Jubilee Lake co-op and the fight for affordable leisure

January 30, 2024
Jubilee Lake Holiday Park has been run by a cooperative since 2011.
Jubilee Lake Holiday Park has been run by a cooperative since 2011. Photo: Rachel Evans

It has become harder for working people to go on holidays as the cost-of living crisis bites. 

A report released in December revealed that domestic trips cost almost 20% more compared to December 2019. The Travel Inflation Report found the cost of accommodation, fuel and groceries all contribute to higher travel costs. 

However, there are some low-cost holiday destinations, such as the not-for-profit cooperative Jubilee Lake Holiday Park in Daylesford in Victoria.

Jubilee Lake is one of only three holiday cooperatives in the country, and the only one in Victoria. The site includes access to an expansive lake, green spaces, natural springs and peacocks. 

Jubilee Lake Holiday Park Co-Operative director Judy Macleod told Green Left that the cooperative came about from a campaign to save the site from being developed. “Jubilee Lake was human-made in 1902 and has always been a place of recreation.

“People would take a day-trip on the train from Melbourne to Daylesford to row on the lake and picnic on the oval … Most managers were small family operators. 

“In 2008 a large multi-national company won the tender. It made a whole bunch of promises and fulfilled none of them. It was demolition by neglect…”

Under the new management, “the atmosphere changed dramatically”, Macleod said, adding, “It became a cold, corporate environment and absolutely cut-throat”.

She said the new management kept putting prices up: it wanted to build new, expensive cabins which would have forced long-time visitors to move out.

Macleod and other long-term visitors expressed their opposition to this plan at a council meeting in July 2010  This was the launch of the campaign to put Jubilee Lake back into community hands. 

“I went to the local paper and organised a meeting with the supportive then-Mayor Rod May, who encouraged us to register as a cooperative and apply for the tender to run Jubilee Lake. 

“We had little support from the council except for the mayor … frankly we all thought the campaign had little hope. But our efforts were paying off,” Macleod said.

Activists designed a “Save Jubilee Lake” float for the Daylesford New Year’s Eve parade — giving the campaign a boost. They also wrote articles for the local newspaper. 

The company responded by threatening Macleod and others. “I thought they might burn my caravan down,” she said. 

But they were not deterred. They formed the Jubilee Lake Holiday Park Co-Operative in April 2011. “We elected our board and asked the council to take over the remaining 16-and-a-half years of the company’s 20 year lease.”

The company decided to break its lease in mid-2011. The council was divided on whether to grant the lease to the cooperative or to another competitor that was interested in taking on the lease.

“The council decided to give the company the final say over who won the tender! We felt the council had thrown us to the wolves.

“To our astonishment, the company chose us!”

Macleod told GL it was community pressure that forced the company to grant them the lease. They celebrated with a “great party” in their new office. 

Since they took over in 2011, Macleod said Lake Jubilee has been very successful: “We’ve kept prices down, and money generated pays our managers and capital works projects. Our income is not for private shareholders. Last year we discussed putting our prices down as everyday expenses rose.

The campaign was very stressful, she said — “it was a David and Goliath battle” — but it shows that “a community can take on a multi-national company and win”.

The Jubilee Lake cooperative is now involved in helping another caravan park — currently run by the same company — set-up its own cooperative.

“To help keep housing prices down, councils could look to our cooperative as a model, and help communities form more not-for-profit setups like ours.”


The cooperative has ensured Jubilee Lake is an affordable holiday destination.
The cooperative has ensured Jubilee Lake is an affordable holiday destination. Photo: Rachel Evans

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