The politics of freedom camping: a conceptual framework acknowledging the salience of 'power' (14768)
In the face of a growing media storm in Australia that sensationalises the phenomenon of freedom camping through a divisive portrayal of its influence on regional and urban communities, we present a conceptual framework which we consider will aid investigation of our understandings of freedom camping as a form of ‘street life’ and contested use of public space. It is not unusual for local news to include sectoral-interest commentaries and debates about campers and camping impacts: Are they free-campers or simply freeloaders? In the void of any consistency across states and territories and unambiguous national policy to support local communities and government to effectively deal with the conflict that inevitably arises, we go against recent trends in policy discourse, which focus on governance and other ‘newer’ concepts, as we seek to bring the concept of power back to the centre of analyses of policy using freedom camping as the vehicle. As linkages and connections between conceptualisations and theories of power and tourism and leisure studies are unevenly developed, we wish to place constructs of power more firmly at the centre of the agenda of critical tourism research. We do not engage in a treatise of theories for studying power; rather what we present is a framework capable of encapsulating diverse approaches to studying power in the context of leisure and tourism public policy. Freedom camping in Australia refers to touring consumers who occupy, by deliberate choice, a vehicle as a mode of accommodation in an open space that is not bound by market-based commercial norms and caravan park-based regulations. We acknowledge freedom camping is not a recent phenomenon, nor is it unique to Australia, though its prominence is raising the ire of civic leaders concerned for their respective leisure, policy, management and regulatory environments that support freedom and commercial camping practices.