Information for new leaders

Do you love outdoor activity, enjoy being part of a great team of volunteers, get satisfaction from giving kids experiences of new possibilities, accept the responsibilities of care for young people, and can have fun while working hard? Why not join us this summer?

Camp Cooinda is always on the lookout for people over 18 years of age who are interested in having fun in the outdoors on the amazing Gippsland Lakes and who display basic qualities which enable them to work well on the Cooinda team and be trusted with the care of young people.

Follow these steps to find out if leading at Cooinda is for you.

Information for new leaders

Leaders are a big part of what makes Cooinda special. A group of very diverse individuals comes together from varied backgrounds and experiences to form an effective team. All leaders are volunteers – none of our leaders are paid a salary or wage. Many leaders have been campers themselves, while others come from other outdoor camps or clubs or simply come along to give it a go, bringing with them a variety of skills. Whichever way, the whole leadership team is carefully put together to create a great mix of youth and experience. All leaders are valued and contribute skills and ideas to the rest of the team.

What is is like to be a Camp Cooinda leader?

What is expected of a leader?

Leaders are not expected to know all parts of the program but to contribute to some part of it. There will be lots of fun and challenge as part of the team and the satisfaction of offering teenagers experiences that enhance self-esteem and enlarge their horizons. Being a leader on Camp Cooinda is an experience that many people have enjoyed and found unforgettable.

Building great relationships with leaders and campers

As a leader, you are part of a team who do a range of roles in camp including skills instruction, cooking, powerboat or car transport and leading individual groups or ‘patrols’. You’ll meet and make friends with other leaders, with many leaders remaining friends for years after camp.

Equally as rewarding, is getting to know the campers. They come from a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and they respond to the experience of group living and challenging activities in different ways. Generally they leave camp having had a positive, enriching and at times life-changing experience. As a leader, seeing kids grow through the Cooinda experience is one of the things which keeps many leaders coming back year after year.

Responsibility to campers

Given the large focus on outdoor activities and group living, leaders need to adhere to established safety and personal welfare principles and Camp Cooinda Inc.’s child protection policy.

Every leader has a duty of care to the campers attending camp.

Through its years of operating on the Gippsland Lakes, Camp Cooinda has developed common sense policies for safe and enjoyable water based and other activities. These include basic rules for sailing, canoeing, swimming, kayaking, archery and all camp activities. This ensures campers and leaders have the best time possible at camp within appropriate safety parameters. They also help leaders to know what is appropriate.

Camp Cooinda is a water based camp. We require any leader and camper to be able to swim a minimum of 100 metres. Most leadership roles in camp, such as patrol (group) leaders, involvement with canoeing, kayaking, sailing, swimming and water games, require leaders to have good swimming ability. There are a few leadership roles in camp where this is not required, such as cooking, games leadership, archery instruction and assisting with supplies.

The site

The Camp Cooinda site is located just over 300 kilometres east of Melbourne, about one third of the way around the coast from Melbourne to Sydney. The nearest large town is Bairnsdale, 20km away, with Paynesville being the nearest town – 4 km across the lake. The site is marvelous – it has a good white sandy beach in the middle of the Gippsland Lakes (three lakes spread over more than 70 km).

A bit of background

Camp Cooinda is a non-profit organisation which was established in 1960 by David and Joy Merritt after they had been involved in camp leadership in Australia and the USA for many years. They developed a great idea – to run a camp for teenagers, allowing small groups of eight to ten young people of a similar age to share with adult leaders in planning their own program and to experience the challenge of travel in canoes and kayaks from a base camp to various sites around the lakes.

When a farmer offered land for youth camps on the Banksia Peninsula in Gippsland, this provided the opportunity to run a camp on one of the fantastic lakeside sites.

The underlying aim of Camp Cooinda is for teenagers, through experiences in cooperative groups in the outdoors, to grow inside. Although it follows Christian principles, Camp Cooinda does not actively teach or study the doctrines of any particular religion. It encourages people to think about what is important to them as individuals and as a group, in the context of an active outdoor experience.

Are you interested in becoming a leader? Check out Step 2: Am I available?

Camp Cooinda runs camps over the Australian summer. You need to be available for training and preparation.

Camp Cooinda relies on a team of volunteer leaders to make our summer camps possible each year. We require summer camp leaders to attend a training weekend in late November/early December each year as well as two days of preparation before the start of a summer camp. We also offer all current leaders a development opportunity at our Easter Leaders Camp each year.

Dates for summer 2024

Leaders' Training Weekend

Arrive: Friday evening 1 December 2023 (between 8pm and 11pm)
Depart: Approximately 3pm on Monday afternoon 4 December 2023. We highly recommend staying for the entire weekend to ensure you gain as much training as possible, but we understand staying until the Monday may not suit some people. If you need to leave on Sunday evening, please confirm this in your availability in your application and the Program Directors for the weekend will follow up with you.

Camp One - Applications now closed due to high demand

Leaders arrive: Not later than 12.30pm on Wednesday 27 December 2023
Leaders depart: Around 11am on Saturday 6 January 2024 (this includes a social dinner and debrief with other leaders after campers leave)

(Campers arrive: Friday 29 December 2023, Campers depart: Friday 5 January 2024)

Camp Two

Leaders arrive: Not later than 12.30pm on Monday 8 January 2024
Leaders depart: 11am on Thursday 18 January 2024

(Campers arrive: Wednesday 10 January 2024, Campers depart: Wednesday 17 January 2024)

Leaders are asked to stay overnight to help with the big close down and clean up of the property at the end of the summer. As with Camp 1, leaders will have a social dinner and debrief once the campers have departed. Those leaders who need to leave on the same day as campers can negotiate in advance to leave about 5pm.


One camp or two camps?

You may apply to be a leader for either camp or both camps. It helps us a lot to build teams if you can make yourself available for either camp. You should note that only a very few leaders are likely to be selected for both camps. Leaders who have skills in several areas of program and are on the teams for both camps are usually given a change of role in the second camp.

Yes, I'm available, how do I apply? Check out Step 3: How do I apply?

If you are over 18 years of age and are interested in becoming a leader at Camp Cooinda, please make sure you have read through steps 1 and 2. Also, take some time to read about our summer camps and have a look at the brochure which will give you a sense of the programs we run.

What you do to become a leader

  1. Complete the Leader Inquiry Form to let us know of your interest and to tell us a bit about yourself.
  2. We will then invite you to complete an application form and other documents as required (leader applications for the coming summer open in about September each year)
  3. Supply two recent written references about character, skills and experience in working with young people (recent = within the last twelve months). The written references need to have the name, address and contact details of the referee as Cooinda will need to get in touch with them.
  4. Provide evidence that you have applied for a Victorian Working with Children Check (a requirement for working with children in the State of Victoria and is free for volunteers) or its equivalent from another state in Australia, or a Police Check (Criminal Records Check) from the police force in their place of residence that is current (i.e. issued in the past 12 month)s. In Victoria, you can apply online for a Working With Children Check at You have to take the application to a participating Australia Post outlet in Victoria to finalise the check. Please allow time for your check to be processed – it isn’t instant!
  5. We require all leaders to complete a free online food handling course prior to attending Leader Training Weekend. This will take approximately one hour of your time to complete. You can access the course here, and there will be a space in the application to indicate the date you completed the course and to upload your certificate (or you can update this after you apply).
  6. Provide agreement that you will put into practice Camp Cooinda's policies on safety and the welfare of campers, including the code of conduct for volunteer leaders, and
  7. Participate in a leader training weekend camp on the site.

Leader selection process

Leaders come to camp from two main sources:

  • Campers who have demonstrated personal qualities and skills in the camp program and after the age of 18 are invited to become leaders; or
  • Other suitable people who express an interest in being a leader in a camp.

For those who have been campers, Camp Cooinda has the benefit of seeing these people interact in the camp program over one or more summers. Leadership potential reports on eligible campers assist in deciding whether these campers are suitable. They are then invited to a Leaders’ Training Camp for further training and, if appropriate, they are invited to lead on a summer camp.

Leader training weekend

The main leader training weekend is held over a weekend towards the end of each year - this year it will run from 1 December to 4 December 2023. The training camp gives Camp Cooinda the chance to meet and see in action the skills and leadership potential of those who have never been on a Cooinda program. It also gives the potential leader a chance to experience something of the Cooinda program, to begin to become familiar with the principles on which the program operates, and to meet other leaders.

This weekend camp includes training and assessment in canoeing and kayaking skills for every leader who will be involved in any part of the canoeing or kayaking program at camp.

It is a required part of our selection process for new leaders. It is also an expected part of the preparation for camp for returning leaders.

Once the selection process is complete and you are accepted, you are notified of your acceptance as soon as is possible.

Selection of leaders usually starts in September. All steps in the selection process for leaders in our summer camps must be completed by the end of the leader training weekend.

What do I do now?

Please complete the Leader Inquiry Form to let us know of your interest and to tell us a bit about yourself.

Once we have received all of your information we will let you know swiftly if we would like you to continue with the application. From that point on you can plan on becoming a leader subject to completing some other requirements. Your formal acceptance as a leader occurs at or shortly after the Leader Training Weekend.