Wattle Gully) and granite (e.g. Mt Kooyoora and Mt Alexander).  More (and new) features were added, including native cherry trees (no longer included).

More events offered more courses adapted to age classes.  At most events, competitors still marked up their courses and added map corrections at master map areas.

For pre-entry events, an over-printer (available in the ‘70s) was used to plot courses on pre-marked maps – a difficult and tedious process using a large stamp and base and a collection of rubber circles, lines, numbers and letters, to set up a master for each course.  Each map was printed separately and had to be checked for any printing deviance. Control descriptions were produced separately and taped to each map.  Most were written word clues.  The intriguing international control symbols were not yet in common use.  We used Condes for the first time to produce the course splits and control descriptions for the 1985 World Relay Championships.

The thumb compass came into use in the 1980s, but the base plate is still used by many orienteers.  Tim Dent (YV) decided to run “WOC” without a compass.

Punch cards were used at all events.  Even WOC85 (see below) had its army of card checkers and time calculators, who had to admit the Australian Women’s Relay team mispunched!

At WOC85 results were displayed on large slats mounted on an enormous purpose-built framework.  Other events still mostly used magnetic strip covers on metal sheets. WOC85 Podium.

We hosted WOC85 and WOCARN (the world championships and an associated carnival) in 1985   Events were held in the Kooyoora granite and Castlemaine gold mining areas.

Tom Andrews (BK) chaired the overall WOC administration.  Barry McCrae (YV), Alex Tarr (YV), David Hogg (PO), Peta Whitford (YV) and Peter Searle (BG) took key roles in WOC and Barry McCrae, Blake Gordon (EU), Sheila Colls and John Colls (then DROC), John Turner (Emu), Peter Searle (BG), and Kathy Liley (then Emu) led the WOCARN team.  Steve Key (DROC) and Alex Tarr (YV) were the main mappers.  Sue Sturges the VOA’s first employee, worked as the promotion and development officer.

The Victorians in the Australian WOC team were Rob Plowright (then YV), Madeleine Sevior (then DROC), Carolyn Hooper (then YV) and Sue Key (then DROC).

Bush O still dominated, along with some Street O.  New and different O variations were tried, and some have survived:

  • Ski O: Several events held in the early 80s.
  • Tri O: Canoe, bike and run.  Events held at Ballarat and Lake Eppalock, but no longer.
  • Blodslitet: Several held during the 80s and 90s.  Now replaced by the Maxi and EndurOs.
  • High O: Long distance team event held in the high plains.

Clubs evolved:
Central Highland Orienteering Club (CHOC) began in 1983. Eltham College changed to Nillumbik and were joined by the few remaining orienteering members from Latrobe University Mountaineering Club.  The orienteering members from MUMC set up Emu.  Clubs to dissolve were Brumby (some members joining YVOC) and St Leo’s Navigators (members joining Emu in 1988).


After the euphoria of WOC and WOCARN we consolidated and diversified.  Most (but not all) of the best bush areas had been mapped.  During the 90s the Ballarat area rose up as the forefront of bush orienteering.  Other forms of orienteering – notably park / street and mountain bike – progressively increased in popularity.

The typical and best Victorian terrain was still being used, being granite, gold mining and spur gully.   We even persevered with the tough (steep and thick) stuff in areas such as Strath Creek.

New bush areas mapped in the 90s included Chinamans Flat (Linton).  Other maps focussed on consolidation and extension around the pre-existing best areas such as Kooyoora Spur, Eppalock and Creswick Diggings, a re-map of Strath Creek Plateau and an explosion of park and street maps in and around Melbourne, such as Banksia Park and Templestowe Valley.

OCAD (Orienteering Computer Aided Drawing) revolutionised mapmaking, particularly OCAD5 in 1995, which offered the ability to scan images as background maps and trace over them.  Maps could be made and updated on the computer, negating the need for manual map corrections.  Digital printing became available but the colour quality was poor. Offset printing is still used for major events.

Courses were plotted using flatbed plotters (an improvement over the over-printers) programmed with all the control circles and lines where they needed to be cut, and the course was drawn with a single plotting pen, with a more accurate finish but still time-consuming.  International control descriptions became the norm.

Out in the bush, we still found (or not) the familiar orange and white flags on control stands and we punched control cards.  Our cards were sometimes checked at ‘manned controls (the man/woman in bush coloured gear hiding in bushy features) to deter us from taking controls out of order.

In the parks and streets, we continued to find small, square metal plates painted with a red and white triangle, affixed with a punch and padlock and chain (first used in the 80s).

Manual entry was still the norm, but computers were used at major events.  Finish times were entered on the computer.  Some competitors recorded their splits on personal Casio watches for comparison with other competitors later.

Major events in Victoria included:

  • 1994: World Cup events and Southern Cross Junior Challenge – Ballarat.
  • 1995: Australian Championships – Creswick Diggings
  • 1995: First Australian Ski-O Championships – Lake Mountain.
  • 1997: Inaugural MTBO State Champs – Lal Lal
  • 1998: Easter – Castlemaine
  • 1998: Inaugural Australian MTBO Champs – Creswick.

Troy de Haas was the first Victorian (and Australian) to win a JWOC badge (bronze) in 1999.

Street O streaked ahead, with a Summer Series on Wednesdays (Eastern) and Tuesdays (Western).  That’s twice a week!!   MTBO also took off with regular events from the mid 90s.

Clubs continued to merge. The VOA was renamed.

  • 1993: Emu and Nillumbik merged to become Nillumbik Emus.
  • 1993: Red Kangaroos merged with Bayside to become Bayside Kangaroos O Club.
  • 1995: Rockhoppers merged with Nillumbik Emus.
  • 1997-8: The VOA became known as OV (Orienteering Victoria).


In the 2000s the digital age set in and revolutionised the way we orienteered.  Computers were used to make maps and manage all stages of most events.

SPORTident (developed in the late 1990s) became our new exciting tool.  The plastic SI stick contains an embedded micro-chip worn on the finger which is inserted in the SI box on control stands and records splits and total times for each competitor.

In 2001, Condes support for OCAD files was introduced.  This revolutionised designing and plotting courses, calculating course lengths and printing controls descriptions on maps.

There was still no pre-entry (except at major events).  We still filled out a card and selected a start time. At the Start we learnt to insert our SI stick for a Clear and Check and handed our start slip to the starter (who sent the slips to the Finish tent for entering into the computer).  At the Finish we received a print out of our splits.  Results were printed on A4 sheets and hung on a line.

SPORTident meant that course setters could plan courses in smaller areas with loops and crossovers.  Areas previously considered too small to use could now be mapped.  Maps could fit on an A4 sheet.  No more manned controls.  With more pre-marked maps, there was no more tedious hand plotting for the course setters, and no more bums in the air for the competitors.

In the bush we continued our love affair with granite and gold mining terrain, but the best areas had been mapped.  We had another go at the tough (thick and steep) stuff with a new map of Mt Robertson – but this area, along with the Strath Creek area maps, was burnt out in 2009.  Most new maps focussed on park / street and MTBO areas.

For MTBO the 2000s was its best and biggest decade.  Participation rates grew.  Australians (and particularly Victorians) made their mark on the world stage.  Victorians featured as follows:

  • In the first MTBO World Champs in 2002 in Fontainebleau, France, Emily Viner (EU) came 2nd.
  • In 2004 Victoria hosted the World MTBO Championships in central Victoria. The event was the brain-child of Blake Gordon, who was also the overall organiser. Adrian Jackson (MFR) won our first world ranked gold medal in the middle distance (at Old Quartze Hill) and a bronze in the long distance.  Adrian and Alex Randall (YV) were in the men’s bronze medal winning relay, and Carolyn Jackson (MFR) in the women’s relay, also winning bronze.
  • All three represented Australia in international MTBO events in this decade, Adrian scoring a total of 5 gold in the 2004, 2008, 2009 and 2010 World MBTO Championships as well as 2 silver and 3 bronze medals.

Park / Street O surged into the new century on the wave of its rapid rise in the 1990s and participation continues to grow.  More maps were added.  More events were offered on more nights in the Summer Series.  Punch cards are still used and manually checked after the event.  The Millennium Club started on 1 Jan 2000 recognising participants reaching 500,750 and 1000 events.

Key events in the 21st century reflect the dominance of the Bendigo / Castlemaine area as the most progressive centre of bush orienteering in the state:

2001:  Australian 3 days, Maldon area.

2002:  World Masters held in the Glenluce-Kooyoora area.

2003:  Australian Champs, Bendigo and NE Victoria.

2004:  World MTBO Championships in Central Victoria.

2004:  35th anniversary event at Bostock Reservoir.

2006:  Australian 3 Days. Castlemaine area.

2009:  Australian Champs, Bendigo and NE Victoria (Bushrangers Carnival).

A new club, Melbourne Forest Racers, was formed, attracting mostly younger people.


We are now fully digitised – paperless, except for a map, and except for…(see below).

Eventor arrived in 2012, providing for on-line membership, pre-entry and results for most events – except regular Park/Street and MelBushO where we still (mostly) fill in cards and enter on the day.

At most bush and MTBO events we no longer need to register (except for the EODs – Enter on the Days) or select start times – we front up at the Start when we are ready, insert our SI’s into the Clear, Check and Start boxes, pick up a map and clue sheet and head into the bush.   Recording methods vary.  Some events allow proximity punching (SI-Air).  School events use swipe cards

Compass preferences vary – base plate or thumb and a few WOC (without compass).  An increasing number of competitors wear GPS watches – to track (not cheat) their way around.

At the Finish we insert our SIs into the Finish and Download boxes.  Only a few finish officials are now required, compared to the large army of punch card checkers and time calculators in the past. Results are displayed on large electronic screens at many events.  MelBushO uses results printouts posted on A boards.

Park /Street events reflect both the past and the future – some events still use punch cards and some have trialed smart phones (which show the course and beep as one nears the control).  Smart phones are used to do permanent courses now available in and near Melbourne.

Park / Street O continues to grow, offering events most days of the week during the summer and regular winter night and day events.  Six ‘legend members’ of the Millennium Club have reached the 2000 event milestone.  MTBO has consolidated as a regular fixture.  We can now orienteer (almost) every day of the year, in a range of events, including the traditional ‘Bush’ O, Park/Street O, MTBO and, increasingly over the last decade, MelBushO and Sprints.

The MelBushO events (a local speciality initiated in Victoria in 2011) have returned us to our beginnings – to areas near Melbourne – catering to newcomers and regulars who don’t want to travel too far.  MelBushO areas are bush or a combination of park, farmland and bush (including some tough stuff – steep and thick, but that’s what you get near Melbourne).

The Sprint distance format (fostered by the International Orienteering Federation to heighten the public visibility of orienteering) has taken off, including the popular Sprint into Spring (another Victorian initiative).  Sprints are typically held in universities, schools, parkland and other complex urban areas. A recent event was inside a multi-level building in Monash University!

Most of the new maps made in the past decade have been for MelBushO events, Sprints, and Park Street events.  Nearly all are made using OCAD, with some trialing the new Lidar aerial mapping technology (which ‘can see through trees’ and give a much more accurate ground interpretation, sometimes with too much detail and an information overload for the orienteering mapmaker).

Major events run in Victoria the last decade include Easter 2013 (Bendigo area), the Australian Championships in 2015 (Ballarat / Creswick), Oceania in 2011 and 2019 (NE Victoria), Melbourne Sprint Weekends (MSW) held in 2016, 2018 and 2020, the 50th anniversary event at Cardinia Reservoir in August 2019, and the Australian MTBO Champs in 2010 (Castlemaine – Daylesford), 2011 (Beechworth), 2015 (Torquay – Anglesea) and 2019 (Maryborough – Dunolly).

Key elite Victorian place-getters on the international stage in this decade have been Angus Robinson (1st in sprint in MTBO JWOC 2015) and our current rising star, Aston Key (1st in Sprint and 3rd in Long distance in JWOC 2019).

(View photos at end of page)


In particular I want to acknowledge the substantial and generous contribution of Mike Hubbert and David Hogg to both the 50th anniversary event display and to this history, and to Peter Cusworth for his patient and creative graphic design.  Others who made valuable contributions to the display at the 50th anniversary event and / or this history include, in alphabetical order, Ian Baker, Russell Bulman, Sheila Colls, Debbie Dodd, Ron Frederick, David and Ruth Goddard, Blake Gordon, Kathy Liley, Alex Tarr and Peta Whitford.  And finally, thank you to those who helped me ‘get it out there’, including Carl Dalheim (OV President) for his enthusiastic support for its publication, Patrick Jaffe for its serialisation in Orienteering Victoria and Margi Freemantle for facilitating its inclusion on the OV website.  Congratulations for OV for 50 years of running orienteering in Victoria.

The 1990s in pictures


Sandringham StreetO & Relay start line-up (1990)

The Thompson twins (1990) & High O – early 1990s


Warren Key (1st Open men), David Searle & Natasha Key (1st Open women), at the first Australian MTBO Championships at Creswick in 1998 & Barry McCrae, AUS/NZ relays 1991 (in NZ)

The 2000s in pictures


WMTBO 2004 Australian Bronze relay medalists, Adrian Jackson winning Gold in the middle distance & Emily Viner, 5th in long


WMTBO 2004 cover & 2004 WMTBO Middle Distance map showing the medallists’ routes

(click on map for downloadable copy)


Canadian Forest event 2006 & Park Street briefing 2004


Blake Gordon MTBO 2008 & VIC Relays 2008 (click on relays image to view full picture)


The 2010s in pictures


The author, Belinda Dale, at the Victorian Relays 2019; MelBushO; Aston Key at MSW 2020


BendiGo ToDay at Mt Tarrengower and Angus Robinson – won gold in the Sprint at the 2015 Junior World MTBO Champs in the Czech Republic.


VIV Sprint Champs, Bendigo 2016 and MSW 2018 Flyer


String Course, Creswick, 2015 and MelBushO


New Orienteering Victoria logo 2017 (long form and online versions)


One Tree Hill Reserve, University of Melbourne WRE course 2016, Monash University Indoor course 2020

(Click on maps for downloadable copy)


VIC Schools team 2010 (click for downloadable photo), VIC Womens Elite team & Sprint into Spring logo

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