Safety: Snakebite

Update on Snakebites in Victoria


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Snakebite is more of a fear than a reality. Bushwalkers are statistically not identified as a high-risk group. 

There are only 100 to 200 severe cases that need antivenom in Australia each year. Half of all cases involve people interfering with snakes and one in ten cases are snake handlers.

More about statistics here and here. Here is a good fact sheet from Safer Care Victoria


Unprovoked, snakes rarely attack humans. Therefore, do not disturb a snake in your pathway, simply alert the other members of your party to give it a wide berth. Always wear stout footwear and be observant. Take particular care in warm weather, long grass, hollow logs, near water or rocks in sunny positions.
In areas where snakes are prevalent, it is wise to wear long trousers and/or gaiters. Although snakes cannot hear they can detect vibrations in the ground, so walk heavily to encourage them to instinctively flee from your path. When camping, use a tent with an integral floor and always zip up the doors. Use a torch at night.


Victims usually know they have been bitten. Symptoms may appear 15 minutes to 2 hours after the bite and may be mild or severe, depending on the species and the bite. Symptoms include double vision, headache, nausea and vomiting, sweating, faintness, diarrhoea, chest pain, difficulty swallowing or breathing, swollen lymph glands in groin or armpit, drowsiness.


Seek immediate medical help. Not all Australian snakes are venomous but you should follow the basic first aid techniques, just in case. Don’t wash the skin, as traces of venom left behind might be needed by medical personnel to identify the snake. Use a pressure immobilisation bandage and splint the limb. If the person was bitten on the torso, make sure your bandaging doesn’t restrict their breathing.  Here is a very good fact  sheet with photos on first aid for treating snake bites in Australia. The use of Aero Form snake bite bandage with indicator is recommended as well as Setopress High Compression Bandage.   If you would like more information about where antivenom is held and stock levels, have a look here

The principle of the treatment of Australian snakebites is to slow the movement of the venom in the body down by keeping as STILL as possible and apply firm pressure at the entry point. 

All snake venom is made up of proteins. When bitten, a snake injects venom into the flesh of your limb, not directly into your bloodstream. The venom can not be absorbed into the bloodstream from the bite site. It travels in a fluid transport system in your body called the lymphatic system that moves differently to blood.

Your heart pumps blood around, so even when you are lying completely still, your blood still circulates around the body. Lymph fluid only moves around when you are moving like bending your arm, bending knees, wriggling fingers and toes, walking, running, etc. The only way the venom can get into your bloodstream is to be moved from the bite site in the lymphatic vessels and this is done by moving around.

The lower leg is the most vulnerable to a snakebite when bushwalking. If a member of the party is bitten:

  1. Immediately apply firm pressure over the bite site.
  2. Lay the victim down and keep them calm and at complete rest.
  3. Apply a broad firm bandage to the bitten area and around as much of the limb as possible, without removing clothing if this means moving the limb. Bandage as tightly as for a sprain and work up the limb to include the joint above the bite site. Setopress bandages are recommended as they have indicators showing the compression limits.
  4. Immobilize the limb with a makeshift splint.
  5. Constantly observe the patient for shock and respiratory failure. Dispatch other members of the party with knowledge of your location to bring outside help to transport the patient.
  6. If external help is unavailable, the best option is probably to rest for a day or two, and then proceed to the nearest civilisation taking care to minimize stress to the patient.

DO NOT deliberately disturb a snake.
DO NOT walk in sandals or thongs.
DO NOT cut or wash a bite.
DO NOT apply an arterial tourniquet.

Here are good first-aid tips for all kinds of bites and stings in Victoria

Here is a good video on snake-bite first aid:


Bushwalking Manual

Bushwalking Victoria has published an updated Bushwalking Manual that provides guidelines and information for safe, enjoyable community-based volunteer bushwalking in Australia.  The manual includes contributions from other state and territory peak bushwalking organisations. 

Feedback and suggestions are welcome and can be provided using links on the feedback page.



Bushwalking Manual Home

Bushwalking Victoria acknowledges and thanks the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning for providing funding for the development of this manual.


Where to find paper maps for bushwalking and how to print them

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Recent press reports have highlighted the decision by Geoscience Australia to cease printing its 1:250,000 topographical maps in December 2019, but this should not be a major problem for bushwalkers in Victoria. 1:250,000 (1cm to 2.5km) is not a scale most walkers use, as these maps provide insufficient detail. Good detailed maps covering Victoria at 1:25,000 (1cm to 250m) and 1:50,000 (1cm to 500m) are available in electronic form and many are also available as paper maps. These scales are far more useful out on the track.

Paper maps can be purchased from suppliers such as Vicmap (mainly 1:50,000), Spatial Vision and Meridian – see Finding Maps for Walking in Victoria for a detailed list of sources, including shopfront and online suppliers.

If, rather than purchasing a paper map, you want to print one of the many electronic maps which are available from a variety of sources (including any of the Geoscience 1:250,000 maps) it’s relatively easy.

Many maps are produced in geopdf format. This allows the maps to be displayed and used in navigation software and apps. It also allows them to be easily printed to the correct scale using free software e.g. Adobe Acrobat reader. A walk leader can use an electronic map for navigation with their smartphone and carry the identical paper map.

Here are some options if you wish to have a printed copy of a geopdf map – either a whole map or part thereof.

Print the whole map:

  1. Take the geopdf file to your local printer. It will cost about $20 for an A1 sheet and a little more if you want it on more robust waterproof paper, OR
  2. Print the map as smaller tiles and stick them together. You can do this at home, using Adobe Acrobat reader. Open the required map, press ‘Print’ then press the ‘Poster’ button. Ensure ‘Tile Scale’ is on 100% and ‘Overlap’ is set at 1cm. ‘Cut marks’ should be checked to make putting the tiles together easier.

Paper Maps

The preview screen will show how the map image will be tiled. Press print. Trim/assemble the sheets.

Print part of the map:

Open the map in Acrobat reader. Click on the ‘Edit’ menu and then ‘Take a Snapshot’. Highlight the desired area and press print. Press ‘Size’ and ensure ‘Actual size’ is checked. Your selected area will be shown in the middle of a sheet. If your selected area is larger than one sheet, you can poster print in tiles as described above.

What to do if you don’t have a colour printer:

Most modern computers can make a pdf file through the Print interface. Instead of printing to a physical machine, you can make a pdf file instead. Use the above instructions and just change the setting under ‘Printer’ to the pdf driver.

Paper Maps2

You can change the paper size to A3 under ‘Properties’ if you have a larger area to cover, or want bigger map tiles. Place the saved pdf file on a USB thumb drive and take it to your local self serve colour photocopier/printer.

Poster printing is a quick and cheap way to produce reasonable-quality larger maps from geopdf’s. You can use waterproof paper too, if you wish: ‘Rite in the rain 8512’ paper can be used in a laser printer; it’s about 30 cents an A4 sheet.

When printing from electronic maps, please remember to respect copyright. Personal use only.

Author: Andrew Robinson

Date: 13 October 2019

Walking the Kokoda Trail - Courage, Endurance, Tenacity


The preparation and experience of a new bushwalker

Liz Thompson, a member of the Melton Bushwalkers, walked the Kokoda Trek in July 2019. She shares her experience below.

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My Kokoda experience started six months before I left. The ticket was booked by my sister who lives interstate and wanted to do the trek for her 50th birthday. I had six months to start training and I had no real bushwalking/hiking experience apart from a few weekend walks at the You Yangs.  I had never really walked further than 5 km at a time. So the thought of 110 km in 9 days was a bit daunting but it motivated me to get cracking on the training. I had recently moved to Bacchus Marsh so I had the Lerderderg Forrest and Werribee Gorge at my doorstep. I looked up bushwalking groups on Facebook and that’s where came across the Melton Bushwalkers. I went on a few walks with them and met lots of wonderful people, I talked about my mission and a few members decided they would help me train in more challenging elevation outside of the regular group walks.   So every Sunday, we went out for hours on end in the winter chill, climbing steep hills, getting a great workout all the while having great conversations.

Fast forward 6 months later, I land in Papua New Guinea (PNG). It is hot and unbelievably humid for a Melbourne girl. The 25 walkers on our trek meet at the airport. Our trek leader, Major Scott Babington, herded us into an old bus headed for our accommodation before the trek starts the next morning. One thing to mention is the poverty that can be seen in Port Moresby. As soon as you leave the airport you can see the harsh conditions the locals live in. It was an eye-opening experience. Below is a short diary of each of the 9 days. 

Day 1:  We take the short 10 km drive to our starting point and meet our porters. These are men from the local villages who help carry some of our belongings.   The weight is restricted to 12kgs, allowing for them to also carry their own stuff and not exceed the 18kgs limit imposed by our trekking company. Excitedly we all start the steep descent into the jungle. The temperature was around 28, it was humid but bearable. It was a short walk today, including a big river crossing then into camp and as soon as we arrived it started to rain. Everyone was in good spirits and happy to get to know each other. We get acquainted with our tents for the first time.

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Day 2:  The hills started. This is what I had been training for. The jungle was so beautiful, the twisted roots made natural staircases up the hills. The tree canopy kept the temperature down and whilst there was a little mud, it was OK. Even though the uphill was hard, sometimes the steep descents were more challenging. We reached camp after an 11-hour day, still high on the adrenaline of being here. Our fabulous trek leader gave in-depth talks at various stages on the history and significance of the areas we were walking on.  That night, before dinner, however, I didn’t feel well. I was physically sick. I tried to eat something and then went to bed only to wake up and be sick again. Oh no….

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Day 3:   Described as one of the hardest days on the trek due to some of the sheer elevation of one mountain which was aptly named The Wall, I woke up, still unwell, dizzy, racing heart and nausea and wondering how exactly was I going to get through this. I missed breakfast and got straight into the 5.30 am start but 100 metres in I knew I was in trouble. While the other trekkers were ascending the first hill, I spoke to the trek leader and told him I was done. I felt so horrible, I couldn’t even fathom walking up a hill. Reluctantly he made the phone call for a medical evacuation. Turns out, at that time of the morning, no one answers their phone. I took an anti-nausea pill and after some tears, I actually felt a bit better and Scott said he would carry my backpack while I recovered, and reassess my condition up further ... so I kept going. We reached the group that was waiting at the top of the first hill and three army reserve guys who were on our trek immediately stepped up and said they will take it in turns to help carry my backpack .... so I continued. I made it up “The Wall” and “Wall 2.0” and all the way to the next camp 12 hours later. It poured rain all day, everyone was wet through, muddy and exhausted. It was one of the hardest days in my life and a day I will always remember. Not because of the bad, because of the way everyone in the group helped me out, kept my morale up and got me through.

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Day 4:  Feeling slightly better, I had assistance with my bag again today. Another gruelling climb and hard day but getting it done. One of the highlights of the Kokoda trail is going through the villages on the way. The kids all come out and wave and smile and say hello. At some villages, they sell treats like cans of soft drink, small packets of Twistee’s and local fruit like bananas, pawpaw or coconuts. It rained on and off all day but we had bouts of the sun to dry us off.

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Day 5: There are many places of interest along the trail but some that have more significance than others. Today was a highlight as we made it to Brigade Hill, an impressive mountain ridge that is roughly halfway through the trek. The spot saw a great battle in September 1942 as the Australians tried to hold the advancing Japanese. We had a short ceremony here and paid respect to the soldiers who lost their lives on this battleground. Another thing that became a staple on the trek were river crossings – sometimes we had a fallen tree to cross on, and some we had to walk through waist-deep.

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Day 6 - 7: By now everyone has settled into a routine. It was hard at first trying to pack up your gear every morning in a tent but by day 6 I have finally worked out some tricks. One interesting thing, you rarely see any animals in the jungle. You might be lucky to see the odd bird and a few mozzies but I was surprised that there were no animals around. There is also very little colour, just the brown ground and green trees. There were a few fungi around but not many flowers. Occasionally the trail would lead to an open space on the side of a mountain but for the most part, we are in under the canopy of the trees. When there was a view, sometimes you couldn’t see it because of the cloud cover.

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Day 8 – By far my favourite day as we had an amazing dawn service at the Isurava Memorial. A beautiful memorial,  literally in the middle of the jungle.  I later discovered the memorial materials were brought in by helicopter. Four huge granite stones, each inscribed with a single word – Courage, Endurance, Mateship, Sacrifice. The significance of getting here and hearing the letters written by soldiers and poems after we had walked in their footsteps was amazing. We understood what those 4 inscribed words really meant as we were nearly at the end of our journey. From here we started a descent into Kokoda for our final night.

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Day 9 – It was a different atmosphere waking up today. We were no longer in the jungle and we had a short walk to the airfield. On the way, we were treated to a baked breakfast and cultural show before heading to the airfield. The airport consisted of a concrete slab with a tin roof and a lady with a clipboard who weighed our bags and us and wrote it all down in her book. After less than an hour’s flight in a small plane, we were back in Port Moresby. On the way back to the lodge we visited the Bomana cemetery where over 4500 Australians lie buried. It is hard to look at all the headstones, mainly young and ill-prepared boys 18 to 20 years old. It was a very emotional experience having walked through the jungle, and to know what they had to endure and the conditions that they would have had no time to prepare for.

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Upon reflection of my time at Kokoda, it’s hard to put into words the profound effect that experience has on you. It’s not just a journey you take for a physical challenge even though it is physically very challenging. It was also a very mentally challenging experience of having to push through when you think you can’t walk up to another hill, and the emotional journey, the empathy you have for those soldiers who did the same trek but in much worse and harsher conditions. It certainly piqued my interest in finding out more about Australia's role in WW2. The amazing people you meet and bond with over a very unique experience I would highly recommend.

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