Freedom camping in Australia: current status, key stakeholders and political debate

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Caldicott, R, Scherrer, P & Jenkins, J 2014, 'Freedom camping in Australia: current status, key stakeholders and political debate', Annals of Leisure Research, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 417-42.

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Freedom camping is fuelling nationwide political debate in Australia as a rapidly expanding recreational vehicle (RV) market impresses upon regional and urban communities its strong desire to avoid traditional caravan parks and the features that they present/represent. Community leaders are being lobbied to consider the needs of all types of caravanning visitors to their communities. Conflict and positional power struggles are thus surfacing within national caravanning communities and within national, state and local community governance arenas. This paper provides an overview and an assessment of the history and status quo of the issues. It is structured to first set the broader political contest within a local context, and this informs a working definition of freedom camping. We then review the growing, but limited and fragmented, international literature concerning freedom camping; discuss the phenomenon of freedom camping with reference to supply and demand issues, including the oversimplified descriptions of freedom campers' motivations; and finally, highlight the complex nature of stakeholder engagement and influences on policies as they relate to freedom camping through policy dialogues. The planning and management of spaces and places as limited resources are inherently political activities and are valued for a variety of competing uses by users with diverse perceptions and motivations across time. Through this exploratory analysis, we identify the perspectives of key stakeholders in the policy process, provide a baseline for future discourse on issues relating to freedom camping and conclude with a call for further critical analysis on this subject to inform rational debate on policy-making, planning and management implications for regional and urban communities.