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The Great Aussie Camp Out

By David Petherick, CEO Australian Camps Association

The Great Aussie Camp Out – Saturday 13th October 2012

As the date for the third Great Aussie Camp Out draws close and wanted to take some time to reflect on why we started this event up two years ago. We actually started planning in 2008 because we wanted to create a fun community event that encouraged families, friends and individuals to get out into the great Australian outdoors.

Recently I had an experience that reinforced to me that events like the Great Aussie Camp Out are important. I was invited to visit the Westgarth Bush Kinder in Melbourne. Doug Fargher is the thoughtful, innovative and committed Director who initiated this program two years ago. As their website states:

“Westgarth Kindergarten’s bush kinder provides a valuable forest kindergarten experience for 4-year-old kinder children enrolled at Westgarth Kindergarten.

A forest kindergarten is a type of preschool education for children held almost exclusively outdoors. Whatever the weather, children are encouraged to take the lead in playing, exploring and learning in a forest or natural environment.

Forest schools have been operating successfully in Northern Europe for over 50 years. Bush Kinder is the first of its kind in Australia.

Bush Kinder is a special part of a Westgarth child’s total kinder experience. A model to suit our community’s and children’s specific needs. It recognises the place the bush has in Australian folklore and the significance of the land in aboriginal culture.

It draws upon and extends the existing philosophy and pedagogy of Westgarth Kindergarten to offer a unique educational program.

No toys, No tools, No art supplies

The children and adults benefit from using only what nature has provided.”

While I was there on a cold, wet Winter morning I watched the kids playing apparently oblivious to the weather. They were all dressed appropriately and they weren’t letting anything get in the way of them exploring and playing games using their imaginations.

They were deeply involved in the games they were inventing on the spot using only the sticks and things they found on the ground. I am sure they did not even notice our presence.

This is the essence of what we wanted for GACO. An opportunity for all of us to get into the outdoors and to have some fun and to remember the way we played when we were kids and for our kids to get that same experience.

We were concerned that there was a growing sense within the community that camping was too hard and complicated and therefore the fantastic opportunities and benefits were being missed by large numbers of Australians.

We wanted to make participation as simple as possible and we wanted to encourage people to participate in whatever way they were comfortable and we wanted to make it a free event that was web based so that participation could be wherever or however participants chose.

So I would encourage you to go online and register for free to be a part of the Great Aussie Camp Out on Saturday 13th October 2012. There are some great prizes to be won for just registering and taking part and there are also lots of tips and ideas on the website for your next camp out.

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.