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Australia’s Position In World Camping

By David Petherick, CEO Australian Camps Association

Australia’s Position in World Camping

I have now been involved with the Australian Camps Association (ACA) for 6 years and have had the privilege of meeting with, and visiting, camp operators from around the world I feel in a reasonable position to make an assessment of where camping in Australian sits in comparison to what is happening elsewhere.

Based on those experiences I think we have many things to be proud of and some challenges in front of us. Whilst we do not have the long history of some other Associations (for example the American Camp Association has been around for over 100 years) we have a much stronger focus on educational outcomes because our camps have largely focused on working with schools and camps have for a long time been a part of the school curriculum in Australia. So whereas most other countries have camps that focus on programs in the Summer school holidays, we have always focused on working with schools during the semester to deliver educational outcomes.

Many other countries are now looking to our model of school camps as a way to deliver better outcomes for young people in their country. As you may know from my previous ‘Camping Corner’ in the last edition I have recently visited Mongolia to deliver some training and then went on to visit China and had some meetings with the Little Angels Action Fund, a philanthropic organization based in Beijing seeking to encourage what they call service leadership or service learning and what we would call citizenship or community development.

They have built their first camp, which was due to open on 28 July, and having visited the site and met the project manager I have no doubt that they will have opened on schedule. They are already planning to build a second, larger camp in the next year or two. They have started down this path because they recognize the power of camps and outdoor adventure activities to develop their young people to become service leaders.

Having sat through a number of very productive and positive meetings I am confident that they are committed to this strategy and that they want to partner with the ACA to develop a model of camping based on the Australian model with close links to schools and education.

It is very early days but I am hopeful that we can build a strong partnership with the Little Angels Action Fund that will lead to many opportunities for exchange programs between young Australians and young Chinese to experience each others culture, to work together and to learn from each other.

The American Camp Association are holding their National Conference in Dallas, Texas in February 2013 and one of the themes they are seeking submissions on is ‘Camp-School Partnerships’ — they are looking for presentations that are ‘relevant for camps and other…programs currently providing outdoor education/environmental education experiences in partnership with traditional schools, as well as to all interested in exploring these opportunities’. In my experience of visiting North American camps in Canada and the US I believe there is a growing focus on working with schools during the semester to deliver educational outcomes.

The challenge for us in Australia is to build on our history and work in this area and to renew our partnerships with schools and outdoor education teachers to ensure that we can deliver better and better educational outcomes through camps and outdoor adventure programs. The best and most effective way to do this is for camp operators and outdoor education teachers to work together to ensure we deliver great programs that have a clear focus on delivering the agreed outcomes that schools are looking for. And at the ACA we are committed to continuing to build these partnerships through research, through professional development and through conferences.

And speaking of conferences we are having ours on the 1-2 October 2012 at Ferngully Lodge near Healesville. We have a great program planned and you can find out more and register to attend by visiting

I hope to see you there.

David Petherick


Australian Camps Association

(03) 9430 2900

David was appointed as the CEO of the Australian Camps Association in 2006. He is convinced that camps and outdoor programs help young people understand and develop leadership and respect for themselves, others and the environment.

David was also a Professional Educator who majored in physical education and was a youth worker for 10 years.