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It’s A Small World

The camps community around the world is a shining example of cooperation for mutual benefit. It has been my experience that leaders from the camps and outdoors sector around the world clearly understand and appreciate that we all benefit when we share experiences and wisdom.

Much of this sharing is fostered through the International Camping Fellowship (ICF) and here in Australia we have taken a very active role in working with and promoting the ICF.

Through our involvement in the ICF we have taken on the secretariat role for the Asia Oceania Camping Fellowship and we will be co-hosting the 5th Asia Oceania Camping Congress in Sydney form 19-22 October 2013 with the Outdoor Recreation Industry Council (ORIC) of NSW. This will provide further opportunities for camp and outdoor operators to work with counterparts from all over Asia and indeed the world.

At the recent International Camping Congress in Hong Kong in October 2011 we had the opportunity to hear from a camp in Russia which has a focus on programs that teach about democracy and capitalism. The National Camping Association of Japan shared with us their program a “Gift for the Next 100 Years” which focuses on supporting young people who lost family members in the earthquake and tsunami of February 2011. The camp community from around the world has helped raise thousands of dollars to get that program up and running.

Here at the Australian Camps Association we have developed a partnership with the American Camps Association which gives all of our members access to a huge bank of training, program and business resources developed in the US over many years.

As a part of this deal I was recently able to take part in a webinar with our friends at the American Camps Association that focused on camps as social enterprises because in their view, now more than ever, camps are called to develop moral young leaders who will make the right decisions when they matter most. Camps are social enterprises and social enterprises are society’s change agents. The webinar covered the core concepts of Social Enterprise and how camps can – and must — be a powerful force for positive social change.

In May I will be travelling to Mongolia to co-facilitate, with a colleague form Canada, a leadership training program for 40 young people from Mongolia and around the world. On the way back we will stop off in Beijing to have a series of meetings to discuss the possibility of setting up a Chinese Camping Association and to hopefully build a strong partnership with them that will in the future lead to exchanges of campers between China and Australia – which will not only open up some wonderful opportunities for young Australians, but also for young Chinese to visit Australia and to have Australian Camp experiences.

The Americans definition of organised camping is “a sustained experience which provides a creative, recreational and educational opportunity in group living in the out-of-doors. It uses trained leadership and the resources of the natural surroundings to contribute to each camper’s mental, physical, social, and spiritual growth” (American Camps Association).

There are many possible outcomes that arise from organised camp programs. According to Mary Faeth Chenery (1994) these outcomes arise because campers are away from their parents and away from television, living simply in a small group with positive role models. They are in a structured and supportive environment in which they have time to listen, talk, relax, and reflect. They are learning through activities that are fun, that require them to work together, and that give them opportunities to make choices and to take responsibility.

When you are planning your next camp make sure you talk to your camp provider about the outcomes you are seeking for your program. If you can have clear communication about this then I am confident that you will have a positive and beneficial camp program.

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.