Australian Cardijn Institute proposal

The YCW Camp at Phillip Island was founded by the Melbourne Young Christian Workers movement in 1949 to serve the needs of the families of ex-servicepeople, particularly young workers whose fathers had served in war.

Now it’s future is in question.

The Australian Cardijn Institute believes the camp should be restored and redeveloped in line with its original purposes as an initiative of the YCW.

Here is our proposal for its future.


ACI learned with dismay of recent proposals regarding the future of the YCW Camp at Phillip Island, which disregard the heritage and the interests of the Young Christian Workers movement and its work.

As we have stated previously, ACI vigorously opposes plans to hand over the camp to Vasey RSL Care, an aged care services provider.

Similarly, we profoundly regret and oppose efforts by the Mannix Veterans Support Fund and ex-YCW veterans that also seek to dispose of the camp without regard to the interests of the YCW. We further deplore unfounded accusations of wilful neglect of the interests of exservicepeople.

It is our conviction that the disposal or sale of the property at this stage, particularly in the absence of a fully developed alternative proposal that takes account of the interests of the YCW, would be a grave mistake.

Lacking the time to prepare a detailed alternative proposal prior to the current deadline set by the YCW Camp Committee Patriotic Fund Inc., we therefore simply present the following points that we believe should be considered in formulating an appropriate new plan for the camp.

1. History of the YCW Camp

a) The camp was originally established as a YCW Camp simultaneously serving the dual purposes of meeting the needs of young workers in general as well as those of young people and families of ex-servicepeople.

b) Fr Frank Lombard, the founder of the YCW in Melbourne and the initiator of the camp, had been an army chaplain himself while Melbourne Archbishop Daniel Mannix himself served as chaplain-general to the Australian Army and were well aware of the dual purpose the camp.

c) Articles in the press from the 1950s make clear that the camp was used for both purposes.

d) The camp was managed in close cooperation with the Archdiocese of Melbourne, which promoted its services.

e) The purchase of land, construction of the camp as well as ongoing maintenance and operational expenses were funded through the efforts of the YCW Men’s Extension Committee (YCWMEC). When the YCWMEC was incorporated as YCW Holdings, the latter continued to fund both capital and operational expenditure of the camp until at least the 1980s. 

f) The Victorian government also contributed to the funding of the camp on the above basis until the 1970s as part of its overall support for the work of the YCW in Victoria.

f) Membership of the YCW movement declined precipitously during the early 1970s. As a result, the movement was no longer able to manage it as it had previously.

g) As a result, the camp was eventually transferred to the YCW Camp Committee Patriotic Fund Inc., which was established as an association under Victorian law.

2. Reflections

a) By definition the YCW is a youth movement. It has neither the remit nor the capacity to serve ageing servicepeople.

b) For decades, the YCW via the YCWMEC and YCW Holdings, funded the capital and operational expenses of the camp as a youth camp.

c) Recent proposals to turn the camp over to an aged services provider fly in the face of the purposes for which it was established and funded. Disposing of the camp without regard to these purposes would amount to little less than a kind of vandalism. 

d) It is completely unreasonable and unjust to expect a youth organisation to become an aged services provider or to be forced to hand over its assets to an aged services provider.

e) Accusations that the camp “wilfully” ignored the needs of exservicepeople are false and mischievous.

3. Proposals

a) Original purposes: The YCW Camp should be redeveloped in line with its original dual purpose of serving the needs of young workers as well as young people from the families of exservicepeople.

b) Activities: New programs, including volunteer programs, should be developed on an intergenerational basis enabling young people to interact not only with their peers but also with older veterans. The YCW would thus have an opportunity to step in and step up: to establish a campaign that addresses the impact of mental and physical health issues arising out of parents and grandparents engaged in war. 

c) Partnerships: Partnerships should be sought and established with other like-minded organisations with relevant skills and experience, e.g. members of Catholic Social Services Victoria (CSSV) and or other Catholic or similar agencies. This would enable a range of faith-inspired transformative and integrative educational and healthcare programs to be developed and implemented.

d) Premises: If the current camp is found not to be suitable for these purposes, the existing facilities should be sold only if new more suitable modern premises are developed at an appropriate location.

e) Management: Management of the YCW Camp Committee Patriotic Fund Inc should be handed over to a new board tasked with implementing the above vision in line with the requirements of the regulator.

f) Operations: New caretakers for the camp should be sought, e.g. among young retirees with the relevant skills and experience.

g) Fundraising: A major fundraising campaign should be developed to achieve the above aims based on the DGR status of the camp.

Australian Cardijn Institute, 28 June 2024

Photo Courtesy YMCA Discovery Camp