• Date: 4-6 December 2013
  • Venue: Monash University, Peninsula campus, Australia (approximately 1 hour from Melbourne CBD)
  • Theme: Understanding leisure in a complex world: Promoting a Critical Leisure Studies

This conference examined how leisure academics, policy makers and practitioners can develop and harness their subject area to help address significant issues in an increasingly complex world, with its varied and contrasting challenges. At present, for example, while affluent countries confront the obesity ‘epidemic’, those in low income countries are addressing malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and malaria. In the rich but ‘minority’ world, our ageing population are considered by some to be staying alive for ‘too long’, creating concerns about how society can provide and care for them, while in the impoverished majority they are dying too soon creating a void of wisdom and support to nurture and develop future generations. Both scenarios bring hardship for individuals, communities and societies creating disruptions to social relations, and present challenges for policy and industry.

In this context, our conference theme addressed two intertwined issues:

  • that social, cultural and economic diversity and polarisation is increasing across, between and within global regions; and
  • that this complex environment presents an opportunity for leisure academics to develop a more critical and inclusive leisure studies.
The key question we had for delegates of this conference was where does leisure fit amongst these significant issues and what can leisure studies offer in response to the challenges our society is now facing? We have argued for many years the importance and benefits that can be accrued to society from leisure at a community, family and individual level. How does this now fit within societies affected by such extensive social problems? Can leisure itself in the form of ‘dark’ or ‘deviant’ leisure be part of the problem? Through this conference, we called for a critical interrogation of the place and value of leisure within a rapidly changing global society.